Friday, 21 June 2013

Review: 'Secret Lives of Garden Wildlife' by Dominic Couzens

Secret Lives of Garden Wildlife, by Dominic Couzens, Illustrated by Peter Partington, 2008, Christopher Helm, $16.10, softbound, 160 pages. Category/Genre: reference. Cover: like it! Where we got it: publisher. Where you can get it: Amazon.

This book is an intimate look at wildlife month to month in an English garden. The garden, Couzens says, never sleeps, even in winter. Hedgehogs and bats, both of whom hibernate, habitually wake up for a day or two now and then before resuming hibernation. And mice do not hibernate at all, but occasionally enter a brief torpor, during which they experience a slight decrease in body temperature. 

Hibernating mammals and bumblebees (who also enter torpor during winter) emerge in March. The only bumblebees to have survived the winter are queens, who are already impregnated and must find a suitable hole to support a new colony. 

By June, the survival of many species is down to the latest brood. Animals take their parenting duties seriously, even the garden spider (orb weaver), who carefully guards her egg sac until she dies in autumn. Vixens and sow badgers take their cubs on evening walks around the territory and show them hunting tricks; owls, too, teach their young how to hunt. 

In September, birds begin to migrate; on any given night, thousands of birds may fly over one's garden. Insects also migrate, and Couzens offers a detailed explanation on how they do this. Grasshoppers and crickets are awake and active to November.   

This is a very good book, written in an easy to read style, with mounds of information and tons of colour photographs and artwork. 

If you like this one, try: The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady, by Edith Holden; and Nature Detectives' Handbook, by Barbara Taylor. 

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