Reviews of Two New Birding Related Books from Princeton University Press

This article reviews two relatively new books from Princeton University Press, AVIAN ARCHITECTURE and CROSSLEY ID GUIDE. Both are, at this time, deservedly Amazon Bestsellers - Birdwatching.

Click on the linked book titles to find customer and editorial reviews and purchase information.

Avian Architecture: How Birds Design, Engineer, and Build By Peter Goodfellow

Summary: The strong point of the book is the many terrific illustrations and photographs that skillfully convey the details of a bird's nest building activities. It covers the many different approaches that birds around the world use for their nests. The information presented by this book will certainly add to your knowledge, and also perhaps your appreciation for birds.





One day recently while browsing the Amazon Movers & Shakers List, I was amazed to come across this book. I would never had guessed that people would be so interested in bird's nests and nest building activities. But the book is so well done, that I can see where the whole panoply of people who enjoy birds - from backyard birders to the legions of serious amateur birdwatchers to professionals - would want to have this book in their library.

The book is organized around the various approaches that birds around the world use towards their nests. There are a dozen chapters that reflect the different designs, as seen in this Table of Contents image:




I will use Chapter 5, Cup-Shaped Nests, as an example of how this book presents it's information. To begin with the chapter starts with a Section entitled Blueprints, that contains diagrams, with dimensions, (i.e. analogous to architectural blueprints) of cup-shaped nests:



It then discusses, with diagrams, some of the variety that exists amongst this type of nest. In this case, the Waterside Woven Cup of the Red-winged Blackbird(above) is joined by Cup of Hinged Beams, and Wine Glass (below).




Next comes a section entitled Materials and Features that uses the nest of the Ruby-throated Hummingbird to provide details. Notice the "engineering aspect" as shown in the lower right hand corner of the image below, that discusses the use of spider silk by the bird. It says this material is "a protein fiber that has a relatively higher tensile strength than the steel cable typically used on suspension bridges,and is on a par with Kevlar fibers used to make bulletproof vests." Amazing... 



Then comes a section on Cup Forming Techniques where the details of construction are displayed by an excellent series of illustrations:







The chapter concludes with four Case Studies - the following images illustrate the Yellow Warbler case study, but the chapter also has material on the Common Chaffinch, American Robin, and Carrion Crow. This section further fills in the details of the discussion of cup-shaped nests with subsections on Nest and nest site, Eggs and young, and Predators and parasitism.





The information in this book would be of interest to a bird lover wanting to add to their knowledge, and perhaps to design people and engineers as well.

The Crossley ID Guide: Eastern Birds By Richard Crossley 

Summary:  A book that presents a new approach to birding, termed "reality birding", and succeeds impressively. This approach is "photo-centric" in the sense  that a montage of digital photos are combined together to portray the bird in its typical natural setting, and from differing angles and distances. It also shows the different plumages of the sexes and juveniles. This photo montage along with the accompanying text comprise the identification material for the 640 species of Eastern North American birds found in the book. I find the book to be a spectacular addition to birding literature, as I predict that it will provide literally an unending experience of knowledge and joy to anyone who loves birding. A very fun book to have in one's library...



Back in May, 1988 I went on a birding trip to SE Arizona, a well documented hotspot. On the very first day out, while driving to a birding site, I saw a Rose-throated Becard on an overhead wire. I was ecstatic to see this beautiful life-lister, and it generated thoughts of "Wow, what a great bird right out of the chute - I am stoked about this trip". I mention this story because these are the types of feelings I experienced upon first leafing through this book!

This book is based around digital photographs and digital photography technology and introduces the concept of "reality birding". This approach is "photo-centric" in the sense  that a montage of digital photos are combined together to portray the bird in its typical natural setting, and from differing angles and distances. This photo montage along with the accompanying text comprise the identification material for the 640 species of Eastern North American birds found in the book. It is a truly impressive collection of around 10,000 digital photographs. I will use two birds - the Northern Waterthrush (NOWA) and the Louisiana Waterthrush (LOWA) - to illustrate the concept. 

In the images from the book below you can see NOWA and LOWA shown in their typical streamside habitat. If you look closely you can see each of the birds at differing distances and angles, and even in flight. Accompanying the photo montage is descriptive text (with identification features such as size and "field marks") and a range map. 

LOWA


NOWA


These two birds are similar and require close inspection to correctly identify. There are several field marks, But an important distinguishing field mark for the birds are the stripes on the breast: in LOWA they are discontinuous, more triangular and isolated whereas in NOWA they tend to be bold and continuous. Notice in the left hand middle of the photo montages for each bird, the photo that clearly shows this contrasting feature in NOWA and LOWA. What a lot of work it must have been to put these digital images together - well done!

I grew up on the Roger Tory Peterson "field marks" system - my first field guide (which I still have) was his 1947 Field Guide to Eastern Birds. This system was considered revolutionary - they used to shoot the birds to identify them - and it was based around RTP's marvelous drawings. Fast forward about 80 years or so and we have another revolutionary book - this one based around the technology of digital photography. 

I actually do not intend to use this book as a field guide - it is definitely larger and heavier than typical field guides, but I have a jumbo sized fanny pack that could accommodate it if I really wanted. I do not want to take it into the field for fear of ruining it. I want to keep it nice so I can study it and learn, learn, learn from it. When I was a kid I used to learn by sitting and looking over and over at bird related books including a book of wonderful bird photographs called National Geographic Guide to the Song and Garden Birds of North America (1964). Now, almost 50 years later, I will be doing the same thing another marvelous book of bird photographs - the Crossly ID Guide.

As if I didn't have enough reasons to love this book it even has a Northern Cardinal on the cover and I <3 Cardinals. I will close this book review with a great photograph of this beautiful bird - it seems appropriate.



Northern Cardinals, Cardinalis Cardinalis, Food Exchange During the Breeding Season. Eastern USA




Northern Cardinals, Cardinalis Cardinalis, Food Exchange During the Breeding Season. Eastern USA


Cornell, John


16 in. x 12 in.

Buy This Allposters.com


Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Strikingly Beautiful Birds - Falcons

Book Review - BETTER BIRDING: Tips, Tools, & Concepts for the Field

"Coming home to a place he'd never been before"