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E&H Library News

The Outside : a world inspiring study, exploration, beauty, and friendship

by Adam Alley on 2020-06-29T10:52:34-04:00 | Comments


walking down the old railroad trail with trees to the left of me, trees to the right, blue skies and sunshine peeking through the leaf-covered branches overhead, and the quiet-loudness of the natural world around me. birds chirping, squirrels rummaging in the undergrowth, the breeze from the wind and the creek, crack, and crick of the trees swaying to and fro. the crunch, slide, grit, of tennis shoe on this well-worn path, blackened stains from the remnants of smoke, coal, and the many hundreds of thousands of feet that had tread before me and will continue to tread well after, including my younger, current, and older selves. competing with this natural rhythm are small chattering of other tunes, hymnals, songs sung by choirs not of the chipmunk, skink, or copperhead, nor intertwined with the low grunt from a passing buck, but of others, as to the like of me; travelers, adventurers, journeymen and journey women, leisure strollers, eccentric runners, and the occasional dog and companion duo, lost amid their own conversation, preoccupied by their own adventures.  -personal reflections about The Abingdon Creeper Trail.


Black-bellied Whistling Ducks, 5/15/20 - Santee State Park, SC

Taking a break to do some walking and enjoy the brief pause in the weather (the rain is a persistent little devil, though a purpose bold it serves in preserving life), I have spent the last few weeks walking the Creeper Trail in Abingdon, reading Henry David Thoraeu’s Walden. I have also had the opportunity to get out and do some bird watching, taking a few days to visit South Carolina’s Huntington Beach State Park (I highly recommend visiting this park right off of the beach). With Summer here and many of us finally stretching our legs and getting outside, I thought it a perfect time to highlight a few of my all-time favorite books that you can find at the E&H Library and two great movies that highlight nature, summer, outdoor activities, and friendship. 


Anhinga, 5/14/20 - Huntington Beach State Park, SC

A Walk in the Woods (film)

Kerb, R., Holderman, B., Redford, R., Diggins, C., Kwapis, K., Schaal, K., Nolte, N., Steenburgen, M., Offerman, N., Thompson, E., Bailey, J., Littleton, C., Garcés, J., Larson, N., & Bryson, B. (2015). A walk in the woods. [videorecording]. Broad Green Pictures. Retrieved from

Primary actors: Robert Redford & Nick Nolte.

Plot summary: Two lifelong friends set out to walk the entirety of the Appalachian Trail. On the way they reminisce about the past, reflect on their future, joke and bicker, and show their appreciation of the vastness of the open world. 


The Big Year (film) 

Primary actors: Jack Black, Owen Wilson, Steve Martin

Plot summary: Three avid, perhaps more accurately described as overly-obsessive, bird watchers spend an entire calendar year, from 12:01 AM January 1st to the last second before midnight, December 31st traveling across North America (“The ABA Area includes Canada, the 50 U.S. states, the French islands of St. Pierre et Miquelon off Canada, and adjacent waters out to 200 nautical miles”) (Wikipedia, 2020) to see as many different species of birds as possible. With his name and title of The Best Birder in the world on the line, Kenny Bostick (Owen Wilson) is willing to stake his profession, family, and marriage on his ability to “keep [his]eye on the sparrow.” Well he retain his title as champion or will Bostick be outbirded by Stu Preissler (Steve Martin) and Brad Harris (Jack Black), two unlikely friends that meet along the way? 


The Big Year (book)

Primary competitors: Sandy Komito, Al Levantin, Greg Miller

Summary: Three men, obsessed with all things birds, spend the entire calendar year of 1998 to travel the North American continent in search of the most species of birds. Read a full summary here.


Painted Bunting, 5/14/20 - Hunting Beach State Park, SC

Peterson, R. T. (2008). Peterson field guide to birds of North America. Boston : Houghton Mifflin Co. 

    This has to be my favorite field guide out there. Granted so many of these field guides exist, many of which provide excellent details, Sibley (below), Kauffman, National Geographic, Audubon, the names are many and growing, but I digress. Personally, I like the design of this field guide better than others. With large, detailed drawings and arrows indicating markings in feather design and coloration, beak size, and tail length and shape, this book also provides a migration/breeding map and a brief description of each bird, including information on what type of habitat each species prefers and what their song sounds like. This book also provides an excellent introduction to the hobby and study of birding, offering tips and advice on how best to recognize and differentiate between the many different species. Found after the index of the book is a checklist of every bird mentioned, including a few rare, foreign and vagrant species that occasionally get blown off migration courses and end up in North America where they otherwise wouldn’t have spared a moment to stop by.


Sibley, D. (2000). The Sibley guide to birds : field identification. New York : Alfred A. Knopf. 

    This field guide shares many of the same similarities that I used to describe the Peterson guide.  There is really no downside to this book, in fact, it is a must-have for any bird watcher. There is a newer edition available. 


Ruddy Turnstones, 5/14/20 - Huntington Beach State Park, SC

Because the natural world has much more offer, here are a few examples of additional resources that the Library has available in its physical collections as well as items that can be accessed digitally: 

Books on bees?!

Wilson, J.S. & Carril, O.M. (2016). The bees in your backyard : a guide to North America's bees. Princeton : Princeton University Press.


Bird lingo, calls, and terminology.

Bevis, John. Aaaaw to zzzzzd : the words of birds : North America, Britain, and northern Europe. 


There is actually a guide for recognizing the different species of ants!

Fisher, B. L. (2007). Ants of North America : a Guide to the Genera. CA : University of California Press.


Field guides for stargazing!

Kanipe, Jeff. A skywatcher's year [electronic resource] / Jeff Kanipe. Cambridge, UK ; New York : Cambridge University Press, 1999.


Eight-legged creepy crawlies in England.

Bee, Lawrence. Britain's spiders : a field guide / Lawrence Bee, Geoff Oxford, Helen Smith.


Flying bugs in Canada!

Layberry, Ross A. The butterflies of Canada / Ross A. Layberry, Peter W. Hall, J. Donald Lafontaine.


Take a trip to Egypt and explore the animals there.

Hoath, Richard. (2009). Field guide to the mammals of Egypt / Richard Hoath ; illustrations by the author. Cairo, Egypt : The American University in Cairo Press.


Websites (if your interest in bird watching has been sparked):

American Birding Association. 

Cornell Lab of Ornithology. 




Not into bird watching or nature gazing? That's okay, please, feel free to share what types of things you do during the Summer. What hobbies strike your fancy? What kinds of things do you like to do when you're not writing papers, reading textbooks, grading papers, or sleeping (I know this is a common "hobby" for between semesters, but surely there are other things to do as well!)? Leave a comment or visit our Facebook page and share your Summer experiences with all of us! 



Wikipedia contributors. (2020, April 8). Big year. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved from



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