Review – Prairie Spring: A Journey into the Heart of a Season by Pete Dunne

Prairie Spring: A Journey Into the Heart of a Season by Pete Dunne is a journey into the transition of the doldrums of winter into the season of life, Spring. But it is also a recount of how birding is becoming more mainstream and how birders are a real source of environmental improvement power.

Dunne excellently covers what makes birding festivals successful and how so many hundreds (thousands?) have popped up all over the country at all times of the year. One such festival is the High Plains Prairie Chicken Festival held in Milnesand, New Mexico.

All through the text, Dunne describes wonderful western prairies and grasslands in beautiful prose. His wit and humor mixes well as he tells the story of his and his wife’s journey all over the west.

The National Grasslands, as public land, belong to each and every one of us and it is our job to keep them in good condition and also to enjoy them. Often these grasslands are overlooked because they don’t have the obvious awe of forests or mountains.

Dunne describes how he had passed by these same lands in cross-country trips and that perhaps some better marketing can help spark more interest in them. He remembers how successful the Smokey the Bear campaign was to help quell forest fires but paradoxically, not burning the grasslands is actually detrimental to their health.

Dunne comes up with an interesting idea to create a new mascot for the grasslands. He may be half kidding but I think it might actually work:

“An animal at home in the grasslands and in sync with fire management—Backfire the Badger, Pyro Pete the Prairie Dog, or Combustible Coyote, who dashes through the underbrush with his tail on fire starting patchwork burns.” – pg. 163

My favorite is Combustible Coyote.

Spring is by far my favorite season and prairies (which includes grasslands) is my favorite habitat. This blend makes Prairie Spring: A Journey Into the Heart of a Season a perfect fit for me but is a joy to read for any naturalist. Dunne takes the reader along for the ride in some of the most under-traveled yet unbelievable awesome places in the American west.

He expertly connects nature with people in the fun story-telling way he is known for.

Prairie Spring: A Journey Into the Heart of a Season
Pete Dunne
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
ISBN 978-0-618-82220-1

Other books by Dunne (I own nearly every book he’s written and they’re all entertaining):

Disclosure: we were given a copy of this wonderful book by the publisher to review. However, we were not persuaded to say or do anything other than give an honest review, which we have.

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