This week’s highlighted shirt is Extreme Birder. A simple text design using a font that looks like it’s on the move. This is perfect for birders who are always on the go (or on the edge)!
ABOUT ME - My name is Amy and I'm a birder living in central Florida. On this blog I post book and birding product reviews as well as birder gift ideas and announcements related to my birder gift shop on this site. I also have a personal birding blog called Powered By Birds.
Blog DisclosureUnless otherwise stated, all books and other products reviewed on this blog were purchased or independently acquired by the reviewer. Readers who make a purchase by clicking on links in product reviews or featured t-shirt posts (T-Shirt Tuesday) may result in the blogger receiving a commission or referral fee.
Archive: August, 2010
Birds of the West Indies by Norman Arlott. First published 2010.
Norman Arlott’s Birds of the West Indies is part of Princeton University Press’ Illustrated Checklist series, but the compact, fully illustrated book seems more like a full guide to me.
More than 550 bird species are covered, each with a short descriptive text covering field marks, vocalizations, habitat, behavior, and the like, and one or more color illustrations. The drawings are fine and detailed, and consistent throughout the book, having all been drawn by the author. They are generally presented on a white background, which is a bit boring, but no major drawback.
The range maps for the species are in the back of the book, separate from the species descriptions and illustrations. On first thought this seems like a huge drawback — certainly not my favorite way to lay out a book to be used in the field. However, each species description does include distribution information, so one can read the range information without leaving the page. Still, a map on the same page would provide quicker access to range info so I’d still consider it a drawback.
The book is small enough to be carried and used in the field. The glossy cardboard softcover seems sturdy enough handling here in the office, but I can imagine it would start to show wear after minimal use in a field situation. Don’t they all, though? You should see my Sibley. 😉
Now, please excuse me while I go drool over the hummingbirds, todys and parrots of the West Indies. Oh, and isn’t this drawing of a fly-catching Red-legged Honeycreeper on the cover the cutest thing you’ve ever seen?
I give Birds of the West Indies 3.5 Goldfinches out of 5.
Disclosure: This is my own original, honest review of Birds of the West Indies, a copy of which was provided to me free of charge by the publisher.
Nightjars, Potoos, Frogmouths, Oilbird, and Owlet-nightjars of the World by Nigel Cleere. First published 2010.
I’m still pretty new at this birding thing, so I’m still enjoying learning about the history of the hobby and of ornithology. The more I read, the more I come to understand everything I *don’t* know about birds and birding. And one area where I have been woefully mistaken is in the base of scientific knowledge that exists regarding birds and their behavior (I imagine this crosses other biological fields of study)! I kind of have the idea that everything is there for me to learn if I just find the appropriate book or the right mentor, but instead I am constantly surprised at how little we (meaning human beings) know about birds at all.
This fact struck me again as I perused Nigel Cleere’s Nightjars of the World, a beautiful and comprehensive resource full of outstanding photography. I was surprised to learn that fully five species of nightjar are practically unknown to science – their very existence is only known from a single (dead) sample individual. Wow! Other species covered in the book are also shrouded in mystery – to be expected from primarily nocturnal birds, I imagine. Vocalizations of many are unrecorded, and nesting behavior and eggs are practically completely unknown regarding eight of the covered species.
Before going into species accounts, which make up the bulk of the book, the author provides general information about the bird families covered, including coverage of plumage types and camouflage, body typography, breeding information and feeding behaviors. This section is full of photographs, showing the camouflage strategies, actual nightjar nests and chicks, etc. Knowing very little about nightjars and their allies, I found this part of the book to be fascinating.
Following the introductory text, each species is presented on two or more pages. Details like size, identification tips, habitat and vocalizations are described, and a range map is shown. The species conservations status is also listed. The following page contains photographs of the species. The photos in this book are amazing, large and vibrant. There are more photos of some species (the Marbled Frogmouth is covered with seven full-page pictures!). For several of the lesser-known species, the provided photos are of museum specimens.
The species are presented in taxonomic order. The only complaint I have is that there is no easy way to find all of the birds native to a particular location. However, this reference is not meant as a travel guide, so this one complaint is a small one.
The book is a joy to page through; the photographs are truly marvelous and the species are fascinating – and mysterious. I leave you with a quote from the book:
There is much to learn about this enigmatic group. But from the little we do know it is clear that the [nightjars and allies] exhibit a number of remarkable features that would richly repay further study.
I give Nightjars, Potoos, Frogmouths, Oilbird, and Owlet-nightjars of the World 5 Goldfinches out of 5.
Disclosure: This is my own original, honest review of Nightjars of the World, a copy of which was provided to me free of charge by the publisher.
This week’s highlighted shirt, Beast of Birding, is for all you Stones fans. Did you know the boys were birders? Bette, too, though she had to change some of the lyrics to suit a female
Birds of Australia: Eighth Edition by Ken Simpson and Nicolas Day. First edition published 1984; eighth edition published 2010.
I’m cuckoo for bird books*, although my recent focus has been more on tales of birdwatching and less on field guides. I have several field guides from different parts of the world where I’ve visited, but my collection is lacking in field guides for parts of the world where I have yet to travel. This changed recently when I was given a copy of Birds of Australia for review.
It’s so much fun to look at a bird guide and marvel at the strange and wonderful avifauna of a place on the other side of the planet, especially without the pressure of gearing up for a trip and trying to learn all of the birds. So many of the birds in this field guide are strange and wonderful to me, like the oddly knobbed Magpie Goose, the strangely dewlapped Musk Duck, the Crested Pigeon, not to mention all of the colorful parrots and five species of Tyto owls (Barn Owl family) — I mean, wow! So it’s been a kick just paging through the guide and marveling.
Looking at the guide with a more critical eye has been enjoyable, as well. The first pages contain background information typical to many field guides, with a section on how to use the guide and another with general birdwatching tips.
The bulk of the book is made up of field information for the bird species found in Australia. 780 species are profiled; there are color illustrations for each bird, with different plumages shown when appropriate. The illustrations are vibrant and detailed. The quality seems consistent throughout, which is to be expected when the illustrations are all done by the same hand (Nicolas Day). The color plates are attractively arranged, many with a non-intrusive habitat-appropriate background. Many of the birds are further illustrated with a small black-and-white drawing accompanying the text, usually to show a certain behavior, other identification clues like nests or feather patterns, or to point out additional field marks. Range maps are included with the species text.
After the field information pages, there is a lengthy Vagrant Bird Bulletin, highlighting rarities with sighting data, small illustrations, and a quick run-down of field marks. Supplemental information continues after the bulletin with information on Australian bird habitats, breeding information which includes a breeding summary broken down by family and species. There are also species checklists for Australian island territories, more tips for birdwatchers, a glossary, and two indexes (one for Latin names and one for common (English) names).
The inside covers have sea-bird bill profiles, showing the actual size of the bills of albatrosses, petrels, shearwaters and others. There are instructions on how to measure the bill length – this part of the guide is provided “for the accurate identification of dead birds washed up on the beach.” While that seems a bit morbid, the illustrations are pretty cool to look at (the albatross bills are incredible!) and I can imagine it would be great to be able to ID such a bird.
The book is softbound, with an attractive glossy protective cover. The cover has already gotten pretty ratty just being handled here in my office and I would probably leave it at home were I to take the book into the field. The soft cover, however, is made of plastic and seems extremely sturdy for field use. It’s a bit bigger than Sibley’s Eastern guide, an appropriate size for field use (6.25″ x 8.25″ x 1″).
I give Birds of Australia 5 Goldfinches out of 5.
Disclosure: This is my own original, honest review of Birds of Australia, a copy of which was provided to me free of charge by the publisher.
*Let it be known that as a newer birder with a love of (some may say obsession with) books, I am very happy to receive review copies of any and all bird-related books. I love to read them and review them!
Here’s a list of current (as of August 2nd) blog & online contests by birders, for birders, and/or offering bird- or birder-themed prizes. Click on the links to learn more, check eligibility, and enter to win! If you are running a contest or know of something that should be added to this list, please let me know by leaving a comment or sending me an email. This is a monthly post appearing on the first Monday of every month. I will add any updates I find during the month as a comment on this post. If you’d like to stay updated, you can subscribe to the comment RSS feed for this post.
CONTESTS WITH DEADLINES near and far
Two-Fisted Birdwatcher is giving away a blog-branded hoodie. Find this month’s hidden bird to be eligible for the drawing. This monthly giveaway usually ends by the end of the month, so submit your answer before August 31st! See the contest page for details.
Ornithologist and author Glen Chilton is offering a $10,000 reward for finding a previously unknown sample of a Labrador Duck. See Dr. Chilton’s website for all the details. Ends September 1st 2010. Send your claim to IFoundADuck@glenchilton.com.
ONGOING CONTESTS of interest to birders
10,000 Birds’ Conservation Club is a great way to raise money for bird conservation causes. Members of the club are eligible to enter giveaways offering prizes from Conservation Club sponsors. Have a look at the current and past giveaways, and then sign up!
Each month WildBird on the Fly runs a First Friday fiction contest. If your 500-word story is chosen, you’ll win a recently-published bird book. Submissions are due before 5 p.m. PST on the first Thursday of the month (so the July contest ended last week). See WildBird on the Fly for all the details.
Duncraft hosts a caption contest on Facebook every week. Become a fan of Duncraft to see each contest posting. Enter to win a $10.00 Duncraft Gift Coupon. New caption contests start each Monday.
Birder’s Lounge runs a monthly ID Challenge. Contestants play for their favorite bird/nature/conservation charity. The prize is a $10 donation to the winning charity, in the winner’s name. (Thanks to Amber for the details!)