Synopses & Reviews
An Interview with Bernd Heinrich
If the kinglet is iconic of winter, what animals are iconic of spring, summer, and fall, and why?
To me the wood frogs are iconic of spring, because they are out and mating in ice water before anybody else. For summer I would pick bumblebees because they are so beautiful, and do such a great job pollinating the flora so that we and the birds can eat blueberries. As for fall I would have to go with crickets. They sing at the end of summer when they have only a few weeks left to live.
Do your winter trips to Maine cause discord with your family, i.e. worry because of the extreme weather and primitive conditions, or resentment that you are absent?
They would cause discord and resentment if I went away for three weeks, as I did in my bad old days when I was single. Now I only go for one week, and the only resentment is that they think they are missing out on a ball that I'm having out there in the cozy cabin where others do all the cooking and the dishes, and I get to romp in the woods.
In "Winter World, you write of coming upon a dead doe with a foot-long fetus, a smashed tortoise that you have to mercy kill, and other phenomena that would be considered somewhat horrific to nonbiologists. Do these events make you feel revulsion, sadness, or scientific fascination -- or all of them combined? Is there a particularly upsetting event or scene from nature that you remember from childhood? What about adulthood?
All dead animals and plants get recycled into other life in a continuing cycle. There is no other way. I don't particularly feel any of the above three emotions unless it is connected with something: revulsion if it is needless and causesexcess pain, sadness if it concerns an animal I know, and scientific fascination if it concerns a problem (like finding many ravens feeding together and not knowing how they got there or where they came from and why). An upsetting event/scene (in order of least to most) were/are: 1) a guy who told me about deliberately killing a porcupine with his chainsaw. 2) a developer draining a beaver bog (filled with tens of thousands of developing frogs, etc.). 3) the president proposing oil drilling in the Arctic wilderness.
"Birds perform unlearned nest-construction behavior, duplicating fairly precisely what its parents had done." This is an extraordinary DNA imprint, if we think in terms of the unlikelihood of humans being born with the knowledge of how to build, say, a two-car garage. What to you are the top three most remarkable, instinctual behaviors demonstrated in the animal world?
Nobody has any idea how a bird is programmed to do that -- how behavior is coded in the genome. The physical process is, to us, still mind-boggling and it may top "intelligence" for sheer sophistication. Others: well, navigation of night-migrating birds using the North Star group is right up there, although that involves specific learning, which in itself is amazing. And bees' communication and social organization.
Did biology inspire you to become an artist or did art inspire you to become a biologist? When did you begin drawing?
Biology came first. But it also goes both ways. I began drawing as a kid (maybe 9 years old?) when I got my first piece of paper and colored pencils and wanted to "preserve" a beetle or a bird I had seen. But my drawing has always been very sporadic, mostly because I feelvery deficient at it. I didn't focus on it until I started writing books. I could not afford to pay for illustrations -- and the publisher actually used what I provided.
"The stories are plain engrossing in their elucidation, their breadth of examples, and their barely contained sense of awe and admiration." Kirkus Reviews
"In short, dense, lucid chapters that will intrigue both
natural history buffs and neophytes, Heinrich discusses the survival
strategies such as hibernation and nest building of mammals, birds and
reptiles." Publishers Weekly
"Liberally illustrated with the author's pencil drawings, this title will be sought out by fans of good nature writing." Booklist
"Heinrich is constantly observing and asking questions about what he sees, giving readers an inside glimpse at the workings of science and nature." Library Journal
From award-winning writer and biologist Heinrich, comes an intimate, accessible, and eloquent illumination of animal survival in winter.
The animal kingdom relies on staggering evolutionary innovations to survive winter. Unlike their human counterparts, who alter the environment to accommodate physical limitations, most animals are adapted to an amazing range ofconditions. In Winter World: The Ingenuity of Animal Survival
, biologist, illustrator, and award-winning author Bernd Heinrich explores his local woods, where he delights in the seemingly infinite feats of animal inventiveness he discovers there.
Because winter drastically affects the most elemental component of all life -- water -- radical changes in a creature's physiology and behavior must take place to match the demands of the environment. Some creatures survive by developing antifreeze; others must remain in constant motion to maintain their high body temperatures. Even if animals can avoid freezing to death, they must still manage to find food in a time of scarcity or store it from a time of plenty.
Beautifully illustrated throughout with the author's delicate drawings and infused by his inexhaustible enchantment with nature, Winter World awakens the wonders and mysteries by which nature sustains herself through winter's harsh, cruel exigencies.
From award-winning writer and biologist Bernd Heinrich, an intimate, accessible and eloquent illumination of animal survival in Winter.
From flying squirrels to grizzly bears, torpid turtles to insects with antifreeze, the animal kingdom relies on some staggering evolutionary innovations to survive winter. Unlike their human counterparts, who must alter their environment to accommodate our physical limitations, animals are adaptable to an amazing range of conditions--i.e., radical changes in a creature's physiology take place to match the demands of the environment. Winter provides an especially remarkable situation, because of how drastically it affects the most elemental component of all life: water.
Examining everything from food sources in the extremely barren winter landscape to the chemical composition that allows certain creatures to survive, Heinrich's Winter World awakens the largely undiscovered mysteries by which nature sustains herself through the harsh, cruel exigencies of winters
About the Author
Bernd Heinrich is the author of numerous award-winning books, including the bestselling Winter World, The Geese of Beaver Bog, Why We Run, and, most recent, his memoir, The Snoring Bird. He is professor emeritus of biology at the University of Vermont, and he divides his time between Vermont and the forests of western Maine.