Book can make a better birder
When Derek Lovitch lays out some easy guidelines about becoming a better birder, he combines some old-fashioned know-how with modern technology.
Lovitch’s latest book, “How to be a Better Birder” (2012, Princeton University Press, 208 pages, soft cover, $19.95), shares birding secrets from some of the world’s best birders and offers insights in how anyone can improve their birding.
While much of this book may be considered advanced techniques and not strictly aimed at the first-time birder, it’s not so advanced that anyone with some time behind binoculars won’t benefit from Lovitch’s methods.
“I don’t like labels, whether it’s ‘beginner,’ ‘intermediate’ or ‘advanced,’ ” writes Lovitch in the book’s introduction. “No matter what level of birder you are, or think you are, there is always more to learn — and more challenges to confront.”
What Lovitch does best is combine some of the best field-identification practices with examples of how technology (GPS, advanced weather radar, etc.) is being used to find and locate birds.
I read this book shortly after finishing Scott Weidensaul’s fascinating “Living on the Wind: Across the Hemisphere with Migrating Birds” and found Lovitch’s book a perfect sequel to Weidensaul’s tome on tracking birds across the hemispheres.
In his book, Lovitch talks about how weather patterns affect bird movement, how that movement can be tracked using advanced radar systems, and how you can improve and add to your bird count simply by considering geography before you leave home.
One aspect of birding that is particularly intriguing is what Lovitch calls the “Whole Bird and More” approach.
This emphasizes combining the bird’s field marks and its general size and shape with the how, what, where and when of its behavior.
Look at the whole bird, Lovitch urges, seeing what it is doing and where it is doing it.
“I think we’re spending too much time (in the field) looking too hard at birds when a more wholistic approach will identify” more birds in less time, he writes. “Save the detailed analysis for when we have the time, opportunity and desire to do so.”
This book won’t make you an expert birder (no book does that, Lovitch readily admits), only time in the field will do that.
However, “How to be a Better Birder” will help you learn to make the most of your observations, a key step in any birder’s education.
The Grand Valley Audubon Society can help you improve your birding on the local level. See the GVAS website at audubongv.org.