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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!

1 comment:

  1. John- My Ebook publication "The Man Who Saw Too Many Goshawks" is available from The best- Nelson Briefer-