Monday, March 18, 2013

Book Review: The Crossley ID Guide: Raptors

I was fortunate to receive a copy of The Crossley ID Guide: Raptors from Princeton University Press recently.

Most birders I know have a copy of The Crossley ID Guide, Eastern Birds, that I reviewed previously. The original Crossley guide was a very large volume with photos of all the bird species in the U.S. So why should a birder invest in another Crossley guide? Because  the raptor guide is focused on more in-depth information on the species they cover and spends a lot of space on comparing characteristics to differentiate birds in the field. Raptors are notoriously difficult for most birders; we can use all the help we can get.

Sample Alpomado Falcon plate, used with permission
As with the previous Crossley guide, there are lots of photos. I've included a sample from the section on the Alpomado falcon to the right.

However, I really enjoyed the ability to learn more about the individual birds in the new book. There were multiple plates for one of my favorite little raptors, the American kestrel. These elegant little birds are very common in north central Texas in the winter. They are much less common in the summer, but they do breed here--we get fuzzy little babies at Wild Bird Rescue most summers. Other less common falcons are the prairie falcon and the peregrine falcon.

The Crossley Guide is not really intended to be used in the field, although the raptor guide is small enough to carry. What the book is especially good for is to study between field trips to improve your knowledge of field marks and plumages when you have time to really study the differences. I especially liked the quiz pages where multiple similar species are shown sitting and in-flight, from various aspects, with the opportunity to determine the identification on your own before looking at the key.

For those interested in more information, check out the free sampler available at the Princeton University Press site. You can also learn more about the guide (and other neat stuff about birds) by checking out the Princeton University Press blog tour. There have been some really excellent blogs so far--you can find them all in the blog tour schedule. The blog tour started on March 11 and will run through this week, culminating in a Raptor ID Happy Hour with Richard Crossley and Brian Sullivan, 6:00 PM - 7:00 PM EST on Friday. March 22. You can access the Happy Hour at

Also right now, Princeton University Press is holding a contest for several prizes to include autographed copies of this book, binoculars and other items for one lucky person.

I hope you'll take part in some of the activities associated with the launch of this book and be sure to order your copy from Princeton University Press or your local book store.

Good birding!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

North Texas Bird and Wildlife Club

The  North Texas Bird and Wildlife Club will meet at 7PM at the National Letter Carriers Union Hall at 5310 Southwest Parkway on Tuesday, March 19. This is a small group where members discuss their sightings, share new books and interesting magazine articles and have a short program on some topic.  Come on out!

Good birding!

Book Review: Texas Waterfowl

Well, I've been negligent lately. I have had the book, Texas Waterfowl, by William P. Johnson and Mark W. Lockwood for some weeks and haven't posted a review.

Most of our ducks are here in the winter--only a few are present in the summer months. They are an identification challenge for most of us, especially the immatures and females.

When I lived in Virginia I was fortunate enough to bird with a lady who had spent 40 + years banding warblers. She could identify any warbler she saw even a glimpse of immediately. We were birding one day and we came across some ducks. I asked her if she recognized the species and her answer was, "They're ducks." She hadn't spent nearly as much time learning about ducks. However, for those who are interested in learning more about these birds, consider getting this book.

This slender volume is dedicated to the 45 species of ducks, geese and swans that occur in Texas. The book has an interesting and informational profile on each bird, a range map and a bibliography to help those who are looking for more information. If there is one thing I would like to have seen, it would be at least one photo of each bird in flight. That seems to be the way I see them many times and the only photos were of ducks on the water.

Published by Texas A&M University Press, the book is $25 and well worth the addition to your library if you would like to learn more about these fascinating birds. On Amazon, you can get the book for $16.76.

Good birding!