Nature on the Doorstep reveals the simple pleasures of paying attention to the natural world in one's own backyard over the course of a year. In weekly letters, Angela Douglas shares the joys and curiosities of a decidedly ordinary patch of green in upstate New York cultivated through the art of "strategic neglect"—sometimes taking a hand to manage wildlife, more often letting nature go its own way.
From the first flowers of spring to cardinals singing in the winter, Douglas shows us the magic of welcoming unexpected plant and animal life into one's backyard. A paean to the richness we find when we stop to look and let be, Nature on the Doorstep celebrates the role humble backyards play both in conservation efforts and in an expanded appreciation of the living world.
In these pleasant dispatches, entomologist Douglas (Insects and Their Beneficial Microbes) collects the weekly newsletters she wrote for her family in the U.K. about the flora and fauna in her yard in Ithaca, N.Y., during the first year of Covid-19 lockdowns. The pandemic goes largely unmentioned, with Douglas instead offering winding reflections about the natural phenomena she spots each week, as when she notes a web on her back deck and describes how caterpillars and spiders produce silk. Other letters explain that stink bugs like to winter in wooden houses because they're attracted to the dry "cracks and crevices" and that crab spiders hide in goldenrod plants to sneak up on the bees and butterflies that frequent them. However, most entries emphasize naturalistic observation over scientific explication, such as when the author ranks the flowering trees on her property and details the daily routine of a red squirrel that lives in her spruce trees. Filled with wide-eyed wonder, the lighthearted letters charm, though some readers may be disappointed by the thin scientific background. Still, this has plenty to offer those looking to discover the magic in one's own backyard.