New guide features new approach to identifying birds
As any casual or avid birder will affirm, wonderful progress has been made in making birding guides more user-friendly since Roger Tory Peterson published his inaugural “A Field Guide to Birds” in 1934.
Perhaps the best of the latest efforts has been the image-laden books published by birder and photographer Richard Crossley in his Crossley ID Guide series.
The latest entry, being released this week in time to catch the torrent of spring migration, is the Crossley ID Guide to Raptors (Princeton University Press, 2013, 304 pages, $29.95), featuring Crossley’s stunning images and field details by raptor authorities Jerry Liguori and Brian Sullivan.
What is most fascinating about the Crossley series, and the new Raptor Guide is among the best, is that Crossley presents birds the way we see them: wheeling through the air, perched on a fence or tree, in various stages of plumage, all the while in a true-to-life setting.
These images are as three-dimensional as a flat page can get, giving a reader the feeling as though opening the book will release thousands of day-time raptors, from gyrfalcons to ospreys, from red-tailed hawks to California condors, fleeing the pages and escaping into the air.
In a blog post on his website, Crossley writes that an attribute of any good field birder “is the ability to see features that remain constant, regardless of distance.
“By creating depth in the plates, you can see how a birds’ appearance changes with distance,” Crossley writes.
“Looking at the similarities between the different sized images will help you focus on the features that remain constant. You will be seeing birds as they really are rather than just looking at them.”
This hefty 304-page guide, which includes 101 color plates and 34 color maps, is fascinating enough to pull out every time you notice a hawk, merlin or eagle crossing in the distance.
Although it can serve as a field guide (albeit a heavy one), it’s best calling might be as your ultimate guide once you get home where you can consult your field notes (you do take field notes, I presume) and double-check the field identification you made earlier.
It offers, as one reviewer noted, moments of recognition rather than challenges for identification.
Crossley previously published a guide to Eastern birds and a similar guide for Western birds is expected soon.