Weidensaul, Scott 1959–

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Weidensaul, Scott 1959–

PERSONAL:

Born 1959.

ADDRESSES:

Home—PA. Agent—Peter Matson, Sterling Lord Literistic, 65 Bleecker St., New York, NY 10012. E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER:

Writer, lecturer, and field researcher. Pottsville Republican, Pottsville, PA, began as a weekly columnist, became full-time reporter, 1978-88; freelance writer, 1988—. Has also worked as a columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer and Harrisburg Patriot-News.

AWARDS, HONORS:

Pulitzer Prize nomination, 2000, for Living on the Wind: Across the Hemisphere with Migratory Birds.

WRITINGS:

(Editor) The Practical Ornithologist, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1990.

The Birder's Miscellany: A Fascinating Collection of Facts, Figures, and Folklore from the World of Birds, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1991.

(Contributor) Discover Birds, Publications International (Lincolnwood, IL), 1991.

Seasonal Guide to the Natural Year: A Month by Month Guide to Natural Events; Mid-Atlantic, Fulcrum (Golden, CO), 1992.

Seasonal Guide to the Natural Year: A Month by Month Guide to Natural Events; New England & New York, Fulcrum (Golden, CO), 1993.

Mountains of the Heart: A Natural History of the Appalachians, Fulcrum (Golden, CO), 1994.

(With Bruce Van Patter) Max Bonker and the Howling Thieves, Fulcrum (Golden, CO), 1996.

Raptors: The Birds of Prey, Lyons & Burford (New York, NY), 1996.

National Audubon Society First Field Guide to Birds, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1998.

Living on the Wind: Across the Hemisphere with Migratory Birds, North Point Press (New York, NY), 1999.

The Ghost with Trembling Wings: Science, Wishful Thinking, and the Search for Lost Species, North Point Press (New York, NY), 2002.

The Wildlife Art of Ned Smith, Stackpole Books (Mechanicsburg, PA), 2003.

The Raptor Almanac: A Comprehensive Guide to Eagles, Hawks, Falcons, and Vultures, Lyons Press, 2004.

Return to Wild America: A Yearlong Search for the Continent's Natural Soul, North Point Press (New York, NY), 2005.

(Author of introduction) Ned Smith's Game News Covers: The Complete Collection, Stackpole Books (Mechanicsburg, PA), 2006.

Of a Feather: A Brief History of American Birding, Harcourt (Orlando, FL), 2007.

Contributor to periodicals, including the New York Times, Smithsonian, National Wildlife, Nature Conservancy, and Audubon.

SIDELIGHTS:

Scott Weidensaul is a writer, lecturer, and field researcher who specializes in the topic of natural history, including ornithology (the study of birds). According to the author's home page biography, each fall Weidensaul, as a field researcher, bands hawks, as he has for nearly twenty years, and also "directs a major effort to study the movements of northern saw-whet owls, one of the smallest and least-understood raptors in North America." Weidensaul first began writing a weekly column on natural history for the Pottsville Republican, ultimately becoming a full-time reporter at the Pennsylvania paper. In 1988, Weidensaul left the Pottsville Republican to become a freelance writer, and he has remained a writer ever since. He has worked as a columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer and Harrisburg Patriot-News and contributed articles to periodicals such as the New York Times, Smithsonian, National Wildlife, Nature Conservancy, and Audubon. Weidensaul is also a prolific author of popular ornithology books. Some of his better-known books are Living on the Wind: Across the Hemisphere with Migratory Birds, published in 1999, The Ghost with Trembling Wings: Science, Wishful Thinking, and the Search for Lost Species, published in 2002, Return to Wild America: A Yearlong Search for the Continent's Natural Soul, published in 2005, and Of a Feather: A Brief History of American Birding, published in 2007.

Living on the Wind was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in 2000. The book begins in Alaska and tracks the journey of migratory birds as they fly south to locations such as the United States, Jamaica, Central America, and Argentina. The book also tracks the birds' return flight. Additionally, Living on the Wind discusses how migratory birds interact and coexist with nonmigratory southern birds. Other topics covered in the book include how migratory birds navigate using the sun, the stars, and even the magnetic field surrounding the earth. Weidensaul also explores how deforestation and other human interference affects migratory populations. Critics applauded the book. For instance, Library Journal critic Tim McKimmie stated that the volume "will be of interest to biologists and amateur naturalists," while Booklist writer Nancy Bent felt it will be "useful for reports and of interest to bird lovers." Bent also went on to call Living on the Wind "factual and yet lyrical." Another laudatory opinion was proffered by a Publishers Weekly reviewer, who called the book "dense" and "intensely informative." Christopher Camuto, writing in Audubon, was also impressed, remarking upon the "clear, graceful prose."

The Ghost with Trembling Wings is about the search for animals of many types that may or may not be extinct. Weidensaul profiles birdwatchers who are continually on the lookout for birds deemed extinct, as occasionally such sightings do occur. For instance, small tracts of land can still harbor the remainders of a species thought to be extinct, Weidensaul shows. In an article about the book, a Science News writer observed that Weidensaul examines how "scientists attempt to keep near-extinct species alive through innovative captive-breeding techniques and even try to revive extinct ones through cloning." Weidensaul chronicles his own journeys as he searches for rare and extinct birds—the Sempler's warbler in St. Lucia, the cone-billed tanager in Tasmania, and the ivorybilled woodpecker in Louisiana. Other locations the author visits include Costa Rica, Madagascar, Indonesia, and Peru. Weidensaul then segues into a discussion of beliefs, touching upon the search for mythical creatures like Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster. Reviewers were much impressed by the book. The Ghost with Trembling Wings contains "informed musings on humanity's relationship with nature and the extinction of animal species," stated a Kirkus Reviews critic. The critic went on to call the book "fascinating," adding that it is "a delight for anyone interested in bird life and issues of extinction and endangerment." Booklist writer Nancy Bent observed that "Weidensaul is a graceful writer who works an amazing amount of scientific theory into his narrative."

Return to Wild America was published as a commemoration to the classic 1955 nature book Wild America, by Roger Tory Peterson and James Fisher. The original book is a travelogue of the two naturalists' impressions as they travel through America. In Weidensaul's volume, the author also travels the country recording his impressions, but he takes pains to discuss the changes in the landscape that have occurred over the past fifty years. For instance, some of the newer bird species covered in the original volume are now ubiquitously common, notes Weidensaul. Additionally, the author visits Monomoy Island in Massachusetts and the Opal Creek watershed in Oregon, which were not visited by the original authors. Weidensaul also focuses on conservation efforts, as he has in some of his previous books. Critiques of Return to Wild America were largely celebratory. For instance, in a joint review by Kenn and Kimberly Kaufman in Birder's World, the Kaufmans stated that the book "succeeds spectacularly," adding that it is "important—and enjoyable, as well." The Kaufmans concluded: "Thanks to Scott's skill as an author, the reader gets to ride shotgun with Peterson, Fisher, and Weidensaul on the naturalists' road trip of a lifetime." OnEarth writer Bruce Stutz declared: "Follow Weidensaul on his journey. It's a good one. You will see and learn a great deal."

Of a Feather is a cultural history of bird watching, beginning with the practice's origins as European travelers and immigrants to colonial America were stunned by the exotic birdlife they encountered. From there, the book traces how birdwatching has evolved to the present day, from being perceived as a geeky hobby to becoming a popular, and respectable, pastime. Weidensaul also profiles several of America's pioneering ornithologists, such as William Bartram, a naturalist and painter of birds, and John James Audubon, a bird painter and namesake of the Audubon Society. Critiques of the book were largely filled with approval. Cindy Crosby, writing in Books & Culture, found that the author's "grasp of birding and joy in birds comes across on every page. Weidensaul's proverbial glass is full to brimming." Booklist writer George Cohen stated: "This book will delight birdwatchers and encourage others to start watching."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

American Scientist, November 1, 1997, Helmut C. Mueller, review of Raptors: The Birds of Prey.

Audubon, September 1, 1999, Christopher Camuto, review of Living on the Wind: Across the Hemisphere with Migratory Birds, p. 156; January 1, 2008, "The Passionate Flock: If You Own Binoculars and a Guidebook, You're Part of an Illustrious, Centuries-old Tradition. Still, Real Birding Is Much More than Life Lists and Passive Entertainment, Argues the Author of This Engrossing Book about America's Most Popular Pastime."

Birder's World, June 1, 2006, Kenn and Kimberly Kaufman, "Call of the Wild: Weidensaul Delivers ‘One of the Most Important Books of the Decade,’" p. 66.

Booklist, August 1, 1998, Carolyn Phelan, review of National Audubon Society First Field Guide to Birds, p. 1994; December 1, 1998, Sally Estes, review of National Audubon Society First Field Guide to Birds, p. 676; March 15, 1999, Nancy Bent, review of Living on the Wind, p. 1267; December 1, 1999, Donna Seaman, review of Living on the Wind, p. 676; January 1, 2000, review of Living on the Wind, p. 815; May 1, 2002, Nancy Bent, review of The Ghost with Trembling Wings: Science, Wishful Thinking, and the Search for Lost Species, p. 1494; October 15, 2005, Donna Seaman, review of Return to Wild America: A Yearlong Search for the Continent's Natural Soul, p. 14; August 1, 2007, George Cohen, review of Of a Feather: A Brief History of American Birding, p. 18.

Books & Culture, March 1, 2008, Cindy Crosby, "For the Birds," p. 30.

Bookwatch, January 1, 2005, review of The Raptor Almanac: A Comprehensive Guide to Eagles, Hawks, Falcons, and Vultures.

California Bookwatch, January 1, 2007, review of Return to Wild America; November 1, 2007, review of Of a Feather.

Christian Science Monitor, May 28, 1998, Karen Carden, review of National Audubon Society First Field Guide to Birds, p. 10; August 8, 2002, review of The Ghost with Trembling Wings, p. 17.

Discover, November 1, 2002, review of The Ghost with Trembling Wings, p. 78.

Kirkus Reviews, April 1, 2002, review of The Ghost with Trembling Wings, p. 480; October 1, 2005, review of Return to Wild America, p. 1072; August 1, 2007, review of Of a Feather.

Kliatt, November 1, 2004, Nola Theiss, review of The Raptor Almanac, p. 40.

Library Journal, April 15, 1999, Tim McKimmie, review of Living on the Wind, p. 141; May 15, 2002, Henry T. Armistead, review of The Ghost with Trembling Wings, p. 123; September 1, 2005, Henry T. Armistead, review of Return to Wild America, p. 175; August 1, 2007, Henry T. Armistead, review of Of a Feather, p. 115.

Los Angeles Times, August 25, 2002, review of The Ghost with Trembling Wings, p. 10.

MBR Bookwatch, January 1, 2006, Diane C. Donovan, review of Return to Wild America.

New York Times, June 5, 2002, "Snatched from the Jaws of Extinction," p. 9.

New York Times Book Review, May 14, 2000, review of Living on the Wind, p. 42.

OnEarth, January 1, 2006, Bruce Stutz, "In Search of a Wild America: If True Wilderness Still Exists, Should It Really Be So Hard for Most of Us to Find It?," p. 38.

Publishers Weekly, March 1, 1999, review of Living on the Wind, p. 56; May 20, 2002, review of The Ghost with Trembling Wings, p. 57; August 22, 2005, review of Return to Wild America, p. 51; July 9, 2007, review of Of a Feather, p. 44.

Science, December 2, 2005, "Still Worthy of Our Land?," p. 1432.

Science News, June 29, 2002, review of The Ghost with Trembling Wings, p. 415; November 26, 2005, review of Return to Wild America, p. 351; September 8, 2007, review of Of a Feather, p. 159.

Sports Afield, September 1, 1999, Paul Ghiotto, review of Living on the Wind, p. 58.

Wilson Quarterly, March 22, 2008, "Fowl Sport," p. 110.

ONLINE

Of a Feather: A Brief History of American Birding Web site,http://ofafeather.blogspot.com (June 18, 2008).

Scott Weidensaul Home Page,http://www.scottweidensaul.com (June 18, 2008).