Book Review: A Naturalist at Large The Best Essays of Bernd Heinrich by Bernd Heinrich

This is a collection of scientific essays published elsewhere earlier. They vary on topic, but one common thing in all of them is the wonderment and respect towards nature combined with the need to understand through observation. He proves in his essays how observation is necessary: how it widens the understanding and highlights the interplay between environment and behavior. Don’t get me wrong. He doesn’t just stop at observation. He ties it to genes and evolution and the rest, but through his own words, this book is composed so that it encourages people to have direct contact with nature.

I agree with him. It is one thing to read facts about trees, bees, flowers, elephants, and ravens, and quite another to witness their flight in nature and to be immersed in the environment. For years now, I have been photographing my local nature reserve. As I go there weekly, I experience the seasonal changes and see how the birds and the foxes, and an occasional lynx, interact with their habitat. It has made me appreciate and respect nature more, and it has tied me to my local environment. I jokingly call it my forest, where my heart is buried. 

Sometimes I wonder, have we lost the sense of awe when making science, but reading a book like this brings back my hope that we haven’t forgotten the basic reason why and how we do science. To be here is not to exist twice removed.

Back to the book itself, I could list all the possible subjects, like the one about how flowers have trained bees to behave so that they go from one flower type to the same rather than vary their foraging path, or I could tell you how the bees chose the most yielding flower and inform their choice back at the hive or the story about ravens, or why the color of birds’ egg differ. But I rather you read yourself and fall in love with nature, as always happens when I read Bernd Heinrich’s books.

Thank you for reading and have a beautiful day ❤

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