Sunday, April 1, 2012

Book Review: How to Be a Better Birder

Princeton University Press sent me a sweet little volume, How to Be a Better Birder, by Derek Lovitch. At first glance, I thought it might be a rehash of some other books on bird identification using the "whole bird" concept versus relying upon field marks. And the book does have some discussion on that point, although Lovitch pays homage to several of those other books in his first chapter.

I have been fortunate for the past few years to teach the basic birding class for the Rolling Plains Texas Master Naturalist training class. My approach to teaching identification starts with "when and where" and proceeds through a list of items to consider, that includes color and field marks. However, I try to downplay those items as most birders, especially novices, place too much emphasis on only them, to their detriment.  Lovitch has a chapter on "Birding by Habitat" as well. His discussions of geography and weather and their impact on seeing the most birds, especially during migration, were especially interesting. I have been working on my sparrow identification skills for some time--his short section on why this group of birds shouldn't intimidate birders was very useful.

However, one of the unique aspects of the book is how technology can make you a better birder. I always wondered about the interest in the radar images of night migration and just how useful that could be to the average birder, but Lovitch explains this, and I will definitely pay more attention in the future.

As I am involved in several citizen science projects about birds, I was glad to see a chapter on how birders can put the observations to use in helping capture knowledge about birds that can postively impact their conservation.

Derek Lovitch's advice on how to be a better birder? Go birding! I wholeheartedly agree.

Birders at any experience level will find something of interest in this slender volume. The book is available from your local bookstore for $19.95 or from Amazon for $13.23.

Good birding!

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