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Winter World: The Ingenuity of Animal Survival

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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 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


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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 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

30 review for Winter World: The Ingenuity of Animal Survival

  1. 4 out of 5

    Petra-X

    Bernd Heinrich isn't a purist. When he takes off to live in the frozen Maine woods for the winter, he might chop wood for heat and cooking but drives into town for a bit of relief every now and again. So reading him is reading a balanced man which is one reason I like his books so much. The main reason though is that these books go into such extreme detail, the absolute minutae of the natural life and explain it in well-written prose and his own pen & ink drawings. His world is one where evoluti Bernd Heinrich isn't a purist. When he takes off to live in the frozen Maine woods for the winter, he might chop wood for heat and cooking but drives into town for a bit of relief every now and again. So reading him is reading a balanced man which is one reason I like his books so much. The main reason though is that these books go into such extreme detail, the absolute minutae of the natural life and explain it in well-written prose and his own pen & ink drawings. His world is one where evolution is beautiful and following the development of the animal life and their adaptions that dovetail into the plants, the weather that year and the seasons overall is wondrous. Something beautiful. He doesn't see a difference between us and the animals, we are all one and go to make this great humming planet of life, Gaia, the earth. *Actually he's not quite the balanced man, apart from being a professor of biology he's was also a champion ultra-marathoner, holder of the American records for running both the 150 miles in 24 hours race and the 100 miles one. I wouldn't think his books appeal to everyone, you have to like reading non-fiction, nature books in particular, but if you do, then I can't think of any writer more enjoyable than Bernd Heinrich.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Florence (Lefty) MacIntosh

    It’s like spending a couple of weeks with Bernd in his isolated cabin in Maine, ungrudgingly shared with deer mice & an assortment of bugs, all part of it. A remarkable man who’s sole purpose is to answer all your questions and while he’s at it renew your sense of wonder in nature’s complexity. If you’ve grown up with brutal winters and are at all tuned into nature you must have questioned how on earth animals survive it…“by defying the odds and the laws of physics and proving that the fabulous It’s like spending a couple of weeks with Bernd in his isolated cabin in Maine, ungrudgingly shared with deer mice & an assortment of bugs, all part of it. A remarkable man who’s sole purpose is to answer all your questions and while he’s at it renew your sense of wonder in nature’s complexity. If you’ve grown up with brutal winters and are at all tuned into nature you must have questioned how on earth animals survive it…“by defying the odds and the laws of physics and proving that the fabulous is possible” - Why do birds flock and why only come winter? - How do bears, instead of suffering from muscle loss like we would after 6 months of lying around, just wake up, stretch & casually walk up a mountain? - How do tiny fragile birds like chickadee's not freeze at 40 below? - And what about those little red squirrels, are they insane? Why are they running around in subzero temperatures instead of hibernating along with the rest of the squirrel kingdom? Always focusing on cold weather survival mechanisms he covers a lot of territory for such a short book, touching on everything from flying squirrels, bats & butterflies to snakes and turtles. He includes his own illustrations, pencil sketches I believe, a really nice touch. This isn’t dumbed down so be prepared to pay attention. Most of it I got though admittedly he lost me on super-cooling. The memoir of a biologist, the style is concise & factual but with just enough of a lyrical touch to get a feel for him, a quiet understated style that still manages to relay his passion. My 1st Bernd and I want more. Summer World: A Season of Bounty I think next, I intend on reading all his books. “Fine feathery snow crystals drift down. There is not a breath of moving air. The sharp clean smell of this new snow prickles my senses and excites. Within a minute I stand at the edge of the pond feeling peace, and just barely hearing the tinkling of snow crystals falling on my jacket. They amplify the stillness”

  3. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

    This great seasonal read carefully pitches science to the level of the layman. Heinrich surveys various strategies animals use for surviving the winter: caching food, huddling together, hibernating or entering torpor, and lowering their body temperature – even to the point where 50% of their body water is ice, as with hibernating frogs. “There is no magic. It is a matter of details—of getting everything just right.” He was particularly curious to know how kinglets survived in freezing conditions This great seasonal read carefully pitches science to the level of the layman. Heinrich surveys various strategies animals use for surviving the winter: caching food, huddling together, hibernating or entering torpor, and lowering their body temperature – even to the point where 50% of their body water is ice, as with hibernating frogs. “There is no magic. It is a matter of details—of getting everything just right.” He was particularly curious to know how kinglets survived in freezing conditions. For this and other investigations, he carried out ever so slightly gruesome experiments that make him sound like a lovably nutty professor: To find out how quickly a fully feathered kinglet loses body heat, I experimentally heated a dead kinglet and then measured its cooling rate. … My naked [plucked] kinglet had a 2.5 more rapid cooling rate than fully feathered ones. … Due to its small size, a kinglet would also cool approximately sixty times faster than a naked 150-pound pig. [Yes, he knows from experience!] To get a rough idea of whether the flying squirrel’s nest indeed affords much insulation, I heated a potato to simulate the body of a squirrel and examined its cooling rates. I do not know how many seeds a chipmunk usually packs into each of its two pouches—I easily inserted sixty black sunflower seeds through the mouth into just one pouch of a roadkill. Some years ago, I took on the brave, or foolish, task of measuring hornets’ body temperatures, grabbing and stabbing them with an electronic thermometer as they left their nests. Heinrich is an emeritus professor of biology at the University of Vermont and has (or had at the time of this book) a rather primitive cabin in Maine. In many ways his life sounds enviable. His passion for knowledge carries through in his writing. I learned a lot from reading this, and came away with a fresh sense of wonder at how species are adapted to their environments. “Much that animals have evolved to do would have seemed impossible to us, if experience has not taught us otherwise.”

  4. 5 out of 5

    Rosalie

    This book gave me a new understanding and appreciation of what winter is like for small animals in the Northern hemisphere. There are some truly impressive feats of evolution at work here, and it was cool to learn about that. But Bernd Heinrich's views and methods are sometimes difficult for me to read about. He kills a lot of animals (insects, turtles, birds, rodents) in order to learn about them, and I understand that that is often the cost of knowledge. He just doesn't seem to acknowledge tha This book gave me a new understanding and appreciation of what winter is like for small animals in the Northern hemisphere. There are some truly impressive feats of evolution at work here, and it was cool to learn about that. But Bernd Heinrich's views and methods are sometimes difficult for me to read about. He kills a lot of animals (insects, turtles, birds, rodents) in order to learn about them, and I understand that that is often the cost of knowledge. He just doesn't seem to acknowledge that there's anything morally grey about it, and that was hard to take for an entire book. When discussing the applications of freezing-tolerance research to the field of human cryogenics, he cringes. "It is pure research, that which has no practical implication whatsoever, that enlivens the human spirit the most," he says. So I guess it's OK for him to freeze, thaw, and re-freeze baby turtles until they die, just to satisfy an intellectual itch, but as soon as it could be useful to human society, THAT'S science going to far? It just rubbed me the wrong way.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Adam

    There are a ton of nature books these days, written by would-be modern-day Thoreaus and Carsons, people who sell self-congratulatory identity affirmations to environmentalists (sensu lato). Those books take two tacks: sentimental glorification of nature in lush prose, and an issue-specific jeremiad. I have read a ton of both, and I still love some of the best ones an awful lot (Barry Lopez, in the former camp). But after reading those formulas so much, and turning those values over in my head fo There are a ton of nature books these days, written by would-be modern-day Thoreaus and Carsons, people who sell self-congratulatory identity affirmations to environmentalists (sensu lato). Those books take two tacks: sentimental glorification of nature in lush prose, and an issue-specific jeremiad. I have read a ton of both, and I still love some of the best ones an awful lot (Barry Lopez, in the former camp). But after reading those formulas so much, and turning those values over in my head for several years, I am no longer really interested in the politics of nature--at least not the entry-level stuff. So it's rather a relief to find a book of natural history that isn't preoccupied with selling its readers on the value of its subject matter, and that doesn't feel the need to soapbox about environmental crises. Winter World is just Heinrich doing science, observing the forest around his cabin, asking questions, then seeking out existing research and performing experiments to try and answer them. It's a rare book in that it is as much about modeling a lifestyle and a mode of engagement as it is about the didactic fulfillment of curiosity. The closest analogue I've read is Hannah Holmes' Suburban Safari, also a book of natural history anecdotes, questions, and research united only by its theme. Heinrich's prose is simple and serviceable, never overblown and always careful. He doesn't feel the need to provide generalizable take-home answers to any of the questions that might inspire readers to seek out the book. All the answers are context specific and often are simply that "the answer is context-specific." How do kinglets make it through the winter? Well, a lot of them don't, but the ones that do achieve it by finding enough caterpillars, flocking with other birds for warmth and information, and never getting caught without decent shelter on the coldest nights. It's a good reminder that, when we ask our questions idly, we tend to oversimplify, satisfying ourselves with conclusions that don't reflect the majority of an organism's circumstances. I am an arrogant boy and I have been learning about this stuff long enough that it took me off guard how many seemingly basic facts of natural history I had either been ignorant of or simply never considered. Birds nests were a minor revelation, a focus on something I'd known in an abstract sense for a while. Kinglets construct nests from moss and spidersilk! There is this whole little economy of discarded body parts, ships made from toenail clippings and houses built from beetle shells and such. Turtles bury themselves in mud and hold their breath all winter! Beavers freeze all their food in a pile under the frozen surface of their pond, just going back and forth from the larder to the dam all winter. They never see the sun, so their circadian rhythms get all screwed up, like college students on holiday vacation. Insects use dozens of means to survive the winter, overwintering as eggs larvae, pupae, or adults, and variously using dehydration, antifreeze and supercooling, controlled freezing, or shelter to avoid death by ice crystal. I'll be looking for overwintering insects in the forest this winter break.

  6. 4 out of 5

    David

    How do animals survive in the winter? The Arctic ground squirrel hibernates in the winter, and digs himself a small hole and sleeps there for 11 months each year! Its body temperature drops to -2 to -2.9 C, though in the laboratory, its blood plasma freezes at those temperatures! Once a month its body temperature rises to around 30 C for about a day, during which the squirrel experiences REM sleep. Why does its temperature rise, which uses up half of its available fat energy supply? How does the How do animals survive in the winter? The Arctic ground squirrel hibernates in the winter, and digs himself a small hole and sleeps there for 11 months each year! Its body temperature drops to -2 to -2.9 C, though in the laboratory, its blood plasma freezes at those temperatures! Once a month its body temperature rises to around 30 C for about a day, during which the squirrel experiences REM sleep. Why does its temperature rise, which uses up half of its available fat energy supply? How does the tiny kinglet bird survive in the Arctic, at subfreezing temperatures; where does it find food when the ground is covered with a thick layer of snow? These mysteries and many more are explored in this fascinating book. The book tries to explain many mysteries of evolution, such as why did bird feathers evolve? (Probably as a means for heat insulation, not as a means for flight.) Bernd Heinrich is a wonderful storyteller. His books are highly recommended to anybody interested in biology.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Sacha

    As with other books of MR. Heinrich's I have read, this one was very anecdotal. I question his methods and reasoning. Such as the whole business of banging axes on trees to make birds fly in an already calorie stressed environment. Or climbing up a tree and flushing out flying squirrels, then touching them, for the reason only of touching them. I feel like I read the words of a man who has grown enough to learn and know better and yet frequently acts upon the impulses if a small boy. Perhaps the As with other books of MR. Heinrich's I have read, this one was very anecdotal. I question his methods and reasoning. Such as the whole business of banging axes on trees to make birds fly in an already calorie stressed environment. Or climbing up a tree and flushing out flying squirrels, then touching them, for the reason only of touching them. I feel like I read the words of a man who has grown enough to learn and know better and yet frequently acts upon the impulses if a small boy. Perhaps there was more scientific process, left out to add to the readability. I hope so.

  8. 5 out of 5

    ⋟Kimari⋞

    If you liked this book, you might also enjoy: ✱ Dawn Light: Dancing with Cranes and Other Ways to Start the Day ✱ A Year in the Woods: The Diary of a Forest Ranger ✱ The Dog Who Wouldn't Be If you liked this book, you might also enjoy: ✱ Dawn Light: Dancing with Cranes and Other Ways to Start the Day ✱ A Year in the Woods: The Diary of a Forest Ranger ✱ The Dog Who Wouldn't Be

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jason

    OK - this is the 2nd book of Heinrich's I've tried to read - and could just not get through..and it is too bad. I think he is an excellent writer with some great naturalist/scientific knowledge...but I find his behavior described rather scientifically irresponsible. He seems to constantly just grab baby animals from the wild and raise them as pets to learn about. I'm assuming (maybe hopefully) that he has a permit to do this, but he never describes any of that. His writing is too pretty and emot OK - this is the 2nd book of Heinrich's I've tried to read - and could just not get through..and it is too bad. I think he is an excellent writer with some great naturalist/scientific knowledge...but I find his behavior described rather scientifically irresponsible. He seems to constantly just grab baby animals from the wild and raise them as pets to learn about. I'm assuming (maybe hopefully) that he has a permit to do this, but he never describes any of that. His writing is too pretty and emotional where I feel some actual scientific information now and then would make things a lot more clear. Oh well.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

    2.5 stars. Someday, Goodreads will add half stars. So, I thought this book had a lot of interesting information. While technical and tedious at times, I fully appreciate all of the information here -- there was definitely a ton. Yay science. Animals have some amazing adaptations to get through winter and I learned a lot. I loved the kinglet stuff -- no wonder they were the inspiration for this book. I struggled with the author's overall tone though -- I guess his methods and reasoning. Kidnapping 2.5 stars. Someday, Goodreads will add half stars. So, I thought this book had a lot of interesting information. While technical and tedious at times, I fully appreciate all of the information here -- there was definitely a ton. Yay science. Animals have some amazing adaptations to get through winter and I learned a lot. I loved the kinglet stuff -- no wonder they were the inspiration for this book. I struggled with the author's overall tone though -- I guess his methods and reasoning. Kidnapping a flying squirrel, ripping food (a duck) out of a snapping turtle's mouth (then depicting it as a monster), keeping a baby snapping turtle to watch it freeze (who knew if that was going to turn out well?), shooting bats with his dad so others could see them and appreciate them ... it all just didn't sit well with me. He seemed kind of cocky and condescending at times, and this whole "contact encouraged" philosophy for the sake of just touching things because he felt like it ... eh. It made the book less enjoyable for me. But hey, kinglets are pretty amazing.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Charlene

    Heinrich begins with an absolutely beautiful chapter that discusses how much energy a body needs to remain active and alive, how much energy the sun provides to Earth's organisms during various seasons, and questions how species can survive when the sun's energy is low. He spends the rest of the book examining the various ways in which all organisms are unquestionably linked to and governed by the planet atop which they live. Many animals have different ways of adapting to low energy and Heinric Heinrich begins with an absolutely beautiful chapter that discusses how much energy a body needs to remain active and alive, how much energy the sun provides to Earth's organisms during various seasons, and questions how species can survive when the sun's energy is low. He spends the rest of the book examining the various ways in which all organisms are unquestionably linked to and governed by the planet atop which they live. Many animals have different ways of adapting to low energy and Heinrich gives an extremely thorough explanation of what they are. Very often, he relates it back to humans-- do we have these abilities?, if not, then why?, can we make medical advances by understanding how bears can hibernate for 5 months and not suffer bed sores or bone loss?, and more. Heinrich offers an incredibly thorough survey of the various metabolic processes and physical behaviors at play in species who face cold winter conditions.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Ram

    How do bears, bees, frogs and other creatures stay alive in a barren, subzero landscape? The author uses his experience and research in the New England winter as the backbone of the descriptions of ways creatures stay alive in those cold cold months. Mammals, Birds, Reptiles and insects all have various and special ways of staying alive and passing there genes through another winter. The various survival strategies such as hibernation and nest building-of mammals, birds and reptiles are presented How do bears, bees, frogs and other creatures stay alive in a barren, subzero landscape? The author uses his experience and research in the New England winter as the backbone of the descriptions of ways creatures stay alive in those cold cold months. Mammals, Birds, Reptiles and insects all have various and special ways of staying alive and passing there genes through another winter. The various survival strategies such as hibernation and nest building-of mammals, birds and reptiles are presented and discussed. He notes how bears endure months of hibernation without losing muscle mass or bone density. He explains how an air-breathing snapping turtle survives six months at the bottom of a frozen pond and how honeybees keep the temperature in their hives at a balmy 36 degrees Celsius no matter how cold it is outside. Most of this is presented with firsthand experience and he usually includes personal stories from the research he did on the subject. As a collection of stories, incidents and anecdotes, this book is very nice. I expected something more structured and whole, and there I was disappointed. Somehow, he jumps from subject to subject, animal to animal up to the stage where you lose the context.

  13. 4 out of 5

    uosɯɐS

    I love how this writer frames scientific questions like a mystery... and then proceeds upon a path of clues to get to a final answer. There are even mysteries within the mystery. He starts with a question of: How do Golden-Crowned Kinglets survive winter? And then proceeds to explore how many other animals do it, eliminating possibilities as he goes along, but defining the problem in in quite high resolution as he does. I also really appreciated the discussions of metabolism as they apply to huma I love how this writer frames scientific questions like a mystery... and then proceeds upon a path of clues to get to a final answer. There are even mysteries within the mystery. He starts with a question of: How do Golden-Crowned Kinglets survive winter? And then proceeds to explore how many other animals do it, eliminating possibilities as he goes along, but defining the problem in in quite high resolution as he does. I also really appreciated the discussions of metabolism as they apply to human ageing, and knowledge of torpor/low temperature tolerance could have application in cryonics or space travel. And with that, I think I shall conclude my 2018 reading challenge - breaking even with my 2017 book count of 30.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Julia

    Although I would agree with every other reviewer on this site that "Winter World" is a facinating read, accessible to a non-scientist, has gorgeous wildlife sketches by the author, and perfectly compliments a snowy day in my cold weather clime, I would add one other accolade to the pile: it completely changed the way I now look at the wild animals that share this frigid corner of Ohio with me, and made me respect them all the more. They are not beggars that live on the warm-heartedness of humans Although I would agree with every other reviewer on this site that "Winter World" is a facinating read, accessible to a non-scientist, has gorgeous wildlife sketches by the author, and perfectly compliments a snowy day in my cold weather clime, I would add one other accolade to the pile: it completely changed the way I now look at the wild animals that share this frigid corner of Ohio with me, and made me respect them all the more. They are not beggars that live on the warm-heartedness of humans and our food handouts! They are formidible challengers to the he*l that winter can be here, and their powers of overcoming its hardships have been honed and refined though millions of years of precise evolution. Want to have your mind blown with cold-weather adaptibility? Read the chapter on the hibernation techniques of artic birds, whose very blood has anti-freeze chemicals in it yet unknown to science! You will be facsinated by the author's own dedication to trial, experimentation, and research, and his many talents that made this book possible. Just one caveat: it is a long book, and I have to admit I still have the final chapters to read. But it is also a book that can be picked up and put down (some would say it could "hibernate" ha, ha) at will, with very self-contained chapters. This classic will certainly stand the test of time.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Andree Sanborn

    I am getting closer to reading all of Heinrich's books. Each book leads me to more photographic quests and more reading from other sources. While reading this on my Kindle, I kept a running list of things to look for in the woods. The priority is Golden-crowned kinglets, a dime-sized bird that often flies with chickadees. I have heard them thousands of times and can easily recognize their calls. But few people have seen them because they are so small and elusive. Winter World describes the natur I am getting closer to reading all of Heinrich's books. Each book leads me to more photographic quests and more reading from other sources. While reading this on my Kindle, I kept a running list of things to look for in the woods. The priority is Golden-crowned kinglets, a dime-sized bird that often flies with chickadees. I have heard them thousands of times and can easily recognize their calls. But few people have seen them because they are so small and elusive. Winter World describes the natural history of the northern New England winter and discusses food, habitats, life histories and observation techniques for naturalists to learn the interconnections of an ecosystem. The kinglet is the center of the winter world here. We learn about the other animals and plants that it interacts with and wonder about the plants and animals that the bird does not interact with. I won't list my list of quests from this book. It could be boring to someone who does not live here. Instead, I have questions for Heinrich: How do you safely navigates the bog in winter and summer? We can easily go in summer (after the red-winged blackbirds leave), hopping from tussock to tussock and hopefully not landing in mud that sucks off our boots. There are conservation laws here that restrict our access to the bog and we faithfully follow these laws. At times I am baffled at how easily Heinrich negotiates his travels in the bog. The usage of units: in a preface, you specifically mention that you are using Celsius units. That is fine for the entire world. Just not here. Even though I occasionally teach the metric system, I continue to have problems negotiating between our American units and metric units. The book is about our area, so please convert the units to what we are used to. Put the conversions in parentheses, but please put them. In several places, however, you abandon your Celsius units and suddenly only use Fahrenheit. Inconsistent! But at least I know that -40°F=-40°C. That was a huge help during reading, since our temperature can, and have, dipped that low. You write that you have never seen native, non-migratory birds eat winterberries. We have. The turkeys will eat them, leaving huge messes behind as only turkeys can do. Word of mouth here has it that hibernating bears in winter are dangerous. They can easily be woken up, are very grouchy, and often leave their den during sunny winter days to eat. We, and most of the people we know, carry guns in the woods because of the bears and because of other animals that may be dangerous. After reading this book, though, I am wondering if this common lore is correct. You say that bears do not eat at all in the winter, even if they do wake up. And they usually never leave their dens. I will still carry a gun in the winter, though, just in case I fall into a bear's den. Finally, I'd like to quote a paragraph with a great anecdote from page 196 about a mythical village here in the Kingdom: There is a whimsical story of the townsfolk in a village in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont— an isolated backwoods area known for its cold winters— where the residents of one little village were said to avoid the awful winters by downing a few stiff drinks in the fall and then freezing themselves solid and then unthawing to resume an active life at an appropriate time in the spring. You can't live in the Kingdom without reading this book. Our winters deserve your attention.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Clare O'Beara

    This book reads like a companion volume to What Should A Clever Moose Eat? by John Pastor. We wander the north woods in deep winter, observing and studying and carrying out occasional experiments with the author and his students. Just when we think the adaptations of creatures can't get any odder, they do. Rabbits burrow into the subnivian or under snow layer, tunnelling happily between trees to eat the bark off right up to the snow crust and invisible to predators. Colour-changing creatures tur This book reads like a companion volume to What Should A Clever Moose Eat? by John Pastor. We wander the north woods in deep winter, observing and studying and carrying out occasional experiments with the author and his students. Just when we think the adaptations of creatures can't get any odder, they do. Rabbits burrow into the subnivian or under snow layer, tunnelling happily between trees to eat the bark off right up to the snow crust and invisible to predators. Colour-changing creatures turn white in a space of a week or two. Caterpillars thaw to eat for a brief summer, freeze, thaw again and eat, for a dozen or more years before reaching the size needed to pupate. Birds appear to die but can be thawed. Other birds huddle and shiver nightly, burning fat which they must replenish by day. Flying squirrels huddle in hollow trees to share warmth. Beaver lodges provide safe havens and larders. Bears sleep with lowered metabolic rates, giving birth to cubs which they suckle for three months under the snow before awakening in spring. Insects make communal nests or migrate thousands of miles. The hibernate or migrate option has had to be explored by every species. Frogs don't have this option, so they freeze solid. The measurements given are astounding. As this book is specific to the North American area there are differences to European wildlife; what the author calls kinglets are goldcrests to us while he sees witch hazel flowering in early winter to attract late flying insects and I would see it in early spring. I do not always agree with the author's methods. His father shot and stuffed a wide collection of birds. This has informed his behaviour so he thinks nothing of shooting a bird in winter to see what it was eating. I would contrast this with the studies of penguins depicted in The Ferocious Summer by Meredith Hooper. Penguins clambering out of the Antarctic sea were caught and briefly handled to remove the food from their guts, then released. Here the scientists were acutely aware that the penguin colony was endangered and adults were trying to feed their chicks. Heinrich and students bang on snowy trees with axes in the evening to count birds flying out - with seemingly no thought for how the birds would survive the night lacking safe shelter. He tells us that eighty percent of the kinglets he admires die over winter, which doesn't stop him from killing a few more to examine instead of netting and releasing. I would have liked to see discussion of how climate change is affecting the areas studied, and how animals will be affected, but this was written thirteen years ago and much warming has occurred since. Warming is occurring more strongly at higher latitudes. We'll probably see the author revisiting the situation in a later book. Those interested could read Future Arctic by Edward Struzik, a comprehensive look at the top of the globe by scientists ranging from ecologists to fire scientists. But if a window on overwintering plants and animals in extreme conditions is what you want, this easily readable book Winter World can hardly be bettered.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Britta

    Am I just a cold-hearted you-know-what for rating this what I did? It seems to have done so well with other readers....?? Let me just start with what I *did* like: I love any book about animal adaptations and mutations. (A quirky naturalist is what I like to call myself. Ha!) This book certainly discusses how animals are uniquely suited to cold weather climates (mainly the American northeast) in all sorts of different and fascinating ways. I imagined myself navigating through the winter woods, tru Am I just a cold-hearted you-know-what for rating this what I did? It seems to have done so well with other readers....?? Let me just start with what I *did* like: I love any book about animal adaptations and mutations. (A quirky naturalist is what I like to call myself. Ha!) This book certainly discusses how animals are uniquely suited to cold weather climates (mainly the American northeast) in all sorts of different and fascinating ways. I imagined myself navigating through the winter woods, trudging through deep snow spotting all sorts of wildlife, which has always brought me joy. I also appreciate that the author occasionally gets descriptively poetic with this writing. It kind of reminds me of other naturalists' writing that I enjoy (Thoreau, Berry...) and how I personally feel when I am out communing with nature and also suddenly feel immensely poetic. What I did *not* like is that he seems like a rambling crazy dude pretending to be a naturalist but really just going around and screwing with wildlife. I expected a more concrete, informative discussion of animals' winter adaptations, but the book is more of a glorified nature diary in which Heinrich rambles about his cabins and taking baby animals out of their nests and forcing seeds into roadkill chipmunk cheeks and running over half-dead turtles on the road....So perhaps my main distaste with the book is that for a man who seems interesting in nature and wildlife, he seems to have either an ignorance of or disregard for animals' lives and wellbeing. That truly is what turned me off the most (the number of examples he gives of killing or experimenting with animals is too many for me to count!), but I also expected more real data and fewer observations from a dude who may be spending too much time alone in his cabin. I'm really disappointed that I didn't enjoy this book like, AT ALL. Based upon the title, the description, and the cover art, I was anticipating it becoming one of my new favorites! (For the record, my Mom gave me this book for Christmas so I hope she doesn't read this and get her feelings hurt that I didn't love it as much as we both thought I would. )

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jen

    This was truly what I'd call weird science. While it was fascinating at times, the author is just plain weird. In one moment, he's quoting fascinating scientific studies while explaining the biology of how frogs survive freezing in winter, and in the next he's calmly explaining that he determined the capacity of seeds that can fit into a chipmunk's mouth (how else?) by stuffing the cheek pouches of a roadkill chipmunk until they were completely full, then counting the seeds. Yep, because that's This was truly what I'd call weird science. While it was fascinating at times, the author is just plain weird. In one moment, he's quoting fascinating scientific studies while explaining the biology of how frogs survive freezing in winter, and in the next he's calmly explaining that he determined the capacity of seeds that can fit into a chipmunk's mouth (how else?) by stuffing the cheek pouches of a roadkill chipmunk until they were completely full, then counting the seeds. Yep, because that's TOTALLY something a normal person would do. Also, it seems completely logical that to determine where red squirrels sleep at night in the winter, you should track 2-3 of them to a stump, then get a giant group of your friends over with some axes and shovels, and dig out said stump until squirrels go racing in panic out the exit holes. That sure did solve that mystery! Don't worry, I'm sure the squirrels went to Motel 6 for the night after you HACKED APART their home for science. This guy is also at least 95% too obsessed with ruby crowned kinglets. I'm a bit lost as to why this author has been recommended to me strongly by so many people.... he's just a bit of an oddball. Interesting enough book, but odd author for sure.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Doug

    Professor Heinrich has done it again! I just love reading his books(I have read many of them). He mixes common sense experiments with great observations , humor and story telling! Great mix of the above! Can’t wait to read his newest book soon! Great author!

  20. 5 out of 5

    Kiwi Begs2Differ ✎

    This interesting book will tell you, probably in much more detail that you have ever wanted to know, the different methods animals employ to survive the harsh winter conditions, from hibernation to migration, supercooling to food storage, nest building to poop disposing, it’s all in here. The author explains the bizzarre, the strange and extraordinary facts from the animal kingdom, along with some beautiful illustrations. If you love science and wildlife and you don’t mind rodents and creepy craw This interesting book will tell you, probably in much more detail that you have ever wanted to know, the different methods animals employ to survive the harsh winter conditions, from hibernation to migration, supercooling to food storage, nest building to poop disposing, it’s all in here. The author explains the bizzarre, the strange and extraordinary facts from the animal kingdom, along with some beautiful illustrations. If you love science and wildlife and you don’t mind rodents and creepy crawlies, this book is for you. 3.5 stars

  21. 5 out of 5

    Pam Kennedy

    I love visiting nature with this author. He slows it down and opens up its secrets for us. Reading this combined with a walk in the woods is heaven!

  22. 4 out of 5

    Hapzydeco

    Wonderful wintertime wandering depicting the life of everyday observed animals.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Lin

    I started off really enjoying this book, but the more I read, the more I changed my mind. The flow of the book got bogged down by just too many tiny little details and his interactions with wildlife, especially in the second half of the book, were too disruptive. I did love the sketches throughout the book, and I enjoyed learning about various animals (chickadees are one of my favorites), but overall it just didn't work for me. The lack of an index in the back of the book was also a negative- it I started off really enjoying this book, but the more I read, the more I changed my mind. The flow of the book got bogged down by just too many tiny little details and his interactions with wildlife, especially in the second half of the book, were too disruptive. I did love the sketches throughout the book, and I enjoyed learning about various animals (chickadees are one of my favorites), but overall it just didn't work for me. The lack of an index in the back of the book was also a negative- it would have been nice to look up specific flora and fauna to see what he had to say about them. I'm really surprised at how this book turned out for me- I had been really excited to read it. I'll mark it as three stars because of the parts I enjoyed, but it's really a 2.5 star book for me.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Craig Flanick

    Fantastic look into the adaptations that animals make in winter. This book will have you looking forward to exploring the outdoors during winter to appreciate these adaptations in action.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Eileen

    Desperately need to be friends with this guy

  26. 5 out of 5

    Karen

    I feel bad rating as 2 stars a book I didn't really like for the reason that it's not the type of book that I like, but whatever. I found it "OK" and Goodreads says if I only thought it was OK then it gets 2 stars from me. If you loved this book I would never fight you over it. Long Story Short: This is probably a wonderful book that was just not for me, at least not for me during this particular January, when I was expecting I’d have some cozy dark-early winter times and got instead 80-degree we I feel bad rating as 2 stars a book I didn't really like for the reason that it's not the type of book that I like, but whatever. I found it "OK" and Goodreads says if I only thought it was OK then it gets 2 stars from me. If you loved this book I would never fight you over it. Long Story Short: This is probably a wonderful book that was just not for me, at least not for me during this particular January, when I was expecting I’d have some cozy dark-early winter times and got instead 80-degree weather with trips to the jacuzzi. I didn’t finish it. Why I Chose This Book: A biologist friend recommended this book to me, and had said he’d found it very inspiring. What with winter coming up, and me always looking for recommendations from real people, I thought it would be the perfect thing for the season. It was not. The Book’s Strengths: This was a book with a strong voice, told with great detail about a fascinating subject. It was almost a memoir, I thought, and the author had great passion for the subject, as well as a careful and thorough approach to the various explorations of how tiny little animals (and bigger animals) survived during the harsh winters of northern climates. It was peppered with pencil drawings from the author’s own notes, and it was full of interesting observations about the world, and I liked many of the connections the author drew between seemingly disparate things. I mean, I know we use trees for fuel and animals eat other animals, but I never explicitly thought about trees as solar energy containers or rabbits harnessing the sun’s energy for the benefit of the foxes, that kind of thing. (The author said it better, but the book went back to the library weeks and weeks ago.) The author lymoved between loving the natural world and conducting actual experiments about the natural world (like measuring the temperature of bird corpses to see how long they’d hold heat with that shape and that size in frozen temperatures, or sticking his head into tree trunks to measure the amount of squirrel droppings in order to estimate the number of animals using a shelter), with highly readable and almost poetic prose. The Book’s Weaknesses: I am going to fudge on this section, because I can’t really say that the things I didn’t like were weaknesses. I just prefer not to read books that have these things in them. I don’t as a rule read memoirs, because I don’t care that much about people’s introspections on their own lives, and although this book was not a memoir it had an awful lot of “I” in it. I just do not care that much about this guy’s feelings about the natural world. I care much more about the natural world itself, except that I don’t care enough about it, I guess, to learn about the guy while I’m learning about the world. I disliked Thoreau’s Walden for much of the same reason. I would have been happier with a different book about the exact same topic, but I realize that’s not an actual weakness, and I understand that I am dismissing a book because it’s not what I prefer and not for any objective reason. But I just got tired of him. The marketing text for the book includes this sentence: “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.” I’m sure I would delight in these things myself if I were reading about them directly. But I didn’t delight in reading about the author’s delight. Does that make sense? What Should Have Happened: I should have read a different book that matched my preferences, I guess. I don’t really have a recommendation here. Short Story Shorter: I don’t like my non-fiction mixed up with memoir. Maybe you do.

  27. 5 out of 5

    S̶e̶a̶n̶

    This is the third of Heinrich's books that I've read, and so far it's been the least appealing. Now at the halfway point I'm bailing on it. Heinrich is always inching along a fine line between engaging narrative nonfiction and dry scientific observation. He writes memoir well, but can't help himself from slipping into highly technical description. This book teeters a little too often into that field of prose, and so the contrast with the more memoirish sections engenders a disjointed read. Mind This is the third of Heinrich's books that I've read, and so far it's been the least appealing. Now at the halfway point I'm bailing on it. Heinrich is always inching along a fine line between engaging narrative nonfiction and dry scientific observation. He writes memoir well, but can't help himself from slipping into highly technical description. This book teeters a little too often into that field of prose, and so the contrast with the more memoirish sections engenders a disjointed read. Mind of the Raven also frequently crosses this line, but I tolerated it due to my fascination with ravens. While I find it interesting to discover the different techniques animals use to stay warm in the frigid North, it's not compelling enough to keep my interest for 350 pages. Heinrich is also particularly repetitive in this book. It makes me wonder if his editor(s) also glazed over while reading the drier sections, thus allowing large swaths of similarly worded prose to slip through into the final manuscript. Finally, his approach to interference with nature in the name of scientific inquiry strikes me as rather idiosyncratic. For example, he shoots a few Golden-crowned Kinglets, a bird he is obsessed with, in order to discover their stomach contents, yet he is absurdly determined to rescue a single mallard by detaching a snapping turtle's jaws from around the duck's foot. Certainly we all have our individual moral codes, but this book in particular underlines Heinrich's tendencies to treat the entire natural world as his personal laboratory. I find these tendencies distasteful, which explains in part why I abandoned Wildlife Science in favor of an English degree. I'd much rather walk in the woods watching birds than shoot them and dissect their stomachs.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Melissa

    I've read this in bits and pieces over the past few (winter) months, and enjoyed it thoroughly. Though it is pretty technical and scientific in parts, the overall feel is one of poetic marvel at the strength and ingenuity of these animals, who survive despite all odds through harsh winter conditions. I especially enjoyed the chapters on kinglets, honeybees, turtles, and bats and butterflies. I plan to read the summer companion to this book! My only quibble with this book was the huge amount of ty I've read this in bits and pieces over the past few (winter) months, and enjoyed it thoroughly. Though it is pretty technical and scientific in parts, the overall feel is one of poetic marvel at the strength and ingenuity of these animals, who survive despite all odds through harsh winter conditions. I especially enjoyed the chapters on kinglets, honeybees, turtles, and bats and butterflies. I plan to read the summer companion to this book! My only quibble with this book was the huge amount of typos in the edition I read--not the fault of the author, but annoying all the same!

  29. 5 out of 5

    Burd

    This book brought me back to my childhood. I was a science nerd from a very young age and at one time I thought I wanted to be a veterinarian because I loved animals so much. Things didn't quite work out that way. I became a nurse instead and never had any regrets about that, but my love for animals remains strong to this day. With that in mind, some readers may not find this book all that interesting. In my nerdy opinion, Winter World was fascinating and beautifully written. Heinrich examines h This book brought me back to my childhood. I was a science nerd from a very young age and at one time I thought I wanted to be a veterinarian because I loved animals so much. Things didn't quite work out that way. I became a nurse instead and never had any regrets about that, but my love for animals remains strong to this day. With that in mind, some readers may not find this book all that interesting. In my nerdy opinion, Winter World was fascinating and beautifully written. Heinrich examines hundreds of common creatures and their unique ways they have adapted to surviving the cold winter. To me, that subject is just amazing! His enthusiasm and passion for the subject are contagious. Many of his observations are from his cabin in the woods of Vermont. Each fact is well referenced. However, I never felt like I was reading a science text book. It has more of a field diary feel to it complete with many delightful sketches of the plants and animals he writes about. At times it does get a bit repetitive and there were a couple of experiments he did that bothered me because they involved disturbing animals in the wild. But overall, I found it well balanced and educational. Anytime I learn something new from reading a book, I feel like it was time well spent. In this case, I learned more than I will probably retain. The topics, like why hibernating bears do not lose bone mass, why birds migrate in flocks, how the blood chemistry of insects changes to prevent freezing solid, and how bees keep the hive alive all winter long, were discussed in an easy to understand way but I liked that many scientific facts were given as well. After reading this book I will never again be able to go on a trail run through the woods without thinking about all the cool stuff that goes on underneath the snow.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Diane

    I have had this book on my shelf for a few years. Yesterday, after receiving about 10" of snow here in New England, it seemed like the perfect reading choice for me. I curled up near the fireplace and front windows where the bird feeder sits, and watched some of my tiny feathered friends brave the elements to fill their bellies. I quickly became fascinated with the book: Winter World; Bernd Heinrich. The author is a biologist, and an illustrator, and this book has the most wonderful hand drawn il I have had this book on my shelf for a few years. Yesterday, after receiving about 10" of snow here in New England, it seemed like the perfect reading choice for me. I curled up near the fireplace and front windows where the bird feeder sits, and watched some of my tiny feathered friends brave the elements to fill their bellies. I quickly became fascinated with the book: Winter World; Bernd Heinrich. The author is a biologist, and an illustrator, and this book has the most wonderful hand drawn illustrations. By exploring the the woods and studying the environment, mostly here in New England (Maine and Vermont) we learn some of the survival approaches employed by turtles, mice, squirrels, bats, bears, beavers, bees, beetles, birds and butterflies. The general question is how do animals survive winters, when food may be scarce and temperatures extreme? We learn how birds, mammals, amphibians and insects are able to survive and some even thrive in the cold and snow covered lands. The chipmunk, for example, builds a 12 foot burrow system that includes a nest chamber three feet underground, several food storage chambers, and escape tunnels as well as the main channel. They hibernate not only when it's cold but, also when there's a low food supply. This book full of amazing facts and details that answered a lot of the questions I've had for years about challenges our furry and feathered friend face each winter. A perfect winter read. RECOMMENDED!

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