Review: When the Rains Come: A Naturalist's Year in the Sonoran Desert

By Laberge, Yves | Electronic Green Journal, Spring 2012 | Go to article overview

Review: When the Rains Come: A Naturalist's Year in the Sonoran Desert


Laberge, Yves, Electronic Green Journal


Review: When the Rains Come: A Naturalist's Year in the Sonoran Desert By John Alcock Alcock, John. When the Rains Come: A Naturalist's Year in the Sonoran Desert.Tucson, AZ: The University of Arizona Press, 2009. 334pp. ISBN: 9780816527625. US $21.95, paper.

Now Emeritus, Professor John Alcock (from Arizona State University) had already written numerous books on animal behaviour, including three titles about the Sonoran Desert National Monument in Arizona: Sonoran Desert Spring (1994), Sonoran Desert Summer (1994), and the praised In a Desert Garden: Love and Death among the Insects (1997). This fourth book titled When the Rains Come: A Naturalist's Year in the Sonoran Desert focuses on the one year, 2006, which the author spent in the Usery Mountains, in order to observe and chronicle its wildlife and the subtle seasonal changes (p. 1). Incidentally, this whole book about time and timing is structured according to the shifting of the seasons, from January to December. We undestand that even a seemingly static place like a desert is experiencing changes at a very slow pace. For some of his experimentations, Professor John Alcock sometimes compares his photographs of a single place shot at two different moments, like his comparative views on Usery Peak taken in 1980 and 2005 (p. 22). A similar comparison is proposed with a cactus photographed in 1991 and 2005 (p. 110). Professor Alcock mentions as well the previous research that was done in early 20th century; he acknowledges the older images of this same desert taken by Raymond Turner's team; but sadly, these photographs previously made by other scholars are commented and praised, but not reproduced here (p. 24).

If Professor Alcock were just "an entomologist of sorts" as he humbly introduces himself, his latest book would be just a collection of mere photographs depicting insects, plants, landscapes (p. 1). However, When the Rains Come is not really a "coffee-table-book" depicting large and colorful images with comments; quite the opposite, it is a scholarly essay written by a prolific ecologist and illustrated with his own photos (at an average of about one photograph per every four pages).

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