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Caverns and Currents

For lovers of Texas’ subterranean world, the mysterious caverns beneath the state’s varied topography provide wonderlands of discovery. And in the skies above, birders find a variety of winged creatures unlike anywhere else on earth. While the worlds they explore may seem as different as day and night, birders and cavers share at least one fortunate characteristic—they’ll never be bored with Texas’ bounty. Two new books, Texas Caves, by avid caver and photographer Blair Pittman, and Great Texas Birds, by ornithologist and artist John P. O’Neill, will keep you entertained, too.

Book covers

As you’ll learn in Blair Pittman’s book, Texas boasts some 3,000 known, explored caves, most restricted to geologists, biologists, and trained cavers. Within these subterranean worlds grow millions of mineral formations—delicate cave “popcorn,” “bacon,” “soda straws,” and other surreal, fragile wonders. Here, too, are the creatures—blind salamanders, cave crickets and scorpions, Mexican freetail bats—that have adapted to life without light. Texas Caves introduces readers to this seldom-seen world via 99 color and black-and-white photographs. It discusses cave exploration and history, and provides information on Texas’ seven accessible-to-the-public show caves.

Similarly, with more than 600 species recorded, Texas has more species of birds that live within its borders than any other state. By way of John P. O’Neill’s loving watercolors, Great Texas Birds brings you 48 of them, from the elegant and comical brown pelican to the inquisitive Eastern bluebird. While the pictures already speak a thousand words, Great Texas Birds also devotes an essay to each painting. You’ll find eloquent musings by such wordsmiths as the late Edward A. Kutac (who waxes about wild turkeys) to Roland “Ro” Wauer (who reminisces about a certain proud blue-throated hummingbird).

Look for Texas Caves (Texas A&M University Press) and Great Texas Birds (University of Texas Press) in your library or bookstore (both books cost $34.95 hardcover). To order Texas Caves from the publisher, call 800/826-8911; for Great Texas Birds, call 800/252-3206.

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