Follow by Email

Search This Blog

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Fantasy Birding in Iran

The long drive to Kiamaky was very successful; we racked up a list of 18 species, 13 of which were life birds! The land we drove through was mostly agricultural but we passed a lake at one point and a few times we went through more mountainous regions.

My list from the road:
Spanish Sparrows 17
House Sparrow 6
Rock Pigeons 6
Hooded Crow 1
Jackdaws 13 (mobbing the Buzzard)*
Common Kestrel 1*
White Wagtails 6*
Common House-Martins 40+*
Barn Swallows 20+
Bee-Eaters 2 (on a wire by the side of the road. One of my many goal birds)*
Swifts 16*
"Steppe" Common Buzzard 1* (was being mobbed by Jackdaws)
European Tree-Sparrow 1*
Whinchat 1*
Red-backed Shrike 1 (another of my goal birds)*
Wheatear Species 1 (I think it was a female Northern but I didn't a great look)*
Starling 5
Magpie 2*
Jay 1*

We arrived at Hadishahr at around 9:30pm, having left Yerevan at around 2pm. Our original plans were to stay in Marand but we realized after looking it up on the internet that it would require much too much extra driving so instead we decided to stay in Hadishahr which lies at the entrance of the park. We managed to find a motel in the city just before we collapsed in exhaustion after our long drive.

The next day I was up bright and early looking forward to our drive through the park. We have to drive because the park is very large and I am unaware of any walking trails although there almost surely are some. Before we started into the park I birded the town. I say "I" because everyone else was still wrapped in the sheets of the motels beds. Hadishahr wasn't that great for birding, although I got some nice looks at the local Barn Swallows. They were of the Middle Eastern subspecies, H.r.transivita, best identified from the nominate European subspecies by the distinct rusty underparts; the European subspecies (H.r.rustica) has white. H.r.transivita was first described by Ernst Hartet in 1910. The swallows were nesting in the eaves of many of the buildings. Their nests were fascinating structures constructed with mud collected off the road.

I was delighted to add a Golden Eagle to my life list. We all got superb looks at this majestic bird as it circled over Hadisahr.


Kiamaky Wildlife Refuge is a handsome place, filled to overflowing with beautiful vistas and bare, dry mountain slopes. There are a few small villages nestled within the parks boundary. Its habitat holds a number of species only found in this type of rocky terrain. As well as containing many species of birds, Kiamkay is also the dwelling place of such mammalian wonders as Wolf, Jackal, Red Fox, Brown Bear, Jungle Cat, Caracal Lynx, and Leopard!!! Any one of which I would be overly overjoyed to set my eyes upon.

As I had hoped, birding Kiamaky was very successful. As we started into the refuge Barn Swallows and House-Martins coasted through the air. Croaking, 6 Hooded Crows flew over. A small flock of Gray-hooded Bunting explored the top of a rocky slope. A Finsch's Wheatear flew from the dirt road calling. It was a small pure white bird which looked as if someone had taken a brush with black paint and with delight smeared the brush down the bird's sides from bill to tail.

As we went deeper into this mountainous park the swallows, martins and Spanish Sparrows faded away, to be replaced by buntings, larks and Alpine Swifts. To my utter delight I was able to pick out the distant but distinctive form of a Rufous-tailed Rock-Thrush, one of my goal birds for the trip. As we watched the thrush, a trumpeting came from on high, as if an angel in training (a true angel wouldn't play this badly) was descending while blowing to high heaven his brazen horn. Looking up I saw a pair of birds that to me held as much significance as any angel would, they were Ruddy Shelducks! Although these ducks are far from rare they are fascinating and beautiful birds and a species of feathered fowl which I am unlikely ever to see again.

The birding was fabulous!
Our list from the park:
Black Redstart 1* "ochruros" subspecies
Finsch's Wheatear 3* "Lugens" subspecies
Tawny Pipit 2*
Spanish Sparrows 20+
Barn Swallows 6 "Transivita" subspecies
Common House-Martin 18
Grey-hooded Bunting 5*
Bimaculated Lark 1*
Red-billed Chough 3* seen circling a distant slope
Ruddy Shelduck 2* flyovers from the east, probably headed for the river
Alpine Swift 8*
Hooded Crow 6
Rock Petronia 2* flyovers
Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush 1*
In all we saw 14 species, 10 of which were lifers.

Black Redstart
Did you know that during and after World War II these small thrushes inhabited bomb craters which were a suitable alternative to rocky mountain slopes. Now Black Redstarts can be found in many a European city park, their mountain homes have been amply substituted by factory buildings, church towers and chimneys (boy would I like to live in a chimney with some twittering swifts!) though they do still breed in far more halcyon mountain settings.

House Martin
Until 2004 Delichon Urbicum (the House-Martin) held the scientific name Delichon Urbica due to a misunderstanding in Latin grammar!

Finsch's Wheatear

Rufous-tailed Rock-Thrush

Friday, December 16, 2011

An Imaginary Birding Trip Across The Middle East

Recounting our epic fantasy family birding adventure across South Eastern Europe: starting in Yerevan, Armenia and ending in Rome. I dabble with endless supplies of cash in my imagination. Wars, borders, Visas, natural and not-so-natural disasters cannot stop us as we voyage in search of a mosaic of feathers. Carefully planned with overly excessive use of Ebird and Google Earth I write up an IMAGINARY birding exploit.

Part One, Birding Yerevan



We arrived at Erebuni Airport at around 10pm on the 20th of June. We found a motel on the outskirts of Yerevan to stay for the 2 nights we were to spend in the city. We filled up the first day exploring the city in a rental car. It's a fascinating place with lots of stunning architecture. We checked out the Botanical Gardens where we saw 6 lifers including a group of seven Hooded Crows which we saw flying over the Botanical Gardens and a male Common Rosefinch also in the Gardens. But by far my favorite find of the day was the communal nesting site of Lesser Kestrels on one of the buildings! Apparently Lesser Kestrels are big on communal roosting as well as communal nesting. One roost in Senagal contained 28,600 kestrels plus 16 Scissor-tailed Kites!!! DNA testing shows that the Lesser Kestrel is not closely related to the Common Kestrel which it resembles almost to the extreme.

We ended the day having seen 8 life birds, 6 of which were found in the gardens.
Here's a list of birds seen (a star next to their name means that they were lifers):
Lesser Kestrel*
Rock Pigeon
Common Wood Pigeon*
Hooded Crow*
Great Tit*
Garden Warbler*
Blackcap*
Common Rosefinch*
Spanish Sparrow*
House Sparrow

A female Lesser Kestrel, these photos were taken with my fantastical D3000,000,000 Nikon Camera!

A male Common Rosefinch

A Hooded Crow

A male Spanish Sparrow

The next day we got up at around 2pm suffering from an awful case of jet lag. We stopped by Lake Yerevan, scanning the lake from Shengavit Road, before starting the extremely long drive to Igdir, Turkey.

(A passerby who spoke fairly fluent English told us about a heroic act that occurred here in 1976: Shavarsh Karapetyan and his brother Kamo, both professional fin-swimmers, were running alongside the reservoir when they heard the alarming sound of a crash and saw a sinking trolleybus which had gone out of control and fallen from the dam wall. The trolleybus lay at the bottom of the reservoir some 25 meters (80 ft) off the shore at a depth of 10 meters (33 ft). Karapetyan swam to it and, under conditions of almost zero visibility due to the silt rising from the bottom, broke the back window with his legs. The trolleybus was crowded, but in less than an hour he saved all 92 passengers on the bus. An amazing story, but one that sounded true in the telling.)

The lake was fairly birdless; only a few Mallards, a small flock of Eurasian Coots (which bare a shocking resemblance to America's American Coots), flyby trio of Pygmy Cormorants (which sent us all into a hopping frenzy - not that the other lifers didn't, but these birds were particularly cool and one of the goal birds for the trip) and a possible Yellow Wagtail on the far side of the lake. I needed to look at the photos I took of the wagtail before I marked it down on my life list). Ben swears he saw a Common Redstart flyby (but I tend not believe him). We got some great looks at Black-headed Gulls and a (lifer) Armenian Gull.

A Pygmy Cormorant with a Eurasian Coot in the back

The Armenian Gull was formerly considered a subspecies of Herring Gull but was recently split, some people now lump the Armenian Gull with the Yellow-legged Gull.
We saw only one of these gulls which landed on the shore to fight for a scrap of fish collected by one of the Black-headed Gulls. Needless to say the much larger Armenian Gull got the stinking treat. The Armenian Gulls largest breeding colony is Lake Sevan a much larger lake then Yerevan. It is located to the east of Yerevan.

My Totally Awesome Fictional Plan from here: From Yerevan, Armenia we will drive 6 hours South to Marand in the North Western section of Iran. Here we plan to stay the night then the next day we bird at Kiamaky Wildlife Refuge. From there we will drive 3 hours North to Igdir in Turkey which looks excellent for farmland, marsh, river and lake birding. I know it would be easier to go due East from Yerevan directly to Igdir but for some reason (probably unfriendliness between the 2 countries) there are no roads from Armenia into Turkey so South into Iran is the only way to go. Going East from Yerevan would have cut out about 11 hours of driving but fantasy birding doesn't mean there are fantasy roads.

From Igdir we will drive 6 hours to Erzican stopping at Erzurum on the way. Then another 6 hour drive Erzican to Samsun will bring us to the Black Sea where we will look for... wait for it... some birds!

Then 9 hours of my father sleeplessly imaginary driving from Samsun to Istanbul, to look for some good birds on the Sea of Marmara particularly Lapwings and Collar Pratincole. Then to Kalamaria, Greece (7 hours from Istanbul). Here we should have large numbers of gulls and hopefully shorebirds. Then from Kalamaria to Athens, 5 hours away, for no trip to Eastern Europe would be complete without a visit to the famed city. Eight hours from Athens to Igoumenitsa (also in Greece) from there we will take a ferry across the Adriatic Sea to Brindisi in Italy. Brindisi to Naples (3 hours) then 2 hours to Rome from Naples. Where we will stay for about a week before taking a plane home.



The next post will be on how our luck went as we birded Iran.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Dec/3/11 Birding South Kingstown

I recently had the opportunity to go birding with another local young birder and his mother. Gabe and Cynthia (those being their names) were both great birders/twitchers. Twitchers are the highly evolved type of bird watcher that chase rarities many hours from their base camp or house. According to Sean Dooley, an Australian twitcher himself (sounds like the name of a bird doesn't it? - the "Australian Twitcher"),the word 'twitcher' derives from a pair of British birders who used to go chasing the rarities around the countryside in their open top car and by the end of these long drives they were twitching from the cold and presumably the thrill of the chase.

Anyway, I enjoyed birding with them immensely. I have noticed on numerous occasions that the majority of the young birder population online is fifteen years of age, as was Gabe. We started our walk at Trustom Pond NWR and from there we continued to Moonstone Beach. Trustom was quiet for the most part at least in the woods and in the meadows, barely a feather stirred. The only highlight in the woods was a Winter Wren which made a very brief appearance on the Osprey Point Trail. The feeders were just a bit better with many a Tufted Titmouse and Black-capped Chickadee, plus a few juncos, Mourning Doves, cardinals, White-Breasted Nuthatches, Downy Woodpeckers and White-throated Sparrows. I didn't even see a Blue Jay, let alone the rust colored denizen of the woods, the delightful Fox Sparrow.

In the damper, wetter sections of this ever-so-glorious refuge we were was able to rack up a fair list, although we missed such species as Cackling Goose, Redhead and Bald Eagle which had recently been reported here. Pied-billed Grebes were amazingly bountiful considering their shy and unsocial behavior (kinda like me). Did you know these little grebes (not to be confused with the Little Grebe of Europe) attack potential rivals who threaten their territories by going submarine style, sinking below the waters surface, then bobbing back up directly beneath the opposing bird. We counted nine grebes altogether.

Black sentinels perched unmoving on the distant rocks in the center of the pond. These shrouded figures transformed into primeval looking Great Cormorants with a quick squint through a scope. Next to the antediluvian cormorants floated: Common Goldeneyes, Red-breasted Mergansers and Ruddy Ducks. Also drifting about on Trustoms blue-gray waters, while not being next to the antiquated Great Cormorants bobbed: Canada Geese, American Coots, Greater Scaups and a lone Red-throated Loon.

We were able to pin point two solid gray forms on the bank; both turned out to be Great Blue Herons, above them wheeled a pair of female Northern Harriers, elegant wings upraised, white rumps flashing. Out over the rolling blue Atlantic waters gannets and a few loons flew.

Our return walk back to the car was uneventful, the only highlights being a Song Sparrow and a Red Bellied Woodpecker.


From Trustom we drove to Moonstone Beach. Halfway to Moonstone I spotted the distinctive silhouette of a Barred Owl in the quickly darkening woods. It was a miracle that I spotted it as it was very well camouflaged in the leafless woods. Due to the low light I was unable to get any good photos.

Moonstone had a fairly common array of birdies. There were many gannets over the water, below which loons of both species (and a few Common Eiders) bobbed over the waves. On the bank of Cards Pond was a Double-crested Cormorant who waddled into the water in a manner quite unlike that of your average cormorant.

Another local birder (Carlos Pedro) pulled up in the parking lot informing us that he had just seen a Virginia Rail run across the Moonstone Beach Road. So we ended the day's adventure by the side of the road playing the calls of the Virginia Rail on an Iphone. After a while we finally heard the distinctive call of the rail from somewhere in the marsh.

Scanning the opposite side of the road from the marsh, we came up with a few cardinals and bunch of Mourning Doves roosting the bare trees with a fairly late female late Red-winged Blackbird and best of all a female Rusty Blackbird! It was only the second Rusty Blackbird I had seen this year.

The walk ended with 42 species; 20 species larger than my usual birding list! Here is a list of all the birds seen on the entire enterprise. I've added a star next to the names of good birds, and two stars next the RI year birds and 3 for year birds:
Canada Goose 400+
Mute Swan 4
American Black-Duck 2
Greater Scaup 100+
Common Eider 4
Bufflehead 11
Common Goldeneye 15
Hooded Merganser 6
Red-breasted Merganser 50+
Ruddy Duck 50+
Red-throated Loon 4
Common Loon 5
Pied-billed Grebe 9*
Northern Gannet 22**
Double-crested Cormorant 1
Great Cormorant 12
Great Blue Heron 2
Northern Harrier 3
Virginia Rail 1***
American Coot 80+
Ring-billed Gull 12
Herring Gull 32
Great Black-backed Gull 8
Mourning Dove 16
Barred Owl 1**
Red-bellied Woodpecker 1
Downy Woodpecker 3
Blue Jay 2
American Crow 1
Black-capped Chickadee 8
Tufted Titmouse 5
White-breasted Nuthatch 1
Winter Wren 1*
Golden-crowned Kinglet 4
American Robin 2
European Starling 14
Song Sparrow 2
White-throated Sparrow 5
Dark-eyed Junco 2
Northern Cardinal 7
Red-winged Blackbird 1*
Rusty Blackbird 1**

On the 23rd at Echo Lake in Barrington I had a shocking 81 Gadwall plus a few wigeons and Mallards.

On the 27th of November we were walking our dog at a local park (Blackstone Park) when I happened upon a pair of Northern Shoveler in the smallish pond which as always was overflowing with beautiful green headed Mallards (and brown headed in the case of the females).
Shovelers are really good birds in the area and I can count on one finger how many times I have seen them in New England. It was a great birthday present - my 13th being on the 29th of November.
Northern Shoveler

On November 28th at Second Beach Campground (the place where the Green-tailed Towhee was seen earlier in the year) we had a flock of Snow Bunting. But were unable to come up with anything more interesting then some Purple Sandpipers and a few Ruddy Turnstones at nearby Sachuest Point NWR (not even a Harlequin Duck damn it).

Snow Bunting

On the 29th (my birthday) I had a very large flock of Greater Scaup and some distant White-winged Scoter and Common Goldeneye at Sabin Point in East Providence.

I have seen the local Merlin which spends the winter in East Providence on the Sacred Heart Church Steeple quite a few times this week.

Good job to anybody how ID'd the Dunlin and the Greater Yellowlegs in the last photo quiz.
Here's your next quiz! Good Luck!
This photo was taken in August in Petersham, MA. This is a zoomed in on part of the bird.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Review #4

Putting down Kaufman's Advanced Birding is practically impossible - even now my eyes are super glued to the pages making this post rather difficult to create. Kaufman goes all out in this epic book describing the most common ID dilemmas and then turning two feathered peas in a pod (say a Black-capped and Carolina Chickadees) into a pear and a cranberry (say a Glaucous Gull and a flamingo).

The book is illustrated with black and white pen drawings by Kaufman, which just at a glance shed light on the questions of the universe most namely "was that a Franklin's Gull...?" But what I really like about this book is the text which radiates identification information. Who ever knew that an immature Blackpoll Warbler may have dark legs but a Bay-breasted never has light?

As noted earlier this guide (part of the Peterson Field Guide Series) discusses only the more common problems that one might happen upon in the field. So, if you were hoping to identify a juvenile Lesser from a juvenile Greater White-fronted Goose (not that you're likely to even be considering the possibility of a "code 5" Lesser White-front) then you're out of luck. But if you're trying to identify an Empidonax Flycatcher or a (nonbreeding plumage) Spizella Sparrow then you need look no further than the pages of this book.

The first chapter of the 35 chapters in this paperback titled "The Challenges in Birding and How to Approach Them" talks about...well I guess it talks about exactly what the title says its about. In the front of the book is a spread depicting, on the left, a shorebird and a songbird pointing out the different feather types, and on the right, some drawings of bills. Luckily the bills are not the paper kind for they would be very off topic and quite boring ("Ooh look its a five dollar bill! Cool!"). This right hand page shows the beaks of birds that are useful or essential for identification of the species.

The Thumbs Up
Everything is good about this guide!

The Thumbs Down
Nothing in this guide I in any way dislike.

Here's a list of the enlightening chapters in this book (just a note: this book is not a field guide, but more a bedside delight):
The Challenges in Birding and How to Approach Them
The Winter Loons
The Western Grebes
Medium-sized White Herons
The Dark Ibises
The Scaup
Brief Notes on Other Ducks
The Accipiters
Basics of Shorebird Identification
The Dowitchers
Sharp-tailed and Pectoral Sandpipers (okay, I guess some rarities are discussed in this book)
Semipalmated and Western Sandpipers
The Jaegers
Basics of Learning the Gulls
Franklin's and Laughing Gulls
The Thayer's Gull Complex
The Medium-sized Terns
Brief Notes on Other Terns
The Screech-Owls
Hummingbirds
The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker Complex
The Wood-Pewees
The Empidonax Flycatchers
The Chickadees
Bendire's Thrasher
The Philadelphia Vireo Complex
Tips for Identifying Fall Warblers
The Blackpoll Trio
The Waterthrushes
Notes on Other Warblers
Identifying Sparrows: The Generic Approach
Cassin's and Botteri's Sparrows
The Spizella Sparrows
The Carpodacus Finches

Definitely not a bad list. You won't find yourself saying "Was that an Arctic Tern?" ever again! Now that in itself is worth the price of this book!

On the 20th at Colt State Park in Bristol I had three Ruddy Turnstone and a Snow Bunting
(a year bird).
Snow Bunting

Ruddy Turnstone

We have been unable to go for any nice walks since Ben tore the cartilage in his knee. Now the gorilla can be found patrolling our backyard (dirt) jungle on a shiny pair of crutches. We are practically under house arrest with him for the next 4 to 6 weeks.

Good job to anyone who identified the Marsh Wren in the last photo quiz. Here's your next quiz!
This photo was taken at RISD Beach on the 4th of October

Sunday, November 13, 2011

11:00-12:15pm Moonstone Beach Nov/8/11

We pulled into the unpaved parking lot of Moonstone Beach at eleven sharp. The sky was clear and the sun shone down upon us; countering the cool breeze with its pleasant rays. Both Mud and Cards Pond had high water levels, covering up the muddy banks ringing Mud Pond and the more sandy banks of Cards. This lack of mudflats ruled out the possibility of any shorebirds. Anything other than a lone Greater Yellowlegs would be unlikely due to the lateness of the year and the habitat. (Incidentally I saw a Least Sandpiper yesterday at RISD Beach. This Least Sandpiper is apparently the latest record of a LESA reported on "eBird" (The website were 'e's and birds collide) in RI. Pretty neat ay?)

The least likely

Scanning Cards Pond I came up with a few Buffleheads, a lone female Hoodie ("Hoodie" is the cool way of saying Hooded Merganser), and a Double-crested Cormorant. Making our way up to the beach I passed a pair of Song Sparrows going about their daily business while ranting about the economy now a days and the high cost of fuel.

Looking out over the Atlantic through my spotting scope I found that there were more loons on the water than you could shake a stick at (if thats your idea of a good time!!!) Most of the loons were Red-throated but I counted four Common Loons as well. The Red-throated Loons were for the most part drifting about in a large flock of about twelve birds. I have never seen loons flocking before. Apparently a flock of loons is called a "Loomery" you'd expect it to be a "Loonery" right?.

A Red-throated Loomery

Walking about an 8th of a mile down the beach we came to the place where the main birdy action happens: the Trustom Pond overlook (at least I think overlook is the right word for it). Here the dunes had been worn away creating a wide sandy path that leads from the beach to the still waters of Trustom Pond. Here we had countless swarms of Ring-billed and Herring Gulls, Double-crested and a few Great Cormorants, Canada Geese, and on the far side of the pond American Coots. Floating about with the geese were 7 Common Goldeneyes, 5 female Common Mergansers and a pure white, pink billed Snow Goose!

We first found the Snow Goose resting on the bank with some Canada Geese, but when we approached the geese (the Snow Goose among them) waddled comically into the water - still half asleep and bleary eyed. As soon as this white goose had left the shore it tucked its pink bill back under its feathers and let its snores flow freely (in a manner of speaking). This sleepiness was probably due in part to the migration currently being undertaken by this bird and its fellows on their way to their more Southerly wintering sites (though Snow Geese do Winter in small numbers in this area).

A Snow Goose with a honking flock of canadians

Looking up I cried in excitement "GIANT Rubber Monkey?!!". Nah, I'm just kidding, what I actually said was "Snow Bunting!". But that call was a wild/hopeful but inaccurate guess. The smallish songbird that landed there on the sand actually turned out to be neither a super sized rubber monkey or a Plectrophenax nivalis (more commonly called a Snow Bunting). Nope, this was a Horned Lark. I have always loved larks there such jolly, cheerful birds always whistling and singing merrily. Soon it was joined by three more jovial larks.

Larking about on the beach

Out over the chopping waves of the Atlantic I spotted six fork tailed Forster's Terns. Nice birds for this time of year and almost certainly the last terns that I will see this year. Twice I thought I saw a Lesser Black-backed Gull fly over. Both gulls had dark backs and slim wings. They seemed to be smaller than the common Great Black-backed Gulls and lighter backed. I didn't get a good look at the mirrors (the small white dots on the primaries) and I couldn't see if they had the distinctive yellow legs of the Lesser Black Backed Gull. Either field mark would have confirmed my suspicion. Not cool.

We disappointingly missed many species reported at Moonstone such as the two American Bitterns seen here recently. We didn't have time to go looking for the Northern Shrike at East Beach and we couldn't figure out how to legally park at Perry Mill Pond where we had hoped to see the two Eurasian Wigeons reported there. Our (rare) South Kingstown excursion ended there.

Here's a list of birds seen:
Snow Goose 1
Canada Goose 300+
American Black Duck 4
Mallard 7
Bufflehead 20
Common Goldeneye 7
Hooded Merganser 1
Common Merganser 5
Red-throated Loon 20
Common Loon 4
Double-crested Cormorant 16
Great Cormorant 3
Great-blue Heron 1
Osprey 2
American Coot 80+
Ring-billed Gull 50+
Herring Gull 40+
Great Black-backed Gull 20
Forster's Tern 6
Horned Lark 4
Black-capped Chickadee 1
(politics discussing) Song Sparrow 2
and Northern Cardinal 1.

It was a fun day in the field.

Good job to anybody that ID'd the immature Black-crowned Night-Heron in the last quiz.
Here's your next photo quiz. Good luck!
This photo was taken on the first of November at RISD Beach.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Review #5



The Sibley Field Guide To Birds of Eastern North America

The Runup
By far my favorite element of this great guide is the voice description given for each bird. These voice descriptions include a hoard of songs, calls and quacks. Even the seabirds calls are given even if these say no more than "Generally silent at sea". No other field guide I, at the present moment, am aware of gives calls for EVERY bird as this book does.

Sibley as does a awesome job arranging this book. Each page has almost always two species described and illustrated on it. Right now I am studying page 144; this page displays Northern Jacana and American Oystercatcher. The two species are separated by a line (the oystercatcher being on the top of the page, the Jacana on the bottom). Each species is given four paintings; a painting of the juvenile and the adult perched and a painting of the species flying (generally at least two birds of one species are shown in flight). Every species, except for Bicknell's Thrush and some rarities, are shown in flight! The field marks are pointed out, and described.

The gouache paintings are stunning works. None of the birds shown are disproportioned (except for a few owls) as a number of other bird guide paintings are. The descriptions are very nice. They all give the general status, the English and scientific names, the habits and habitats, the size, wingspan, weight and plumage description, the voice (as already mentioned) and the even species favorite football team! Very few field guides give this much information (especially sport-wise).

If the species has an easily recognizable subspecies it will be shown below the species. The subspecies will be given two or more paintings plus a short description.

The range maps are very, very detailed. They depict all of North America even though this guide focuses only on half of the continent. They show where the birds have occurred out of range, where they breed and winter, where they are year round residents and their migration pattern.

In the beginning of the book Sibley discuses birding and explains plumages, variations, conservation and so forth. This a very informative and interesting set of pages. After this introduction comes a group of illustrated spreads depicting Sparrows, Gulls, Sandpipers and a Gadwall. All these birds are shown in black and white, pointing out the different feather types such as the tertials and the alula. These few pages are by far the best and most useful you'll find in any North American guide.

This has a turtleback binding, my favorite type of binding for a field guide because it seems very sturdy and is comfortable in the hand.

The Rundown
This field guide is pretty chunky making it harder to carry out in the field than some books. The subspecies scientific names are not mentioned. Some of the paintings (such as the Brown Thrasher) are too bright.

If anyone ever asked me to point out my favorite field guide to North American birds there is no doubt in my smallish mind that I would answer abruptly "The Sibley".

Good job to anyone who spotted and ID'd the Song and Field Sparrow in the last photo quiz.
Here's the next quiz!
This photo was taken at Blackstone Park in Providence on the 7th of October 2011.
Good Luck!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Birding Update

Sorry for not posting recently, I have been relaxing for the last few days after sending in my finished Young Birder of the Year Contest submission on the 26th. Since then I have had some cool birding experiences.

RISD Beach, Barrington RI 10:50-11:40am Oct/27/11 Raining
The water level was extremely high on this date. Flooding both sides of the marsh. To get to the beach we had to wade through at least 8 inch high waters, where usually it was less than an inch above our toes. A few Brant were floating of the edge of the beach. Being mercilessly sloshed up and down by the frolicking wavelets. These small geese had just recently migrated down from their Northern nesting grounds. They spend the winter months here, often numbering in the hundreds. A lone white bird with a large yellow spear of bill, and long black legs stood calmly in the rain-poked waters of the marsh. This Great Egret was soon joined by a second bird of the same species who flew in from the south east. A few small gull-like birds were flying about over the water. I suspect that they were Bonaparte's Gulls. But never having gotten a great look at them and having seen a Forster's Tern fly past, I was unable to confirm my suspicions.

Looking down the beach I noticed a section where the choppy water appeared to be boiling. A fin appeared in this disturbed patch and then slipped back under then another and another. They were dolphins!!! They were slowly moving up the beach, coming from the SE. After taking a bunch of photos and marveling at the swimming skills of these remarkable creatures, we went back into the warmth and dryness of our car and took the quick drive to the Barrington Public Beach. Sitting in the car we watched the dolphins feeding out in the water from the parking lot. Again we took a bunch of photos and marveled at the swimming skills of these remarkable creatures. Listening to the radio the next day we learned that these dolphins were identified by "Save the Bay" (the local bay saving agency:)) as Common Dolphins. Looking in the Peterson field guide to "Mammals of North America" I was unable to find a dolphin named the "Common Dolphin" except for the Long-nosed and the Short-nosed Common Dolphins (which the ones we saw didn't look anything like) and the famed Common Bottle-nosed Dolphin (which starred in the movie "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" in which they sang the well known song "So long and thanks for all the fish":)). The Common Bottle-nosed looked exactly like the dolphins we saw and I have to assume that they are one and the same. The next day we heard an interview with these dolphins on NPR - nah just kidding. Apparently this was the farthest a dolphin has ever been seen up the Providence River!!!
Supposedly there were 8 to 10 of these dolphins, though I was only able to count six.


Here's a list of the birds seen:
Greater Yellowlegs 3
Herring Gulls X (X means that I was unable to count their numbers)
Brant 8
Great Egrets 2
Mallards 3
American Crows 3
Black-capped Chickadees 2
Great Black-backed Gull 1
Ring-billed Gulls 2
Double-crested Cormorants 3
Horned Grebe 5
Forster's Tern 1
Great Blue Heron 1
Killdeer 1
Downy Woodpeckers 2
and Song Sparrow 1.

In Belcher Cove in Warren 12:00pm Oct/28/11
I spotted this Pied-billed Grebe while we were driving down Market Street. It had an infuriating habit of sinking submarine style below the water's surface every time I raised my camera to take a photo. The only other highlights at this location were a pair of American Black-Ducks and a fly over male Belted Kingfisher.

Mount Hope Farm, Bristol, RI 12:20-1:50pm Oct/28/11
This location always seems to rack up the biggest lists for me. I have made lists here twice - once in May and once the time I am writing about at the currant moment. My Ebird list already has 56 species for this location (a link to ebird http://ebird.org/content/ebird/).

For the whole of the walk we were being swarmed with an intense flock of Butterbutts (also and more commonly known as Yellow-rumped Warbler). In the duck pond we had 3 Gadwalls, 1 female and two males, 3 Mallards, again 1 female and 2 males, 23 Canada Geese and a single Mute Swan (later in the walk while returning to the car I spotted a male American Black Duck feeding with one of the male Gadwalls). In a brushy patch bordering the meadow I found an Eastern Bluebird, a Swamp Sparrow and a bunch of Song Sparrows. One of these Song Sparrows was singing a strange bubbling song, completely varying from any song omitted from the beak of any Song Sparrow that I have ever heard. I guess it sounded more similar to the song of a Lincoln's Sparrow. Further down the paved path I would hear another song like this one. On the other side of the path directly across from the sparrows a Hermit Thrush popped briefly into view. While looking at the Hermit Thrush a noise came from directly above me - "peea-peaa" called the female Northern Flicker perching 12 feet above.
Out on the bay I had 4 Horned Grebe, a Common Loon, 19 Double-crested Cormorants 26 Herring Gulls and a lone Great Black-backed Gull.
On are return walk just before the pond I saw a "Yellow" Palm Warbler, the more brightly colored of the 2 Palm Warbler subspecies.

A male Gadwall, the females are similar to female Mallards.


A Horned Grebe

A Butterbutt aka. Yellow-rumped Warbler

A Swamp Sparrow

Here's a list of birds seen:
Northern Mockingbirds 2
American Crows 10
Song Sparrows 12
Yellow-rumped Warblers 37
Mallards 3
Gadwalls 3
Mute Swan 1
Canada Geese 23
Blue Jays 4
Dark-eyed Juncos 6
Eastern Bluebird 1
Northern Flickers 2
Red-tailed Hawk 2
Black-capped Chickadees 4
Swamp Sparrow 1
Hermit Thrush 1
Herring Gulls 36
Cedar Waxwings 5
Tufted Titmice 2
Carolina Wren 1
American Robins 7
Double-crested Cormorants 19
Common Loon 1
Horned Grebes 4
American Goldfinches 2
Eastern Towhees 3
House Finches 4
Northern Cardinals 2
Turkey Vulture 1
Great Black-backed Gull 1
Downy Woodpeckers 3
Eastern Phoebe 1
"Yellow" Palm Warbler 1
and American Black-Duck 1.

Blackstone Park, Providence, RI 8:15-8:50am Oct/30/11
I saw a female Wood Duck swimming with a few Mallards in the pond. A Wood Duck is a nice find in the Providence area. It had snowed about half an inch the night before. It was quite strange to see snow and green-leafed oaks in the same forest.

Bold Point, Providence, RI 11:30-1:50pm Oct/30/11
I had my father drop me and Ben off at Bold Point yesterday, having nothing better to do.
One of the first finds of the walk was an agile being of a bird who flapped briefly past to soar about with some gulls for half a minute before zipping off on another errand. I have no idea why this Peregrine Falcon chose to soar about with these gulls - maybe it was working on its halloween costume, a Herring Gull. Everyone knows that a costume is ten times more convincing when you don't just dress up like the thing mimicked, but mimic the behavior of the thing that you are mimicking.
For example my brother is dressing up as a leaf pile this halloween - he plans to sit in the backyard all night long and hope that he gets some candy. This, though being a very effective way of mimicking a leaf pile, is not the greatest way to rack up the candy. (Anyone wondering if I am going trick-or-treating? Well, I'm not). Anyways let me get back to the story. A little further down the path I came across a flock of sparrows, practically all of which were Field Sparrows. These long tailed, pink billed birds are one of my favorite sparrow species. They were RI year birds.

A Field Sparrow

Out over the water 3 Boniparte's Gulls flew past. I checked out a trail that I have never gone down before. I didn't go far due to flooding but I did find a Hermit Thrush who hopped up onto an exposed branch. Annoyingly my camera wouldn't focus and this is all that I came up with.

The Hermit Thrush

Making our way back to the parking lot I spotted a female American Kestrel perching precariously on a telephone line. I really enjoy seeing American Kestrels - they are such beautiful birds. While watching a Field Sparrow hoping about a bush, I amazingly missed a Wilson's Snipe zip 4 feet past my nose.

The Kestrel

There were many Northern Mockingbirds hanging around. Once I saw 4 mockingbirds all perched in the same small tree! That was one hell of a crowded plant!

A Northern Mockingbird

Walking down the road a little way we came across a sparrow flock. In it I found a couple of Savannah and Swamp Sparrows, along with a bunch of Song Sparrows. Flitting about with the flock was a pair of "Yellow" Palm Warblers. I really love Palm Warblers, they're very cooperative and always give me great looks and photos.

A Palm Warbler

Here is the list from Bold Point:
Red-tailed Hawks 4
American Robins 3
Northern Mockingbirds 11
Herring Gulls X
Ring-billed Gulls 31
Great Black-backed Gulls 11
Song Sparrows 20
Mourning Doves 2
Peregrine Falcon 1
Downy Woodpecker 1
Rock Pigeon 12
White-throated Sparrows 2
Black-capped Chickadees 2
Yellow-rumped Warblers 12
Field Sparrows 6
Great Blue Heron 1
Double-crested Cormorants 6
Bonaparte's Gulls 3
Mute Swans 6
American Crows 4
Hermit Thrush 1
Mallards 3
Northern Cardinal 1
Cedar Waxwings 2
House Finches 7
American Kestrel 1
Blue Jays 2
Swamp Sparrows 3
"Yellow" Palm Warblers 2
and Savannah Sparrows 3.
Here is a map of Bold Point showing the route I took and what I usually look for in any season.

It has been a great few days for birding. I'm still working on the book reviews, I hope to post the next one in the next few days. Happy Halloween everyone!

Good Job to anyone that ID'd the Black-and-White Warbler in the last photo quiz.
Here's your next quiz!
This photo was taken at Bold Point on the 30th of October.
Good Luck!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Review #6

#6 Peterson Field Guide to Birds of North America


Born 1908 Roger Tory Peterson lived his life as a super birder and he created his first guide in 1934. A Field Guide to the Birds (east of the Rockies) was an instant success; the 2,000 copies sold out in the first 2 weeks. The reason his guide was so popular was probably due to the fact that no one had ever created anything like what Roger created. It was the worlds first field guide!!! That guide was the foundation of all modern field guides. Peterson died in 1987 but his legacy and his books live on.

The newest edition to his classic guide was printed in 2008, of course Peterson didn't update his guide personally he being long past. No, this guide was updated by a number of famed birders, adding new range maps, 40 new paintings by Michael DiGiorgio, new text and digitally updated paintings by Peterson. As well as making new editions to the eastern and western guides they came out with a new one to all the birds of North America, this is the one I have.

The Great
This guide is arranged in the classic order with paintings on right, text and some extremely detailed maps on the left. One of my favorite things about this guide are the status's which are given next to the English and scientific names above the body of the text blocks. The status tells how common each species is in North America, generally it just says "Fairly common" or "Uncommon" etc, etc.

Next to the status is a big "M" and then a number. The "M" stands for map and the number matches up to the number on the map. Now you may be wondering why the maps would need a number if they were right next to the text. The answer is simple, there are in fact two maps for each species (excluding vagrants of course). One map I have already noted as being next to the text (in the front of the book), the other maps are placed in the back. Along with being much larger these maps also have notes on the likelyhood of vagrancy to other parts of the country and notes on migration among other range related things. These pages are nicely arranged and very educational to flip through.

There are quite a few flight pages and these pages, similar to the Nat Geo guide, show the birds on the right hand page and on the left descriptions of their different wing plumages.

Sizes of the birds are given under the name. Descriptions are very informative discussing habitat, voice (discounting Boobies, Tropicbirds, Cormorants and pelagic species which we are all unlikely to hear) and similar species. This guide contains many rarities and vagrants as well as introduced species.

Before every family of birds are a few lines discribing the family. Here is what is said about the corvids: "Large perching birds with strong, longish bill, nostrils covered by forward-pointing bristles. Crows and ravens are very large and black. Jays are often colorful (usually blue). Magpies are black and white, with long tail. Sexes alike. Most immatures resemble adults. FOOD: Almost anything edible. RANGE: Worldwide except s. S. America, some islands, Antarctica" Yes, I know isn't a masterpiece, but it is interesting and useful. I would never have been able to tell you that corvids don't live in southern South America before reading that.

This guide has a very nice illustrated introduction on IDing birds, something that would be very useful for any beginning birder. Before the introduction on page number one is a "ONE PAGE INDEX" listing bird families in alphabetical order from Albatrosses to Yellowthroats.

In the back of the book, squeezed tightly between the range maps and the index, is a "Life List" that follows the ABA checklist. This list contains more species than the book (not surprisingly). The book does not mention Xantus's Hummingbird due to its rareness in the ABA area but the Life List lists this bird and many other species which the book lacks.

The very last few pages are taken up with one of my favorite sections of the whole book. These pages are filled with silhouettes. There are three separate spreads. One spread depicts a black and white shore filled with water loving species, the second shows a mixed flock of birds in flight (on this spread 26 species are shown flying) and on the last spread is a colorless painting of a country roadside showing 32 different species. These are fun pages to quiz yourself on by covering up the list of species shown on the page.

The OK
The gulls are separated into two sections; adults and immatures, this may require you to flip around a bit more, before finding the bird you are looking for.

I can't say I am a huge fan of the paintings, I have seen nicer. These paintings, while not being completely stunning (in general), are very useful for tough IDs. All the field marks are pointed out with black arrows, and many of the birds are shown in flight. Generally species are shown in a few different plumages.

The bottom edge of each page is colored in order to help the reader find the birds with more speed. For example all the shorebirds are color tabbed olive green. To me this doesn't seem like it would be all that useful.

The Awful
My only real problem with this guide is that its very big. It would be hard to carry a book like this out into the field with you unless you want bring a backpack.

This guide I would recommend to any birder though I think it would be better for a beginning birder to start out with a smaller guide.

Good job to anyone who ID the Eastern Phoebe in the last quiz.
Heres your next photo quiz!

This photo was taken in Barrington, RI on the 30th of September.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Review #7

#6 Shorebirds an Identification Guide by Peter Hayman, John Marchant and Tony Prater
This superb guide is filled with hundreds and hundreds (and more hundreds; in all there are over 1,600 paintings) of amazing paintings showing birds in every pose imaginable.

The guide starts off with a short and simple species table of contents giving page numbers to all 214 species illustrated in the guide. It makes it much more simple to find a bird than with the index in the back.

Flipping forward a few more pages you come to a foreword by the great master himself, Roger Tory Peterson!

The introduction is a detailed set of pages discussing the different shorebird families, shorebird topography and a page on measuring dead birds. Plus there is a page or two on studying and IDing birds.

You continue turning the pages and leaving behind the sketches of dead shorebirds being measured you come across the first paintings. This plate shows in detail African, Madagascar and Lesser Jacanas, big footed, colorful shorebirds inhabiting the wetlands of Africa. Each bird is shown in adult and juvenile plumages as well as in flight. No other guide I have found shows birds in so many positions and plumages! This is an incredibly useful resource.

These paintings are placed, as in most guides, on the right hand page (if, as I am, you're looking at the book the right way up). Turning your attention to the opposite page you will find English and scientific names and below these are the species descriptions of different plumages.

Each painting of a bird, instead of being given a name is instead given a number which matches up to the number placed next to the birds name in the text. Next to each number is a letter which matches up to a plumage description. And yes this is almost as confusing as it sounds! But it does help in species comparisons. Let me note that the species are not always numbered in order. Ruddy Turnstones are #154, Black Turnstones are #155 and, strangely, Surfbirds are #186 and they are all grouped on the same page.

The range maps are detailed affairs as even birds with the smallest of ranges have there own maps. I do wish though that they would point out more clearly where the birds with such small ranges dwell - it took me ages to find the little yellow dot on an island in the Chatham archipelago which is the home of the endangered Shore Plover. Its dot was practically invisible in my 1986 edition. This plover now lives on a few more islands in the archipelago as its range has recently grown.

These identification pages continue on for another 275 pages all filled with succulent range maps and delicious close ups of feathers, tails and bills. This is a great section and one which I cannot stop thumbing through.

After the identification section comes the more detailed species descriptions. They discuss in great detail EVERYTHING you would possibly need too know to identify any of the 214 species illustrated in guide (except for breeding habits). Also to be found in this section are a bunch of black and white paintings (generally close ups and silhouettes) of many of the species.

Just before the index is the last great work of this guide. A set of charts discussing in the greatest of detail the hardest shorebird IDs (such as the American Dowitchers). For example: in the dowitcher ID chart they mention, voice, shape, plumages which are visible all year long, breeding plumage, non-breeding plumage and juvenile plumage. These pages are incredibly, amazingly, marvelously useful.

Don't worry I am not going to delve into the arrangement of the index that, my readers, is for the next post......I was just kidding about the index description being in the post next in line.

This guide I would recommend to anyone interested in shorebirds as I am.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Review #8

#8 Illustrated Guide to the Birds of Southern Africa by Ian Sinclair, Phil Hockey and Warwick Tarboton, illustrators: Peter Hayman and Norman Arlott


Seeing that this guide is to Southern Africa I won't be able to find many if any avian errors with it and have not had the opportunity to have used it in the field!

The Good
This is a guide arranged in the classic format with stunning paintings on the right hand page which seemed to be done in gouache and pencil though I am not sure and range maps and detailed descriptions on the left. Its covers hold over 900 bird species and more than 4,000 paintings which means that each species has a whole hoard of illustrations.

One of the greatest feats of this guide is the flight pages, similar in style to that of the Nat Geos guide. The only difference which separates it from the Nat Geos flight pages is the fact that not all the birds shown on these pages are flying. Instead they show many pictures of perched birds as well as those in flight. These pages are in fact more closely compared to a regular field guide spread with no text (other than to give the names of the birds). The texts to the species shown on these flight pages are displayed on separate pages with some more paintings of the same birds. This (though it may sound confusing the way I put it) appears to be very, very useful in the field (if you can carry it out there - see "the bad").

The descriptions are very good. Every single species description gives size, English and scientific names, calls, status, habitats and a description of each bird species field marks. These summaries are surely very useful, I would love to own a North American guide that contained this much information in each species rundown! Most, if not all guides to North American birds do not give half as many calls as these authors do.

I really like that this guide has range maps even for the vagrants! These vagrant maps point out with a dot where ever a bird of this species has been recorded. I have always wished that we North American birders had a guide with this extremely useful trait.

Another nice feature of this book is the introduction which is the same style as the Nat Geos guide. The introduction does not cover as much as the Nat Geos but it has 13 pages worth of family descriptions, which are short but helpful. The introduction discusses EVERYTHING from to the Bastard Wings wing to the Flufftails toes.

The Bad
This book is a chunky, hardcover volume measuring eight inches in length and 6 across. It contains 426 pages and weighs about two pounds. It's a very big guide and not one that would fit easily in an average sized pocket. Its binding also doesn't seem to be very strong as a third of the pages in my volume have fallen out, luckily they fell out while still glued to each other and they now exist as a large chunk.

Not all the paintings are fabulous with the worst being in the Owl and Tern sections.

The Ugly
This guides range maps do not have colors and are all a bland gray, meaning that the time of residents in the area is not instantly knowable. It would much more agreeable with me at least if its range maps were colored.

My final opinion is that this would be an essential companion on any trip to Southern Africa.

I believe that I forgot to mention in the last review that Nat Geo has just come out with a 6th edition which has been massively revised with a swarm of species which have only recently been split from other similar species. Plus it has had the biggest warbler mix-around that you are ever gonna see! I NEED it!!!

Good job to anyone who identified the preening Dunlin in the last photo quiz picture.

Here is your next quiz!
This photo was taken in Petersham, Massachusetts on the nineteenth of September two thousand and eleven.
May the force be with you:)

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Review #9

#9. National Geographic "Field Guide to the Birds of North America" 5th edition ("Nat Geo")


The Ups
This guide is a real classic field guide. Everybody has got it. It currently has more species than any other North American guide and it contains all birds species recorded North of Mexico before 2006 (almost all at least, it lacks such common birds as Yellow-crowned Night-Heron, Red-bellied Woodpecker and Hooded Warbler!). It is arranged in the classic guide format with text and range maps on the left and paintings on the right (I was just kidding when I said that they were lacking Hooded Warbler, Yellow-crowned Night-Heron and Red-bellied Woodpecker!). The only unusual thing that stands out on this guide is the clever addition of a set of thumb tabs, making much quicker to flip to one of the seven large most challenging families. Surprisingly the finch family has its very own thumb tab. I have never thought of the finch family as either particularly large or particularly hard.

Every species has a description and a detailed range map. Descriptions generally mention both the songs and/or calls especially in the songbird section. Both the English and Scientific names are given along with exact measurements of their length, given in both inches and centimeters (plus before the Alcid family the wing lengths are often given). Before every family is a short family introduction mentioning the number of birds in the family and the number of species in North America. In the back of the book are placed vagrants (recorded less than three times in America, every species has a detailed description and an illustration) and extinct species. One of the greatest works of this guide is the intro, which consists of thirteen pages mentioning every thing from subspecies to lateral crown stripes.

Each species is illustrated in full color paintings showing almost showing (when necessary) males, females, young birds and when existing, subspecies! Birds are shown perched and very often in flight. The greatest all round work of this guide though is the flight pages which can show as many as thirty birds per spread. In total there are fourteen of these pages, four for shorebirds as well as ducks and female hawks and then there two pages for immature gulls. These are amazingly useful for IDing birds in flight. Although Peterson thought up this clever idea first Nat Geo has brought it to a whole other level by getting rid of the text and replacing them with more paintings for the maximum comparisons. There are some stunning illustrations in this guide which was illustrated by a ton of well known artists.

The Downs
Because of the aforementioned mass of contributing artists there is a sharp contrast in art styles which I find slightly annoying and very distracting. I personally prefer when all the art is of the same quality and style, which in this guide it is neither. Page 391, for example, a lovely warbler filled page contrasts with some less stunning illustrations of warblers on page 389. I don't mean to offend anyones skill and these illustrations are WAY beyond my unimpressive artistic skills.

The only other problem I have with this book is the binding which seems to be quite weak. My back cover has completely fallen off and the front cover is about to go.

Put all the stuff mentioned above together and you come out with a great book and one that I would recommend to anyone.

Sorry I forgot to add a photo quiz to the last post. The answer to the last quiz is a male BLACK-THROATED BLUE WARBLER.

Here is your next quiz!
This photo was taken at RISD Beach on the fourth of October, 2011. Good Luck!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Review #10

I have been wanting to do a post recently but have had nothing all that exciting to right about. Finally I found something to write about; a in depth review of my top ten favorite bird guides. The top ten of the 56 guides that my family has gathered (mainly by by me - as you can see I am obsessed with bird guides). I am including the international bird guides as well in this review.

I will try to do one review a day running from my least favorite of the ten best to the "Superguide" - the most amazing of them all.. Here is my first attempt at reviewing a book.

#10. All the Birds of North America American Bird Conservancy's Field Guide, published by Harper Collins, copyright 1997.


This field guide covers all the birds on this side of the Mexican border.

The Highlights
This guide is an amazingly well illustrated book. Each plate has at least three bird species most of which are also shown in flight. The page is rarely without a background illustration depicting the birds natural habitat, though this can be slightly distracting, its very useful. On a few pages they even tell you what the background painting portrays for example, under the bluebird plate it says "Western Bluebird family feeding in the California foothills".

Often other similar species (not described in the text) are put on the plate for comparison.

Birds are arranged in chapters by bill shape, size, habits and habitats. Each chapter has an overview of the family or families discussed within the chapter. Oddly you come across the 6 page introduction stuck in between pages 62 and 63. It is not placed in the front as in most normal books

Each page contains an illustration above and a description below that discusses the birds on the page and below that a more detailed description of each species. Next to every description is a range map showing the time of year that they occur in each area.

It includes a photographic guide to the extinct species currently not residing as living creatures in the USA or any other part of the world for that matter. Of course the photos are of stuffed birds arranged into cool posses.

In the back of the guide you will find a section for Alaskan birds and rarities. Here the paintings are smaller and not as nice. The birds in this section lack range maps and have very small descriptions. Each bird in this field guide has both common and scientific names and a size measured in inches.

The guide is shaped to fit perfectly in a back pocket making it easy to carry in and out of the field. It is half an inch narrower than Sibley's guide. I wish every book was shaped this way.

The Lowlights
The arrangement of species in this book can be quite confusing to use in the field,at least thats what I think. In the songbird section hey have arranged them by the shape of the bills so the vireos are next to warblers instead of being next to the corvids and shrikes. But then again I am used to using taxonomically arranged guides.

The range maps don't use the use the generally accepted colors for the different seasons. My only other problem with this book are the small illustrations of the rarities and the almost complete lack of text for these scarce, rare and vagrant species.

It is not completely up to date on its taxonomy and it is lacking the very rarest of birds such as Western Reef Heron, Yellow Bittern and Lesser Frigatebird.

I think I have summed it up as best I can. It is a very nice guide and one which is sure to come in handy.

The last photo quiz which I posted was unfair-I accidentally miscounted the species even though I had ID them all. Congratulations to anyone who got it right, despite the fact that the hint that was given was incorrect. I have coded the answers and placed them in the picture to show where each species is. Here are the meanings of the codes: WRSA=White-rumped Sandpiper, LEYE=Lesser Yellowlegs, KILL=Killdeer, SESA+Semipalmated Sandpiper and LESA=Least Sandpiper.

Here is your next quiz!
May/1/2010 at Swan Point Cemetery
Good luck!