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Discovering an urban wildlife book through a Twitter battle

When one alternative Chicago newspaper pokes fun at another alternative Chicago newspaper, you get some fun (and I ended up finding a really cool book).

January 23, 2018: the Chicago Reader retweeted an very old tweet from the Onion.
April 15, 2012: The Onion’s tweet promoting an photo-post from the 1990s.
October 21, 1997: The Onion’s super-old photo-post.

Owls are assholes

Not all owls are assholes

Because of this random tweet, I found a great book about urban wildlife.

The link in the Chicago Reader’s tweet goes to a Chicago Reader article about an urban wildlife columnist from the 80s and 90s, Jerry Sullivan. He sounds like a totally rad dude writing about running around with a butterfly net, which he says makes himself a loony.

After reading the pull-quotes in this article, you’ll be thirsting for more of Jerry Sullivan’s writing. Thankfully, there’s a book with 70 of his columns! Hunting for Frogs on Elston, and Other Tales from Field & Street

Hunting for Frogs on Elston

The book’s contents include:

1. State of the Prairie

  • Prairie Cathedral 9/27/85
  • Fragmented Grasslands 5/22/87
  • Managing Nature 10/9/87
  • Too Many Deer 1/3/92
  • Middle Fork Savanna 7/9/93
  • Biodiversity 2/22/91
  • Transanimaling 6/26/92
  • Prairie September 9/25/98

2 The Seasons

  • Spring Comes to Chicago 2/24/95
  • Early Spring 3/13/98
  • Early Risers 3/9/84
  • The Ephemerals’ Moment 4/12/85
  • Cherries 7/11/97
  • Bees 7/3/98
  • Fall Flora 10/17/97
  • Turkeys 11/16/84
  • Winter Reading 12/20/85
  • Squirrels’ Nests 1/27/95
  • Ice Fishing 1/20/84
  • Feeding Urban Birds 12/12/86

3 Creatures Great and Small

  • Hunting for Frogs on Elston Avenue 5/16/86
  • Caterpillars 8/30/85
  • Woodchucks 3/8/91
  • Counting Butterflies 7/15/88
  • Sludgeworms 2/14/92
  • Rattlesnake Hunting 8/14/92
  • Ant Transplant 3/27/87
  • Searching for Bats 8/10/84
  • Fireflies 7/19/85
  • Migrating Monarchs 9/7/84
  • Badgers 11/23/90
  • Chorus Frogs 3/27/98
  • Coyotes in the City 2/2/96
  • Yellow Jackets 9/11/87
  • Reading Animal Tracks 1/25/91

4 Birds and More Birds

  • The Bird Hunter 5/10/85
  • Woodpeckers 1/16/87
  • Looking for a Gyrfalcon 2/8/91
  • Sparrows 4/6/84
  • Red-Tailed Hawks 3/13/87
  • Birding in North Channel 7/17/92
  • Kestrels 1/18/85
  • Savanna Birds 2/19/93
  • Feathers 4/10/87
  • Winter Flocks 12/1/89
  • Christmas Bird Count 1/8/88
  • How to Find Nests 6/14/91
  • Mourning Doves 3/24/95
  • Goldfinches 9/28/90
  • The Passenger Pigeon 4/4/86

5 Plants

  • Healthy Communities 2/27/98
  • Oak Trees 12/16/94
  • Sedges 6/27/97
  • Nightshade 6/13/86
  • Purple Loosestrife 9/5/97
  • Jewelweed 10/3/86
  • Hazels 10/11/96
  • Raspberries 7/17/98
  • Wild Onions 1/31/92
  • Eastern Prairie Fringed Orchid 10/1/93

6 People and Places

  • Field Guides 9/8/89
  • Surveying Illinois 6/21/96
  • Inland Marsh 1/5/96
  • Women Naturalists 7/25/86
  • Bird-Watchers 8/28/87
  • Henry Chandler Cowles 11/6/98
  • Poplar Creek Preserve 9/6/91
  • Lichen Scholar 11/3/95
  • Dinosaurs and Birds 11/9/90
  • Roger Tory Peterson 8/16/96

A free three-story sample is available on Google Books. These samples come from the beginning of the book. Amazon reviewer R. Schultz warns, “The first couple of articles are rather dry accounts about the need to manage Park District properties. I was put off by these first somewhat preachy, plodding essays, and almost didn’t go further. I’m glad I did keep reading though – and you will be richly rewarded if you do too!”

I’m looking forward to reading many of these columns, in particular:

  • Bees (I have a fear of bees, so anything to make me appreciate them might balance me out)
  • Squirrels’ Nests (I love squirrels!)
  • Feeding Urban Birds (What take will he have on feeding urban birds–good thing, bad thing?)
  • Reading Animal Tracks (Now as a house-owner in the winter, I’m very curious about all the animal tracks in the snow around my house)
  • Woodpeckers (Glen Ellyn–my suburb–is said to have many woodpeckers, which are a nuisance)
  • The Passenger Pigeon (Hated and love, the pigeon is such a wide-ranging animal.)

For now the book sits on my Amazon wish list with the note, “These sort of urban observations is what drives my public art. Please purchase this book used for under $10”

Notice my excitement prompting someone to purchase this book for me. But then also my reality. This is a book from 2004 with old essays from a local paper. Market-wise, $25 is too much. But I bet I’ll find greater value in it. As I said these sort of urban observations drives my public art. Observing the everyday, and finding joy in it.

Other books that would complement Jerry Sullivan’s are:

Hack-Stories from a Chicago Cab
Julius Knipl, Real Estate Photographer

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