Marshes: The Disappearing Edens

William Burt, Author . Yale Univ. $35 (179p) ISBN 978-0-300-12229-9

Photographer and bird lover Burt has had a love affair with marshes since childhood, and this book portrays, in words and photographs, his romantically tinged tour of North American marshlands and his take on how they've changed since the early explorer-naturalists first found them. He begins by revisiting Great Island in Connecticut, in which he wandered as a child, and finds it endangered by an invasive reed that's threatening not only this diverse ecosystem, but much of the East Coast marshland, including his next stop, Maryland's huge Elliot Island marsh. He finds the marshes of Texas "ditched and diked and neatly edged, like so many fish farms." Those of Louisiana are bursting with birds in the west, but trash-littered in the east. Marshes in the western U.S., described rapturously by 19th-century birders, but "reclaimed" by agricultural development and rebuilt as square ponds to service migrating birds, are a deep disappointment, but a side trip to a pristine five-mile-wide salt marsh in New Jersey is an intriguing surprise. Burt's florid language is sometimes tiring, but his intimate portraits of birds—particularly the bittern, guarding eggs in salt hay with enormous tail feathers spread and peeking curiously through reeds, or its fluffy chicks screaming for food—show where his talents and his heart lie. 92 color photos. (Apr.)

Reviewed on: 03/26/2007
Release date: 05/01/2007
Genre: Nonfiction
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