So I Got A Second Edition Sibley

One thing birders have been talking about like crazy for the last few months is the news that David Sibley was updating his popular field guide The Sibley Guide To Birds and we've all been aching to see it. Mine arrived from FedEx on Friday. Screen Shot 2014-03-09 at 8.46.00 AM

Personally, I am far more interested in this update in app form than I am in book form. I asked Sibley when the app update will be coming and he said,  "The app revision is in progress, and it will be a major overhaul with all of the new art, text, and maps from the revised book, but still no firm completion date. It will be at least a couple of months more."

So we have to wait for that one. Based on how much work has been added to the guide, I imagine that we will have to purchase a new app or at least pay for an update to the old one. And looking at the new Sibley...I'm ok with that. There's a lot of work that went into this guide and well, being in the arts community, I like paying artists.

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Now, the book: it's beautiful...and bigger. My kitchen scale puts my old Sibley at 2 pounds 10 ounces and the new Sibley comes in at just under 3 pounds (that's no big deal cause we're not supposed to take it out in the field but study at home, right?). But that increase in size includes larger images, updated maps, updated illustrations, revised taxonomy (yeah, cause that's constant), more text on identification tips of tricky species as well as habitat and foraging behavior. Check out the above bluebird plates and note the addition of a sketch to differentiate bluebirds based on tail length, I love those additions. This is almost like having a Sibley guide with his personal field notes in there. The font is a little on the small side and considering the average age of most birders, that might be an issue for some.

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There are 600 new paintings, some include the addition of 111 rare species but others include really cool touches like finding nightjars in the dark. There's a lot more to this book to truly help someone figure out what they are seeing not only based on field marks but with habitat. I am overwhelmed at the amount of work Sibley has put into this guide by not only doing all his own illustrations, but writing the concise text as well.

There have been rumors about color issues. The first edition of Sibley had some people saying the birds were too bright and the reds too vibrant, that never bothered me. Early reviews of this second edition said the prints were too dark. In The Nature Travel Network review plates being too dark was brought up as an issue, Sibley even defended the colors in the comments section and felt that he and the reviewer may have had a difference of opinion. So the first thing I did with the new Sibley was check the reds by going to the tanager page. The scarlet tanager looked dark to me. As I was looking at that, a second package with another new Sibley arrived from FedEx.  Somehow I ended up with two review copies.  I opened it hoping that maybe I had been sent two different printings.


Above is a comparison. From left to right we have my old Sibley and then the 2 new Sibley guides on the scarlet tanager. To my eye, that red in the new guides looks too dark for scarlet tanager. Non Birding Bill looked over my shoulder and said, "Yeah, but what else can you mistake a tanager for? Even I know that one."

Funny thing is, I had just gotten an email that morning from someone in Wisconsin telling me that scarlet tanagers were perhaps back early because they saw two but they had black chins (and no they couldn't have been cardinals because they didn't see the crest).  Sigh.

I thought that maybe this was just the tanager and I was being too nit picky and I'd look at different sorts of reds. I headed to the red-shouldered hawk plate. It seemed dark too. I have a Sibley raptor poster framed in my bedroom and the company that produced that went to great pains to give true color to Sibley's original plates. Here is a comparison:

Screen Shot 2014-03-07 at 2.22.54 PM On the left is a clip from my Sibley poster and on the right is the red-shouldered hawk page in the new Sibley. Where it reads "orange bars" in the book, it looks brown to me. The poster image of a red-shouldered hawk is what I think of when I see them on sunny or cloudy days in the wild. I think this is strictly a printing issue and is one of the reasons why I'm more interested in the Sibley Guide as an app than I am as a book.

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Here's a comparison of yellows for those interested, with my old Sibley is on the left and the new Sibely is on the right. The yellow seems a bit more on the green side in my new edition, but it is slight and doesn't bother me. When the book hits stores on March 11, 2014 I'm going to check a couple of my local stores and see how their versions vary from mine.  I contacted the publicist and asked if I got an old copy but she said the two that I have should be what will be in stores next week.

Screen Shot 2014-03-09 at 10.03.28 AM But apart from some picky issues with the color, there's far more to appreciate in the second edition, especially with the expansions of separating tricky species. Check out the handy empid comparison above (for those who haven't grown to dislike flycatchers as much as I do). There was some of that in the original, but the new guide has more comparisons with text explanation as well as paintings. And very useful info about where you can find certain species foraging.

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Here's another fun chart that's been added--a time table to help you identify woodpeckers by drumming sounds. I love these little details.

So overall--I think this guide will always be a go to book for identification in North America, especially with the addition of rare birds found up in Alaska. I think in this printing some of the plates are darker than I would like them to be--especially the red and rust colors. I think this is a guide best purchased in person so you can see if this printing bothers you. But overall this is still one of the best tools out there for someone wishing to take their birding watching to another level.

Cool Outdoor Check List For Kids!

I've met Ken Keffer and Stacy Tornio along the bird festival circuit and they're great people. Stacey is editor of Birds & Blooms Magazine and Ken is a "vagabond naturalist who also writes for Birds & Blooms. I recently worked on a project with Ken and we were sharing that we both have a book coming out. Kids Outdoor Adventure

Ken and Stacey have come up with a really cool book. It's essentially an outdoor bucket list for kids. It's also tied in with a really cool website called Destination Nature full of more projects and videos to go along with the book. There are 448 fun activities for any time of year for families to try.

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The book has great ideas for kids to try (especially for a parent who would like to get them outdoors and doesn't know where to start) and each activity is rated on an "Adventure Scale." Making a wish on a dandelion is a low key, easy activity so it gets a 1. Harvesting honey is a bit more risky so it gets a 5. Some of the activities involve travel, ie collecting seashells on the beach but others can be done right in a backyard--even an urban one. I think what will make this book fun is that there are a lot of outdoor activities that parents may want to try try themselves. They can use their kids to live out some of the things they haven't had a chance to do yet. Use your kids as your own personal field trip leader!

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The book is divided into the four seasons and includes some games too and how to mix them up for the outdoors. Yes, Minnesota people, they did include the note that some regions prefer the game Duck, Duck, Gray Duck.

So if you are looking for a way to encourage your indoor kids to play outdoors, try giving them this book, the structure of checking off adventures is appealing and maybe you'll find some adventure too.



Music of the Birds iPad Book Review

I think I have found the missing link between the traditional paper copy of a bird book and an electronic bird book. Kudos to the awesome that is Lang Elliot and Marie Reed for coming up with Music of the Birds, a multimedia guide to 20 favorite North American species. If you aren't familiar with these two authors, you may recognize Lang's voice as the narrator of several bird song ID CDs and Marie is a a fantastic photographer. I've linked to some of the incredible footage their site Music of Nature.

This $7.99 book for the iPad available on iTunes is great for adults and kids, people who go birding all the time, the casual birder or someone you would like to get into watching birds. It takes 20 popular birds (like the above indigo bunting) gives you incredible photos, stunning video and some background information.

Here's a sample of one of the videos of a Veery--how many of us have heard that song but never actually saw the bird that can harmonize with itself?


I can really see this book appealing to kids. They love to play with iPads and with fantastic photos and videos of many birds that can be found it backyards, it may help inspire them to actually look for them.

I do think that some day we will see field guides that will also incorporate video of birds to aid us in id, rather than relying on illustrations and calls only. I'm really excited to see someone take this on and come up with a such a user friendly and beautiful iPad book.

So if  you have an iPad and an interest in birds, definitely check this one out.



Crossley ID Guide

I get books sent to me all the time and the words, "innovative" and "revolutionary" and "amazing" get tossed around. The books are good, but rarely live up to the hype. Richard Crossley's new Crossley ID Guide to Eastern Birds is a guide lives up to those words. This book is going to be talked about A LOT. Some people are going to dislike this book (there are rumors of "well respected birders" refusing to review it). Some are going to love it. The bottom line is that Mr. Crossley took a huge chance and this is a book that has to be seen to be believed.

I've heard of this book coming down the pike for months. When I saw the first few pages, I thought, "Ahhhhhhhh, A.D.D. birding! Stop the insanity!"  Here's why:

This book assaults you visually. The above is the page for the osprey--birds are everywhere, coming from every direction, looking in every direction--everywhere you look: osprey!  Ahhhhhhhhhh! I think we are used the very orderly and tidy designs of Sibley and the National Geographic Guide that the Crossley Guide seems almost too intense. But I do like what he is trying to communicate here.  He has a photo of the typical habitat that one might find an osprey in and then tries to show you every possible angle at which you could id the birds. It's almost as if this book is  the "missing link" between illustrated guides and what I see the future being of video bird guides on smart phones.

It's as if the author went out of his way to make his guide as different as possible. He uses photos of birds in the beginning to show you the different parts of the bird, but rather than using "pretty shots" he goes for more realistic, like using a house finch with conjunctivitis (ew).Despite one really gross (yet realistic and accurate) photo, the photos of birds are very useful tools for showing anatomy.

Here are the pages for common yellowthroat and hooded warbler. On the one hand, I really like how he gives you suggestions for the type of habitat that you mind the birds. However, I could see young birders getting confused. For example, the habitat shown for yellowthroat is the type of habitat I would expect to find them if I were along the coast in Cape May, NJ but not the type of plants I find them lurking in if I were birding in Minnesota. Also, since each bird is in sort of a flock photo, will a new birder think that this is how you find the birds in the wild, are they always in flocks?

I do really like this book, it's interactive, it challenges you to think of birds in their habitat and it gives you so many ways to prep for how you might observe the birds in the wild. Many of the pages can serve as a quiz to help you age and sex each species. For newer birders, I would say to remember that the habitats are just're not always going to see a northern goshawk just when there's a rainbow.

I think this book is best used for study before going out in the field--and that's another thing, this book will most likely not travel with you out in the field. According to my kitchen scale, it's three and a half pounds--three quarters of a pound heavier than Sibley and this guide is only for the eastern region of the US--not a complete North American guide. Unless you are trying to burn some serious calories out in the field, leave it at home.

One thing that might drive a new birder crazy is the use of 4 letter banding codes to describe the birds. Each photo takes up so much space on the page, the text is minimal. Those familiar with bird banding would easily understand that in describing the finer points of ID for the alder flycatcher: "In many respects, intermediate between LEFL and WIFL. Larger than LEFL with longer and broader tail."

If you know the banding codes, that sentence makes sense. If you don't, figuring that info out might be tedious (but in the long run worth it).

This book is definitely worth having your bookshelf.

Word is that Crossley will be working on a western version and a British version too.  Oh and speaking of which, I did see on the bird jobs listerv that he's looking for an assistant, so if you'd like to work for this author and help:

CROSSLEY BOOKS has a unique employment opportunity, in Cape May, NJ for a highly motivated individual in a very fast-paced environment. We are presently working on a series of innovative bird books with the first, The Crossley ID Guide being released in Feb 2011. We are looking for a hard working and creative individual. The most important aspect of the position will be to help the author create and edit texts for these books and other publications. This will involve working closely with the author but also requires self-motivation and independent duties. Excellent writing skills are essential along with creativity. Other tasks will be varied and wide-ranging. Duties may include dictation, answering e-mails, Facebook, Twitter, media contacts and all other office support. This is a full-time position, starting immediately. Good knowledge of birds is a big advantage. All resumes and inquiries can be forwarded directly to our email address: (EM: thebrit1 AT

Stokes Field Guide to Birds of North America

There are some new photographic field guides coming down the pike, one is the newly available Stokes Field Guide to the Birds of North America by Donald and Lillian Stokes.  I've sat with it for a few weeks to get to know it before I gave my review.

So here it is, if you are a fan of photographic field guides--you'll really like this guide for reference.  If you are dedicated to using illustrated guides, you will not care for it.  Birders seem to be divided on this issue. Growing up, I always preferred photographic guides.  I think my issue is that illustrators pose the birds in a way that you can see as many filed marks as possible on the bird and birds are rarely that cooperative in the field.  There's something about a photo that communicates posture, shape and color very clearly to me that an illustration cannot.  I think it depends on how your brain works.  But the Stokes Eastern Guide was my preferred field guide growing up.  I liked it better than National Geographic or Peterson.

The one downside that people might find with this guide is the size--it's bigger and heavier than the Sibley guide making it unwieldy in the field.  Some birders would argue that you shouldn't be taking a field guide out birding with you anyway because you'd spend too much time with your nose in a book and not enough time studying the actual bird in front of you.  So, it's sheer size and weight will make you want to keep it at home.

You get a lot of great information and photos for the weight.  The photos are fantastic and a marked improvement over the previous guides put out by the Stokes. The front is especially helpful using up close shots of birds in various poses to teach the reader about bird anatomy and what the authors are talking about when naming field marks.

The Stokes did a great job of using the photos for comparisons of difficult birds like greater scaup versus lesser scaup. I especially appreciated the field marks shown on the wing, as this is what I need when we do our aerial surveys. This

They even went the extra mile and included a colorized image of an ivory-billed woodpecker next to the pileated woodpecker.  This is definitely the most comprehensive photographic guide available.  The guide includes 853 North American bird species (unlike the previous guides which were divided into Eastern and Western regions) and also includes a CD of bird calls of 683 species in the book.  It's incredible how much birding bang for your buck you can get in a field guide now.  To get all of this info in the year 2000, I would have had to have purchased both the guides and the separate CDs for each region totaling close to $80.  Now, I can get it all packed in this guide for $24.99 or less.  Amazing.

This is a very good guide, I do not know that I would call it revolutionary. Revolutionary would be turning this book into an iPhone or iPod Touch app or even better, I'd love for this guide to be available on an iPad. This book might be intimidating to a new birder, but for someone who already has their toes in the water with a state birding guide, this would be a good "next step" guide. This is also idea for the hardcore birder who is forever searching for another guide to use as reference--you can never have too many field guides.

Nightjars of the World

Best bird book of the year! I get sent a lot of books in hopes that I'll write them up in the blog or in one of the publications that accepts my articles.  I've slowed down on some of it.  I'm interested in certain bird books--definitely not all.  For example, I do not want to ready My Aviary of Hope about some woman who goes out to find herself but finds her wings instead (really, publishers, when I say "no thank you" sending me a galley copy, a pre sale copy and a final copy will not get me to read it).  That's not my kind of book--not that there's anything wrong with that, that's just not what I want to read.

I usually want the books that publishers don't know how to market.  As a matter of fact, the publicist sent the list that included this book with a note that read, "Yeah, these are weird titles but on the off chance any of you want them, here they are."  One of the titles practically made me salivate.  And last week, Non Birding Bill found it in our PO Box and sent me the photo:

Princeton University Press has made the best bird book I've seen all year with Nightjars, Potoos, Frogmouths, Oilbird and Owlet-nightjars of the World...or more succinctly: Nightjars of the World by Nigel Cleere.  It is an AWESOME book.  Now, before some of you glance at that cover and say, "Ah, Shaz is geeking out over a brown bird book, time to go to the next blog," let me hit you with some of the pages of this cool tome.

Though brown, many of these birds look like Muppets.  Look at the above Sunda frogmouth (and it's little fluffy chick) from the book.  Don't you half expect it to break into Manah Manah at any moment?  For those who may not be familiar with this group of birds, it includes common nighthawks, whip-poor-wills or the great potoo that I saw in Panama this past February.  Birds that for the most part have highly cryptic plumage and look like broken branches in trees or blend seamlessly into leaf litter on the floor.

This book is a comprehensive photographic guide (check out the crazy variations these birds come in), but also gives information about this poorly understood group of birds in an easy to read fashion.  You find yourself with questions that you didn't know you had like, "Why would a species that is nocturnal need to have bizarro wing and feather patterns to display for mating?  How the heck do the females see any of that at night?"

But you're also left with some interesting factoids like:

The common poorwill is the only bird to hibernate in parts of its range.

Oilbirds got their name because people used to boil down the chicks and use the oil for cooking or for lamps.

The book also strikes a chord as you realize that for some species--there are no photos of the bird in the wild, only study skins in museums.  You'll also be struck by how much we don't know about the birds and how often you'll see the word "presumably" describing nesting or mating behavior.

I love everything about this book and this is a trend in books that I first saw with The Shorebird Guide a few years ago and I'm happy to see it continue.  We have so many photographers out there as a huge resource so you get to see the birds in different angles and the author is wise enough to write the book in an approachable way, not like a boring lecturer at a stuffy university.  This book will appeal to hardcore and  intermediate birders alike because this is a fascinating family of birds to study and the photos are incredible--note the snuggling collared nightjars above.  Many of us will not get a chance to see most of these birds in the wild and if we do, most likely the bird will be flying away as we just flushed it.  For others, this book will be an inspiration to create studies and graduate projects when you realize how much is undocumented for certain species.  It's a sort of undiscovered country bird-wise.  And yet for many of us, it will inspire us to save money for trips to have a chance to travel to foreign places to have a chance to see this secretive group of birds.

I would even consider giving this book to kids about 9 and up who have a strong interest in birds.  There are plenty of photos and again, it's in a fairly easy to read format and the text isn't presented in an overwhelming pile of pages between photos.  I would have LOVED this book when I was into birds as a kid.

Thank you, Nigel, for coming out with a great bird book.

Bird Watch Radio & Birding For Everyone

I'm listening to the latest Bird Watch Radio. The host, Steve Moore is in the above photo in the burgundy shirt (no doubt scouting for potential interviewees for future podcasts). I ran into him at Birdwatch America and he told me that on the current BWR you can hear me and one of my favorite people Mike Bergin of 10,000 Birds talking about bird and nature blogging. Steve also talks to John Robinson who wrote Birding for Everyone.

I've received a review copy of Birding for Everyone and I've kept mum on it. Generally, with books, if I don't like it, I keep it out of the blog. I know how much work can go into a book and just because I don't like it doesn't mean it's a bad book, it may just isn't my cup of tea. Also, if I've met the author ahead of time and really like them as a person, I really don't want be too harsh about my thoughts on their work. I think the subject of this book has great potential, I just wanted a bit more from this book.

The author states, "The purpose of Birding for Everyone is to explore the lack of minorities among birdwatchers, reasons for the relative absence of minorities among birders, effective solutions as part of outreach and recruitment programs."

However, the book goes all over the place, and tries to be three separate books in one. It's a little bit memoir and touches on the surface of why there are a lack of minorities, but then suddenly shifts to how to identify birds with 10 tips for becoming a better birder. What does that have to do with the purpose of the book?

It's worth reading, but is a bit all over the place, he seems to have several audiences in mind when writing. The book is a good first draft and need of a good editor. One thing for sure is that it is a needed starting point for some great conversation about the future direction of birding in North America.

My hope is that some publisher will see this book and ask Mr. Robinson to do two separate books: one addressing more in depth what the issues are facing birders of color in North America and teach birders like myself how to welcome them into the world of nature watching. And a second book for people of color on how to start watching nature.

Junior Ranger Event and Young Birder's Guide

We had a small but intrepid group at our Junior Ranger bird walk tonight. One of the cool parts was a junior ranger who showed up Bill Thompson's book: The Young Birder's Guide. She was workin' it too. Checking the birds off as she found them, double checking the info. This is an awesome book: It uses great photos (and fabulous illustrations by Julie Zickefoose) to illustrate birds. Each page contains basic information and some wow fact about birds. There's a section that helps you figure out which birds you will see in which habitat too. I don't think this book needs to be limited to just young birders, this is a great guide for any birder ready to graduate from the starter guides. The only thing that keeps it from being a perfect guide is that it encourages kids to dress like stereotypical birder. Kids, you don't have to wear a vest and floppy hat to go birding--resist the propaganda.

We didn't have huge amounts of birds, but we had some oh so cooperative cedar waxwings and robins. The best part of the evening came as we were ending the walk. We were going down the trail and the kids were finding lots of turkey feathers. I don't think anything sinister happened to a turkey, just typical molt feathers. I paused to listen for birds at an opening in the woods and noticed an odd piece of bark hanging in a tree, then I realized that the bark had a bird tail shape--wait a minute! That was a turkey sitting on a branch in the tree. I froze and whispered for all the kids to get behind me. There just above us, right off the trail was a turkey. As I pointed her out, a small second turkey poked its head up from under her wing, then another, and another--about five or six half sized turkey poults emerged from her body (that seems like it was a late nest). They atttempted to fly off the branches, suddenly, about six more adult sized turkeys burst from hidden corners higher in the tree. It was a whole roosting flock. I felt bad that the turkeys were disturbed from their roost, but then again, they chose to roost right off of a well traveled biking and hikin path in an urban area. They'll get over it, I'm thinkin'.

Thanks to everyone who came.

Falcon Fever

I just got a copy of Falcon Fever by Tim Gallagher from Houghton Mifflin. Some of you may be familiar with Tim as an award winning nature photographer, or from when he was an editor for WildBird Magazine, or as the current editor of Living Bird Magazine, or as one of the guys who rediscovered the ivory-billed woodpecker.

I interviewed Tim a couple of years ago about the ivory-bill search. As he was giving me pretty much the same answers that everyone else was getting, I remembered that someone told me he was a falconer. I asked him what he like to fly as a falconer and the whole interview changed, his face lit up and he became animated as he described flying merlins and peregrines. This is a true passion for him.

If you do not know anything about falconry, this book is a good way to be introduced to it. The first half focuses on his brutal childhood with an alcoholic and abusive father. Falconry became a release for him and a way to connect with nature and wildlife. Anyone who has ever felt the pull to the wild will thrill along with Tim's adventures and his early trainings of hawks. You will also learn some surprising things about Tim--like he did a few drugs and even spent time in jail! I was on the edge of my seat as I read that and wondered how he made it from such a low point in his life to where he is now. The book doesn't really explain that and if I have one thing I would change, it would be to tell that story.

The second half of the book does not focus on that journey but starts at a point later in his life, after the ivory-bill rediscovery and he feels the need to reconnect with falconry and retrace one of his boyhood idols Frederick II, the thirteenth century Holy Roman Emperor who wrote one of the earliest falconry manuals. Tim spends a year going to falconry meets, hunting with some of the worlds best falconers, and taking roads much less traveled in Italy and trace the steps and history of Frederick II.

If you know someone who is a falconer, they will love this book as a gift and probably recognize many of the names mentioned. If you are curious as to what this falconry thing is all about--this explains the magic and thrill these obsessed hunters find in the fields with their birds. Falconry is not about a person and their pet bird, but a hunting partnership between human and bird--one where the bird can decide to leave the human if the human doesn't keep up. This is a well written book and easy to read, I recommend it.

Clan Apis

If you are looking for a delightful book to teach you the basics of honeybee natural history, then Clan Apis by Jay Hosler is for you! This is a great book! Mr. Neil recommended it to me, actually insisted that I read it. I tried to tell him that I'm not one for the comic books but he assured me that this was very accurate and just a wonderful read. I was skeptical but thumbed through it in his presence to placate him. Before I knew it, I was hooked.

Hosler has a cheeky sense of humor about the bees but at the same time gives you all the facts about their life cycle and behaviors. This book is great for kids, but adults will love the humor. One of my favorite parts is when the hive decides to swarm (was that a spoiler?) and starts to carry off the queen. As the workers are toting her away, she exclaims, "Great Googaly Moogaly!"--points for use of that phrase! AND! Points for:

...inserting a pileated woodpecker drawn accurately and doing what woodpeckers do. Boy, I hope one of these boys doesn't decide to go after our hives.

Anyway--this is a great read and a great gift. Go forth, find it, buy it (or check it out of a library) and read it. Ah, if only birders could do comics like this...maybe I will.