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February 01 , 2011

Southern Sanctuary

A Naturalist's Walk through the Seasons


In Southern Sanctuary, retired NASA research scientist and writer Marian Moore Lewis takes readers on a journey of discovery through the Goldsmith-Schiffman Wildlife Sanctuary, a 400-acre preserve in Madison County, Alabama. Writing in the voice of a knowledgeable friend and with accompanying color photographs, Lewis introduces plants, animals, and other wildlife that reside in the preserve’s meadows, woods, and waterways—like those beloved throughout the American South.
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Lewis has organized this beautifully presented volume into twelve monthly chapters. She starts her year in April after the crystalline frosts of winter have thawed. Already a bobcat has stamped a padded paw print in the lush spring muds as crossvine blossoms of magenta and lemon beckon winged pollinators nearby. Walk with her into the months of summer, when trees leaf out into a cathedral of habitats for birds, insects, and small mammals. In language naturalists of any age will enjoy, Lewis explains marvelous compound eyes, called ommatidia, of iridescent dragonflies and the homey carpentry of beavers damming a creek. As colored reflections signal autumn, companionable songbirds migrate south while the last caterpillars of summer roll themselves into a leaf tent, or hibernaculum, to exist in diapause until next spring. In winter, Lewis admires nature at rest and rocks like chert, sought by Native Americans for arrowheads. Chert lies over bedrock of crenellated limestone, remnant of a time when an undersea Alabama reverberated with life preparing to emerge from the sea.

Southern Sanctuary provides a rich compendium of useful features. Lewis uses both common and Latin names for the insects, plants and flowers, fungi, fish, reptiles, and mammals thus enriching knowledge of botany and zoology. Her photos and descriptions make it easy for explorers of Southern Appalachian riparian habitats to use the book to identify species of plants and animals near their own homes. Rounding out this astonishing work are handy guides to additional resources, taxonomy and measurements, rainfall, soil types, and native trees.

Southern Sanctuary will be of value to educators and students, professional and amateur naturalists, hikers, birdwatchers, botanists, and ecologists. Infusing a wealth of useful information into an elegant design, it encourages an awareness of Alabama’s rich biodiversity. Marian Moore Lewis’s Southern Sanctuary is a new classic in the best tradition of nature writing.
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