THE GIANT CACTUS FOREST AND ITS WORLD. By Paul Griswold Howes. Duel& Sloan and Pearce, New York, xii-xviii + 243 pp, frontispiece, 1 color plate, 186 figures. 1954. $7.50. To an old Sand Rat who fell in love with the Arizona desert 60 years ago, this profusely illustrated book is like looking over the “old family album” except that its photographs are all done in the sharp technique of modern outdoor photography. To one who is a stranger in desert country, there will come the strong call to go and see it, to smell it, to breath it. For the Condor reader there is a chapter of friendly gossip about the birds-truthful gossip on the whole except that one might challenge the statement that the Pigmy Owl is smaller than the Elf Owl. The museum calipers show a close approximation in size but to one who has handled many of each species in the flesh (or has cleaned skeletons), the Elf appears a.5 more truly elfin-a really fragile creature.
But what bird man is satisfied with a “bird in the hand”? A bird in the bush is worth twice as much to the nature-minded modern. That bush may be a cholla or a saguaro as this entertaining book points out. Along with the bush go the bird’s neighbors, vertebrate and invertebrate. Even the soil, the sun and the meager rainfall help to frame the picture the author paints-and it is a pleasant picture.
There are many questions left unanswered but unanswered questions are strongly stimulating. Meanwhile the wind sings through the spines of the tall giant cactus (an incredible creation), the creosote and sage scent the air by day, the night-blooming cereus by night. The silence at dawn, the sun at noon, the purple shadows at sunset, all are brought to mind afresh by reading “The Giant Cactus Forest and its World.“-LOYE MILLER. CO