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Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Updated field guides, other titles lure readers outdoors

“Nature has been a point of solace for people over the course of the pandemic that they can tap into, either for the first time, or tap into it again,” says John Rowden, senior director of bird-friendly communities for the National Audubon Society

By: AP | New York |
April 23, 2021 11:15:51 am
People wearing face masks as a precaution against COVID-19 walk beneath blossoming cherry trees along Columbus Boulevard in Philadelphia. (Photo: AP)

The new season of spring shows has begun, and viewership is way up by all accounts.

We’re not talking about screens, which we’ve all been glued to during the pandemic. Less noticed is another trend: people tuning in to nature for quieter, real-life, high-stakes drama.

From new Audubon field guides, updated for the first time in decades, to a book of poetry about insects, publishers are trying to meet this moment: Not only is public engagement with nature high, but so is concern over climate change.

“Nature has been a point of solace for people over the course of the pandemic that they can tap into, either for the first time, or tap into it again,” says John Rowden, senior director of bird-friendly communities for the National Audubon Society.

Audubon has seen an uptick in interest in its social media platforms, local chapters and programming since the start of the pandemic, he said. The new updates to the million-selling field guides include conservation information; Rowden hopes readers will be inspired to pitch in to save habitat where they can.

“There are existential threats against a lot of the wildlife we share the planet with,” he says. “It’s not an easy message. But there are things we can do.”

This past year’s turn toward nature took many forms. For some people, it meant simply paying more attention to the wildlife out the window, maybe getting a good pair of binoculars to help. Others hiked deeper into parks and woods, or looked harder at what’s growing and foraging on their street. Many turned to gardening, even if that meant just putting a couple flower pots on a balcony.

The new titles mentioned here are about upping your knowledge of birds, bugs, plants and other life in this second pandemic spring.

And if books are too heavy to carry on a walk, there are many apps (often free) to help identify and learn about species, including Merlin Bird ID by the Cornell Lab; iNaturalist and PlantSnap. Audubon has a native-plant database based on ZIP codes at Audubon.org.

Some new titles:

Birds of North America, and Trees of North America, from the National Audubon Society (Knopf).

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