Read Rare Bird: Pursuing the Mystery of the Marbled Murrelet by Maria Mudd Ruth Online


“Compelling… engaging.” —Library Journal“Rare insights into the trials and joys of scientific discovery.” —Publisher’s weeklyPart naturalist detective story and part environmental inquiry, Rare Bird: Pursuing the Mystery of the Marbled Murrelet celebrates the fascinating world of an endangered seabird that depends on the contested old-growth forests of the Pacific Northwes“Compelling… engaging.” —Library Journal“Rare insights into the trials and joys of scientific discovery.” —Publisher’s weeklyPart naturalist detective story and part environmental inquiry, Rare Bird: Pursuing the Mystery of the Marbled Murrelet celebrates the fascinating world of an endangered seabird that depends on the contested old-growth forests of the Pacific Northwest for its survival.“This chunky little seabird stole my heart.” So confesses Maria Mudd Ruth, a veteran nature writer perfectly happy to be a generalist before getting swept up in the strange story of the marbled murrelet. This curiosity of nature, which flies like a little brown bullet at up to 100 miles an hour and lives most of its life offshore, is seen onland only during breeding season, when each female lays a single egg high on a mossy tree limb in the ancient coastal forest.Ruth traces reports of the bird back to Captain Cook’s ill-fated voyage of discovery on the Pacific Ocean in 1778, and explores the mindset of 19th- and 20th-century naturalists who — despite their best efforts — failed to piece together clues to the whereabouts of the bird’s nest. Ruth ventures to coastal meadows before dawn and onto the ocean at midnight to learn firsthand how scientists observe nature. She interviews all the major players in the drama: timber company executives and fishing fleet operators whose businesses are threatened by conservation measures, as well as the so-called cowboy scientists who are devoted to saving the marbled murrelet from extinction. And, ultimately, Ruth puts her curiosity and passion for this rare bird onto the page for readers to savor....

Title : Rare Bird: Pursuing the Mystery of the Marbled Murrelet
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9781594858352
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 310 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Rare Bird: Pursuing the Mystery of the Marbled Murrelet Reviews

  • Holly
    2018-11-09 14:28

    Flawless science writing, unabashed enthusiasm, and self-deprecating humor (the author has "attention surplus disorder"). Steps into the world of bird watchers and scientists (as in her initial observations at a three-day Pacific Seabird Group Conference: "Each presentation is short -- fifteen minutes -- and requires the scientist at the podium to summarize the highlights of the previous year's research. Needless to say, these scientists talk very fast. Many of them seem to take one very deep breath and talk very rapidly while slowly exhaling. When they inhale again, they are done.") Judiciously explores the political contexts and scientific implications of endangered species research. Revealed to this non-birdwatching reader (who has never gotten up in the middle of the night to sit and wait for an elusive bird) the miracle of this pudgy neckless little birdlet.

  • Sheila
    2018-10-25 12:52

    What a great book. For anyone with any interest at all in the Marbled Murrelet, I would highly recommend this book. The author's love of the subject is infectious. I learned so much, and I was engrossed the whole time.For me, I have been interested in this little known bird since I first heard of it in 1988. My college roommate did an externship with a researcher studying the Marbled Murrelet. She would come home and tell me about it, and at that time my thoughts were "The marbled what??" I had never heard of this bird, that lived in my own backyard. Now over 25 years later it is fascinating, yet sad, to read this birds story, and to learn of its decline. The future does not look bright for this very particular bird, who doesn't adapt well at all to any changes in environment. I would love to stand in an old growth forest meadow someday though at daybreak, and hear the keer keer keer of the Murrelets as the fly home from the ocean to their nests. Sadly, that will probably never happen, and someday in the not too distant future the Murrelets could be gone.

  • Manek
    2018-10-22 18:51

    A bird that looks like a potato!

  • Blue
    2018-11-16 14:29

    I got a copy of this book through Goodreads First Reads. Thanks!Rare Bird is a rare treat. I am not a birder. Never been, never will be. I have never heard of a murrelet before, let alone a marbled one. I do not have any passion towards birds, just a general interest in animals. But one thing that I am is a scientist. Despite the fact that I do not have any passion for birds or birding in particular, I found Rare Bird fascinating. The mystery of its nesting site, which took two centuries to figure out (in the scientific sense, meaning with proof and documentation and some understanding of how), the mystery of its nesting and fledging behavior, the lives of all the naturalists, birders, rangers, scientists, and the conservation and recovery efforts of the red wood forests as an ecosystem as well as the marbled murrelets as a species along the west coast were all discussed in detail and with vivid passion. The author has a lot of passion not only for the birds and their habitat, but also the efforts the scientists put into research. To some, this may seem like too much effort into understanding one little thing in all of life, but that us how science in general works. We spend out lives trying to learn everything about one thing (this is not always advantageous for knowledge, but rather a way that somewhat works for someone to do so much work, specialize, so that they can actually make a career out of their studies.)The book can be divided into three: the mystery of the murrelet's nesting site (it is a very strange waterbird, indeed!), the mystery of how chicks are fed and eventually fly off the nest, and the conservation and recovery efforts, all with the scandals, court struggles, and politics of loggers vs. bird/forest. Ruth does a very good job of presenting both sides. She has one very interesting interview with a representative of the logging company, one that I hope all campers, nature lovers, anti-loggers read. The story in general is an ode to how anyone can contribute to research as a naturalist.As a scientist, Ruth's constant surprise at the scientific method, its difficulties, and its triumphs was fascinating. She has a genuine interest in how science is done, and does a very good job of explaining the science in lay terms (I know, because all this bird stuff is completely new to me.) At some point, Ruth cites a sentence from a scientific paper to illustrate the difficulty of reading these papers for the lay audience, and I had to laugh, because I did not find this sentence difficult at all. But I know if she had not done a good job explaining the surveying methods, for example, I would have been lost.Recommended for those who love long-lasting, beautiful wood furniture, lumberjacks, fluffy chicks, and carrots.

  • Jessica
    2018-11-01 19:55

    I was lucky enough to win Rare Bird as a goodreads giveaway. Rare Bird is a great read for bird lovers and nature lovers alike. It is geared toward the nonscientist, but as a scientist, I think she did a great job of incorporating important scientific facts with easy to understand explanations, while also explaining the somewhat oddball way we scientists do things. Ruth has a quirky sense of humor that will keep a smile on your face throughout the book. And even though the book is relatively upbeat, Ruth does a good job reminding you that these birds are threatened and need protection. All in all, a good read for anyone who appreciates conservation biology.

  • C. Atteridge
    2018-10-21 18:35

    loved it.

  • Elena Rodriguez
    2018-11-09 18:48

    Wonderfully written. Introduced me to an endearing and highly endangered bird that lives in the waters right outside my door. This bird was such a mystery for so long, and there still lingers about it an air of mystery even after some pretty intense years of study. It's only during the last quarter of the last century that scientists and birders pinned down where these birds nest and how their young fledge. Amazing. They are equally, if not more, dependent than spotted owls on the habitat of old growth forests to live. But it's not just the degradation of the forests that's causing their numbers to plummet. They also need clean water, abundant prey fish -- all the things we are destroying.Ruth has written an insightful book based on lots of science, giving us all the facts. Yet it's so engaging. Her personal story is woven through, and the brief character studies of the biologists, ornithologists, loggers and lawyers all make it much more readable. Reading her book is like a really interesting, well-informed friend telling you stories about the most exciting thing they've just learned.If you think you aren't interested in reading about the marbled murrelet, you're wrong! You want to read this book.

  • Anna
    2018-10-24 16:41

    I love finding obscure bits of history, so it was a joy to read Maria Mudd Ruth's own extensive journey in covering the story of the Marbled Murrelet. It's always a treat to read about someone up-ending their life in pursuit of knowledge; the kind of knowledge that you have to (literally) track down, wake up at 5am and tromp to the coast for. The kind of knowledge that is found in people's cups of coffee as they try to recall the exact details of a particular event. The history of the marbled murrelet is fascinating - a story of mystery and science - and Ruth did an excellent job putting together the many pieces of the puzzle.

  • Daniel
    2018-10-18 17:29

    I received an advanced reading copy of this (a re-release of the 2005 text with an updated epilogue) from the publisher via Goodread's First-Reads giveaway program.Ruth's book chronicles the history of our discovery and understanding of this enigmatic Pacific coastal bird, the people involved in uncovering the data on its basic biology and behavior, and the threatened state the birds face on account of the direct and indirect influence of humanity. Throughout, Ruth chronicles her own burgeoning fascination with the elusive and unfamiliar bird. Although I found this book difficult to get into, it grew on me enormously as it continued, as I became more aware of exactly where Ruth was going in relating the story and what she was focusing on. As others here have mentioned, the book focuses far more on the details of human behavior than that of the birds, such as descriptions of what birders, biologists, rangers, etc, do to observe the birds, gather data, fight for their protection, or adversely impact the population. In this way the book is actually far more about people and their relation to the bird than the bird itself. Yes, the book covers bird behavior, particularly in terms of nesting and raising chicks. But still, these details flow from the focus on relating the tale of human discovery of the bird's actual nesting and rearing behaviors. As I realized the book wasn't going to be zeroed in on the birds quite as I expected, I found myself intrigued in the tales.The final chapters detailing the conundrums of modern conservation - regardless of what species one is talking about - or what habitat were the most intriguing and thought provoking. Faced with our dependence on modern conveniences and the necessities of this world for sustaining the human population at its size - nevermind growing - it becomes easy to see how hard it is to champion conservation fully. Yet, when one considers what is at stake, honestly, it is a question worth seriously addressing. Overall the book ends up being inspirational as one realizes the boundless complexity of biology and its interaction with the environment that is exemplified in this bird's story. Reading this affirms the beauty of life and the importance of its appreciation and study.

  • Rob Slaven
    2018-11-10 16:39

    As usual I received this book for free from a GoodReads giveaway. Despite that kindness I will give my candid opinions below.To begin, it's important to understand what this book is exactly. By my math the text works out to be about 10% history, 20% science and 70% biography of the people involved in studying it. As I reader I was disappointed by this split and expected something much more scientifically detailed. While we do get a fair amount of data on the species the focus is less on the bird and more on the people involved with it.Moving on to the standard positive/negative bits, the positive centers around the author's obvious passion for this animal. Rarely have I seen any book so determined to tell the story of something so specific. Ruth's writing is abundantly well executed and immaculate in detail. For those who care about this animal as much as she does, this a veritable Bible, a feast of information and ideas.To the negative, the book seems to want to cross genres and be alluring even to those who don't have a grand passion for birding but this it utterly fails to do. Unless you're already a fanatic, this book is just too much in the specific. It gently adopts this rather oddball bit of ornithology but doesn't quite convince me as personally as to why I should care about this one species more than all the others that are threatened by ecological changes. I get the message but even after reading this tome I'm more interested in saving the forests themselves than I am this specific piece of nature's grand puzzle. I won't say that I came away thinking, "so what?" but I did not find myself infected with the author's obvious frenetic interest in this bird.In summary, a marvelous book to pick up if you're already thoroughly infected with the bug for bird-watching but this will be a far too heavy a work for the marginally interested outsider. It is wondrous to see such passion from an author but at the same time rather wearying as well. I applaud the work but do not claim it as my particular cup of tea.

  • Valerie
    2018-10-18 14:31

    I received the book through Goodreads First Reads.This book is almost a mystery book about marbled murrelets. They are such secretive odd seabirds! So secretive that it took an insane amount of time for ornithologists/birders to find out where their nesting habitat is. The author shares so well her passion for those little birds. Her work is admirable."To my eye, the egg color was pale green with spots of lavender-gray and brown that formed a kind of Milky Way band around its lower third. The closer I looked at the spots, however, the less willing I was to call them gray or brown. The gray had the cast of silver, the brown seemed both bronze and gold. It was a very beautiful egg.""All of a sudden, I felt the soles of my feet. They had never walked so far off the beaten path in such a forest. I wasn't walking on dirt, possibly not even on earth. I was standing, firmly rooted, on thousands and thousands of years of fallen redwood needles and trees.""When I tell the story of how this chick first leaves its forest nest for the sea, I can hear a pin drop. It is always then - in the silence of a darkened room - that the enormous space between the mossy nest and the crashing waves becomes real, that those listening join me in urging the fledging chick toward its destination, that the distance between our two species seems to disappear. It is then that I feel most hopeful and most inspired to return the life , beauty and solace that this rare bird has given me."

  • Susan
    2018-11-06 16:40

    The author's fascination with the marbled murrelet takes her (and her family) out west to explore the history of the bird and the recent state of the species in the U.S. The author shows plenty of her own enthusiasm for the bird in the book, but it sometimes isn't enough to really engage the reader.Although some of my favorite books are non-fiction journalistic endeavors, this book doesn't really compare to the best in the genre. It starts rather slow, and I started/stopped a number of times before finishing.However, after the first few sections with a more historical point of view, the pace picks up in the "Pursuit" section. The author does a much better job weaving the story around her time in the field with experts and modern day research. Thankfully, since some time has passed since this book was first published, there is an epilogue in this edition that provides a 2013 update on the species.There is a lot of value in recording this tale of the marbled murrelet and, to some extent, the species is a representation of all the unknown threatened and endangered species that haven't been given the spotlight. While bird lovers will likely find the tale very engrossing, the average reader may find this book to be hit or miss. Overall, once I got past the slow start, I did find the book enjoyable and am glad I gave it a try.**Copy received free through Goodreads First Reads**

  • Carol Smith
    2018-11-18 19:49

    Disclosure: Won on Goodreads First Reads.How is it that I've never heard of the marbled murrelet before? The spotted owl has received all the press, but this plucky and mysterious little seabird who depends on old growth Pacific forests deserves as much attention and concern. Rare Bird is a mixture of many things: history, natural mystery, and environmental writing, with large doses of biologist biographies and the author's personal experiences as a budding birder and murrelet fan tossed in along the way. I found that certain aspects of this recipe pull off better than others, but on the whole they add up to a well-rounded and informative examination of how the whole business of species protection really works, from the forest floor on up to the nation's capital. My enjoyment of the book, which includes no photographs, was enhanced by watching murrelet web videos along the way. There's some good ones out there - check 'em out.

  • Kerri Anne
    2018-11-15 12:46

    Such an interesting book, and such an interesting little bird! Extremely thorough and well-researched and quite lovely, indeed. I had a blast reading this book, and was thrilled to realize we've seen and heard the strange, unique, and oh so elusive marbled murrelets, even as we'd no idea the mystery and history to which we were privy. That so much of our old-growth forests are gone, pillaged in equal parts by greed and need and unethical lumber companies makes me so incredibly sad. But these birds are brown bundles of hope for old-growth conservation, and a testament to how much we still have to learn about the myriad complicated, integrated ecosystems active alongside our coastlines. [Four-point-five stars for a beautifully penned story of a beautifully bizarre bird, and the hodge-podge of dedicated people who fell (and continue to fall) in love with protecting it.]

  • Rachel H
    2018-11-18 15:40

    Great nonfictional book by a very enthusiastic author. You follow Maria Ruth on an adventure to uncover a mystery and a journey to satisfy her curiosity and new-found appreciation for wildlife and nature. She attempted to make a more rounded view of the situation, but I felt, didn't quite expand into how her decisions and life choices at home could change and/or affect wildlife habitat. Maybe she is saving more of that for another book, I don't know. Overall, enjoyable book about a crazy bird. It's not quite as evolutionarily backward as a sloth, but it does have a unique and fragile lifestyle.

  • kaity
    2018-11-15 15:36

    I fell in love with marbled murrelets with working at Redwood National Park and was thrilled to find an entire book devoted to the species. Perhaps because I already knew a fair amount about their lives, this book didn't bowl me over. The drama of the long hunt for a nest and the author's account of conducting research at sea were my favorite parts. Overall, I felt the author tried too hard to convey a sense of mystery and wonder. I came to expect the last paragraph of each chapter to be a restatement of how enchanting murrelets are. She needn't have overdone it; the birds' story is compelling enough plainly told.

  • Kristi
    2018-11-09 18:45

    What a fun read!! Even if you are not into science or even a bird-watcher, this is just a great book. It is full of facts and gives a good account of the process followed to gain federal protection for endangered animals, but it never turns into a dull narrative full of boring details. There are many first-hand accounts of the search for Marbled Murrelets (the feature bird) that are so well written you can see the scene almost like you are there in the dark, windy, rainy mornings hunting the skies for a bird so elusive the most modern technology must be used to find it.

  • Debbie
    2018-10-28 11:47

    This book was a good surprise, thanks to my book club. I wouldn't have been drawn to such a book ordinarily, but I'm glad I read it. All this about a single bird has the potential to be rather dry, or risk being self-absorbed about the author, and there were a few times I wondered if that would happen. But the dry parts never reappeared after the first hundred pages or so, and when the author inserted herself into the narrative it was always in a way that seemed either sweet or funny.A worthy read.

  • Stewart Marshall
    2018-11-02 11:54

    A wonderful introduction into the Marbled Murrelet and it's plight. I fear the bird will be extinct in my lifetime and I am grateful to Maria Ruth for bringing it to my attention. The stories of the dedicated researchers and scientists, not to mention Maria herself really help counteract the anger/dispair I feel at how the forestry industry is behaving. This is a very educational read, with an easy and honest style. I recommend it to anyone interested in learning more about the destruction of the natural world by man and particularly to anyone who has never heard of a Marbled Murrelet!

  • Adrienne Ross
    2018-11-11 17:42

    A lovely book that's about far more than just the marbled murrelet (although that alone would be enough!). Ruth tells the story of a bird shrouded in mystery, if not myth, in a perfectly mixed tale of science, environmental activism, and pure, unabashed joy. One small seabird made the world an immeasurably larger place for the writer and this reader. This book deserves to become a classic.

  • Melody
    2018-10-25 19:46

    Ruth falls in love with the marbled murrelet, and this affair causes her to re-think her whole life in order to find out more about the bird. The bird lives out here in the Northwest, nests in old-growth forests, and is naturally, threatened by logging. The tone of the book is upbeat, the author's enthusiasm is catching, and the stories are interesting.

  • Jennifer
    2018-10-22 14:31

    I absolutely loved this book! In fact, it was the catalyst that sent me back to school to pursue grad studies. It's been over a year since I read it, so I don't remember details. The book is a history of the marbled murrelet on the Pacific coast - from its discovery to the mystery behind its nesting habitats. A great not-to-sciencey read, especially for bird lovers.

  • Sharon
    2018-11-11 18:39

    This is a great read. I'm lucky enough to be in a book club with the author, so I was probably pre-disposed to like it, but it was even better than I thought it would be. I learned a lot about the marbled murrelet, which is a truly fascinating bird, and even more about the challenges of studying this tree-nesting seabird.

  • Court
    2018-11-08 19:50

    I never thought a non-fiction book could be so compelling! Maria Ruth knows how to add a personal touch to her writing and make the reader care about her subject. Even if I weren't already involved in the fight to help the Marbled Murrelet, I would enjoy this book and feel motivated to help this rare bird.

  • Alex
    2018-10-31 17:30

    I loved this book! Even though I was working to catch the birds on coastal waters and got to experience them first hand, learning more about their highly mysterious life history, their current demise (large population declines due to old growth logging), and others' personal connections with them, made me truly appreciate this incredible (and soft and adorable) little bird.

  • Steve Collins
    2018-11-09 19:57

    Initially I worried this story was about a housewife who became enchanted by a rare bird and how it changed her life. Fortunately, this book was well researched and portrayed an enjoyable recount of the history of the Marbled Murrelet nest discovery, the bird's ecology, and current research being pursued to bolster the Murrelet's ecology.

  • R.J. Murphy
    2018-11-06 12:42

    Thanks for the book Goodreads! A very interesting story about a rare bird trying to survive in old growth forests on the west coast of the US. I've never given birds much thought but this story drew me in. Thanks.

  • Cyd
    2018-11-08 16:33

    marbled murrelets work hard for a living

  • Zeb
    2018-10-28 12:53

    The author does a good job in chronicling the history of the marbled murrelet while also adding a personal touch to the journey.