Sunday, October 3, 2010

Making a list

Birders and lists go hand in hand.
We keep yard lists, trip lists, life lists.
If you’re anything like me, this turn of the season, an almost overnight change to the crisper days of autumn, has prompted the generation of yet another list--an attempt to stay on task and responsibly navigate the fleeting fall months to come. There’s a cluster of family birthdays for which to prepare, window screens to wash and tuck away for winter, patio furniture to clean and cover, piles of plants that wait to be set into the ground...and, yes, plans to make for the holidays—
a list of givers and gifts.

A new book for birders will hit the bookstore shelves later this month. It’s The Stokes Field Guide to the Birds of North America by Donald & Lillian Stokes. This substantial paperback resource from the well-respected heavyweights of the birding/nature world covers 854 species in 816 glossy pages. A work of photographic excellence, its 3400+ images have been contributed by nearly 200 photographers, the majority by Lillian Stokes. A bonus downloadable CD is included with the calls and songs of 150 birds common to North America.

While the debate will continue as to which type of field guide illustration serves the greatest use, I find that I refer equally to guides illustrated with paintings (Peterson or Sibley) and those with photographic images (Kaufman or Stokes). Both have a place on my bookshelf. I still prefer the detail Sibley is able to show on the wings of soaring raptors as seen from below, but find the strength of the Stokes Guide to be its comprehensive coverage, often spanning several pages to include images of adult and juvenile birds, summer and winter plumages, morphs and birds in flight. The Red-winged Blackbird is detailed in 9 photos across 2 pages with remarks of the 14 subspecies. And 23 photos covering morphs and immature birds fill the 4-page spread profiling the Red-tailed Hawk. Most helpful to me, however, is a small notation in the lower corner of each photograph encoding the geographic location and date by month represented by the bird in the image. With a little guesswork, I can convert Stokes’ identified birds to those unknown birds beyond my window. Those tricky fall warblers in their non-descript plumage? They’re in here, in such generous numbers to fill the gap often left by other guides. Could that be a Nashville Warbler outside my window? Why, yes! Here’s one that looks just like it in a photograph bearing the caption OH/10! Maybe you’re curious to see the 3rd winter plumage of a Glaucous Gull? It’s in here, too… just a little further off the beaten path, marked RUS/12. I like that!

Birds are presented in the guide in phylogenetic order and are grouped by family with user-friendly, easily-visible bands of color at the base of each page, as in the popular Peterson guide.
Because a bird’s overall shape is often more consistent than variable plumage, the Stokes stress “quantitative shape” in carefully describing the hundreds of species--an expression that compares the relative difference in length of body parts within the same bird. For example, the Little Blue Heron is described by noting, “neck is shorter than body.” In emphasizing these relationships, even subjects which may be backlit or at a distance, can be accurately identified using careful observation and understanding of shape.

Throughout the book, Identification Tips are provided within typically challenging groups of birds. These helpful highlights offer clues for birders of all skill levels—from the basics of discerning differences within groups of seemingly similar birds to hints for especially difficult Species IDs.
Because most species are presented on separate pages, I find that comparison between several species at once unfortunately often involves the flipping of pages back and forth.

Finally, as one who shies away from the term “birder,” preferring to think of myself more as a generalist, I especially appreciate this guide for the glimpse it offers beyond birds alone—we see a small snippet, a suggestion of habitat. Whether perched on a precipice or wading among the reeds, the unaltered photographs allow recognition of birds in context—a valuable impression often lacking in other sources.


The Great Giveaway
(or Let’s turn the World on to Birding!)
Three lucky people will receive a complimentary copy of
The Stokes Field Guide to the Birds of North America
by Donald & Lillian Stokes.
If you would like an opportunity to be chosen as a recipient
of one of these outstanding field guides,
please leave a comment in the comment section of this post.


Winners will be chosen on October 25, 2010 (its release date) by the True Random Number Generator at Random.org from the total number of comments generated to this post by 11:59 pm EST on October 24, 2010.
Enter as many times in as many separate comments as you like—the greater the number of comments you leave at this post, the greater your chance of being chosen!
Limit one complimentary copy per participant.

Let’s start with something like this…
“That sounds like a great gift for my neighbor!”
Be creative, be original (if you can).
Remember, this guide is appropriate for both novice and experienced birders.
Do you have someone in mind? (no names, please!)
Let’s turn the world on to birding!

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44 comments:

nina at Nature Remains. said...

That sounds like a great gift for my neighbor!

Lynne at Hasty Brook said...

I have the Stokes Guide to Warblers and I love it . This would be a great addition!

Mustang Sally said...

My Father would love this and so would I.

Susan Gets Native said...

I would love that...the girls have destroyed all of my other field guides by loving them too much. :)

Endment said...

Would love to be added to your list. If this is as good as their other books - it will be a wonderful addition to any birding collection

Robin said...

A great opportunity!
Looking forward to the books release.

KaHolly said...

I have been looking forward to the release of this book! Glad to see such a positive and comprehensive review. Thanks so much! ~karen

MojoMan said...

I like the idea of a field guide that links bird species to habitat. I find it much easier to identify birds within the context of their usual haunts.

Clare said...

My son, at eight years old, is developing into a skilled bird enthusiast. He has a remarkable eye for detail, and remembers where he saw birds, frequently remarking about birds he saw here and there. While I was away for business last week, he called to tell me he had seen two redpoll near our house.

My preference in Field Guides is for illustrated guides, opposed to photographic. He has a Petersons, but he should develop his own preference - illustrative or photographic. That's why this book would be perfect for him.

Lisa at Greenbow said...

I like to have several different guides to compare what they show and what I have seen or a picture I take. I would be delighted to have a copy. Please throw my name in the counter.

Beverly said...

Nina, isn't it wonderful when life gets in the way? But I've missed your blog for several many weeks now; I love the goats! About the book; I don't have a field guide by the Stokes; that would be cool, too.

Mary Ann said...

I give away old field guides to anyone who shows even the tiniest interest, and indeed have brought a few over to the bird side - count me in! Thanks Nina!

Heather said...

I can never have enough field guides (and I don't have enough!), but I would donate this new one to the local library!

cestoady said...

One can not have too many guides or friends. Unless I am lucky enough to win this guide, I am going to suggest to MY neighbor that she get me this guide. Excellent, professional book review.

Marie said...

Ooo, a new bird guide! I too am a fan of Sibley, but have been frustrated on several trips trying to identify first-year warblers and sparrows. What a task! I will have to take a look at this guide. Thanks for the info.

Carolyn H said...

Wow! This is a great giveaway. I was just about to run over to Amazon and pre-order the book but now I think I'll wait and hope I am one of the lucky three! This is the kind of thing that will be my winter reading or perhaps I should say my winter study, as I will likely go through it a species or two at a time each day.

Carolyn H.

Amy said...

The early reviews of this book are so good, I can't wait to get my hands on a copy!

thrufaithalone said...

I'm just getting to know my grand-niece who's 10 years old. I'd love nothing more than to bequeath to her a hobby that will keep her attention for years to come:)

cat said...

My wife's birthday is coming up!

deejbrown said...

I have all the old Stokes guides about bird behavior and still reference them. Frankly, even though this is a NA Field Guide, many of these birds migrate through and to Central America. I would send my copy to a 10 year old boy in Crooked Tree, Belize, who is interested in becoming a bird guide to follow in the steps of a family friend who is now a world class birder and guide. It will be hand delivered by a local group of birders traveling there next March.
Here is some info about Turiq: http://www.oakintheseed.com/2010/02/new-life-for-old-binoculars.html

Kat said...

I need all the help I can get with bird identification! My poor local Audubon friends are always correcting my mis-identifications!

Cindie U. said...

I could really use a field guide, as I refer to all the brown birds in my yard as "sparrow" instead of their correct names.

jo said...

post, very useful for a beginner like me"
http://evocowire.com

Barbara said...

I think either of my sons would love this reference, or I could use it myself.

cestoady said...

Though I love my Sibley Guide, with its 810 species,this Stokes reference guide with its 854 species ,comes closer to describing a total bird species with its comprehensive coverage of the variation over a wide geographical area. I like that. The two guides would make a wonderful team,each complementing the other.

The Early Birder said...

This would make a very helpful addition to the backpack for a visitor to your shores.

Beyond The Garden said...

I love glossy pages and I want this book. (just letting you know.)
So glad I've discovered your blog. I've been having reading back entries.

Terry Davitt Powell said...

I have enjoyed your blog so much. You have such a deep connection and when I need a nature fix, I check in to see what treats you have to share.

I just relocated to a new city and chose my home based on bird activity. I am located near where a river joins the ocean--a great migratory marker and I have been delighted with new birds. I have never had hawks and vultures in my backyard before and references are always needed.

Barbara said...

I'm not a contest person, but I will make another attempt to win this marvelous guide.

Susan said...

In the past year I have given away two guides (and I love my guides!) to budding birders -but not my Stokes Guide. Nope...that one I have lost!! much to my chagrin..it has yellow highlights in it and notations -it was my favourite book, as it had become somewhat of a trip diary. A new Stokes Guide would help ease the loss, and quickly become the new favourite!

Kathi said...

All the good reasons have already been taken, so how's this for honesty:

"Pick me, please, because I really, really want one."

hopefully,
~Kathi

MojoMan said...

I don't want to seem like I'm commenting again just to increase my chances, but I AM still using the old Petersen guide I bought about 35 years ago. Perhaps it's time to ease into the 21st century!

cestoady said...

Bird Guides evolve like the birds they cover. This newest Stokes ,with access to scads of digital photos,new printing methods, and even a DVD of many songs is the latest new species of guide. One wonders where evolution will take similar guides next -- video clips for each species accessible for viewing on each page ?

Kathi said...

Unlike Mojoman, I *am* commenting again in order to increase my chances of winning. ('Cuz Nian said we could!)

While I'll never give up my 40 year old Peterson's, every new field guide has a slightly different angle, additional plumages, or features a slightly different aspect of each species. I agree with those who said "You can never have too many field guides." I certainly good use another one.

Toni said...

Nina how wonderful! I have the Stokes field guide Eastern region and would love to add this one to my stand by books in my studio.

Barbara said...

I consult my Audubon field guide with some frequency, to attempt to distinguish among hawks, or to wish that I had cardinals in my yard.

cestoady said...

It has occurred to me that the next innovation for a bird guide would be to adapt the moving picture aspect of book pictures as shown in the books that Harry Potter reads. He opens a book and the pictures in it come to life. Perhaps the day is coming when we may see these moving picture,pictures in a bird guide --making it the ultimate guide. Until then, this Stokes Guide is the next best thing.

Anonymous said...

WOW! I really would like to have this new field guide. My Peterson guide is getting a bit dogeared. I am retired and just completed part one (of three) of the Florida Master Naturalist course. There is so much to learn.

Kathi said...

Checking in again to leave another comment, in a shameless attempt to win this book. I understand it is rather large and heavy. Do you think it would be good ballast in the bottom of a kayak? Just curious.

~Kathi

nina at Nature Remains. said...

Three winning numbers have been generated...21, 5, and 35.
The winning commenters holding those numbers are:
Kat (with a K), Endment, and Toni

Congrats...Please contact me for further instructions and to receive your free guides!

And THANK YOU to all who played along!

Kat said...

Woo-Hoo!!!
"O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!"
Thank you so much!

jo said...

Great post, very useful for a beginner like me"
http://evocowire.com

KaHolly said...

OMG, how did I miss this post? What a grand review! I will certainly check it out. I find Sibley's to be one of the best field guides, but sadly I don't have one. Thanks, Nina, for this eye-opening accounting of what looks to be a worthy addition to my bookshelf, backpack, car seat....~karen

Anonymous said...

Muy buen post.