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American Birding Association State Field Guides: Colorado, New Jersey, Florida

I’m happy to report that I’ll now be contributing book reviews to the Nature Travel Network, in addition to this site. My first is now up, a look at the first three entries in the American Birding Association State Field Guide series (Colorado, New Jersey, and Florida)

The BirdsEye Bird Finding app is already one of the most useful mobile apps for birders, allowing you to access eBird data on-the-go and find birds and hotspots near you. But the BirdsEye team has been steadily improving the app and adding new features. They’ve recently announced the availability of additional sound packages for many regions of the world.

The Sounds

BirdEye has partnered with birdsounds.nl, a company that has produced many highly acclaimed bird sound collections. The collections available in the BirdsEye app are:

  • Peru
  • Colombia
  • Venezuela
  • Brazil
  • Costa Rica
  • Nicaragua
  • Northern Siberia
  • Sri Lanka
  • Australia
  • Belgium and Holland

These things are extensive! Costa Rica, for example, includes 2,061 recordings of 764 species (over 15 hours’ worth), while Colombia has 5,500+ recordings of over 1,600 species (46 hours!). Altogether, they average 2-3 sounds per species, but some birds have many more than that if warranted. I’ve barely scratched the surface of all the sounds available, but the ones I’ve listened to sound great.

Using the Sounds

You play the sounds from each bird’s species page. The easiest way to access those is to use the Nearby Birds or Browse All Species functions from the home screen. You can also get to them from the bird lists for each hotspot.

Even with these options, I felt that something was missing. I wanted a way to view and play all of the sounds from a given package, but just the ones from that package. I finally discovered a way to do so. Go back to the Bird Guide Store, tap on a package you’ve purchased, then go to the Bird List. Tapping on the names here will take you to the Species Account page where you can play the sound.

Playing the sounds is very simple – just tap on the speaker icon at the bottom of the species page. That brings up a list of all the sounds for that species across all the packages that you own. Then just tap on the sound that you want to play. Note that if you’ve downloaded the sounds for offline use that the topmost one starts playing automatically when you tap the speaker icon. That could be problematic depending on where you are and what you’re doing (it could potentially scare away a bird), but that’s easy to deal with if you’re prepared for it.

BirdsEye species account screen

Tapping the speaker icon on the bottom-left of a bird's page...

BirdsEye sound playback screen

...gives you the sound playback screen in BirdsEye.

This interface is a little too simple for my taste. From the screen you can only switch sounds, pause, or close the list. You cannot skip ahead or backwards within the track or set it to repeat. Also, a progress bar appears when playing, but it would be nice to have the total time and time elapsed displayed as well. Finally, the sounds are labelled as “song” or “call”. Rarely, further information is displayed, like “Pacific” or “Caribbean”, but it would be nice if this was done on a more consistent basis.

Getting the Sounds

BirdsEye sound packagesYou can purchase the sound packages either from the BirdsEye website or directly in the main BirdsEye app or the BirdsEye North America app (they are not available in the other regional apps) by going to the Bird Guide Store from the app home screen. From there, you can find extensive details on each package, including the list of birds included. Once you purchase the package, the sounds are instantly available within the app over the cloud (provided you’re connected to the internet, of course). Alternatively, you can download the whole package, which I would recommend if you’ll be traveling as you may not always have a reliable network connection. If you later need the space back, you can easily clear the data within the app without worry, because you can download the packages as many times as you want and from any device that you own.

BirdsEye sound package info BirdsEye sound package bird list

However, there’s one catch. You have the sounds, but you need to be able to access those species in BirdsEye. To do that, you need to have either a membership subscription ($4.99 or $9.99/month) or the appropriate regional app. For instance, if you purchase the Bird Sounds of Peru collection, you need to make sure that you also have access to Peruvian birds either through a membership or purchase of BirdsEye South America. Update: This is not the case. I’ve been informed that when you purchase a sound package, you also get full access and content for those birds in the app.

That’s not very straightforward, but this process is going to be made more user-friendly soon. Shortly, the main BirdsEye app will become free and will give you access to the 50 most common species anywhere you are on the planet. (The newly released Android version of BirdsEye already does this.) Then there will be several options to see more species:

  1. Purchasing a membership will give you eBird data and BirdsEye content (photos and text where available) for all of the species on Earth as well as unlimited favorite locations
  2. Purchasing a region will give you eBird data and BirdsEye content for all of the species in that region
  3. Purchasing a sound pack will give you access to that content, plus eBird data and BirdsEye content for all of those species

These sound packages are a great addition to an already useful app. If you’re going to be birding any of these regions, they’re a great way to have the bird sounds always at your fingertips. I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you how important that is. These packages aren’t cheap ($24.99-$49.49 each), but they’re a good deal considering how many recordings you get. And purchasing them through BirdsEye is actually cheaper than getting them on discs, and much more convenient.

Disclosure: These sound packages were provided by the publisher for review purposes. But the opinion expressed here is my own, it has not been influenced in any way.

Birds of Australia Photographic GuideBirds of Australia: A Photographic Guide
by Iain Campbell, Sam Woods, and Nick Leseberg

From Princeton University Press:

Australia is home to a spectacular diversity of birdlife, from parrots and penguins to emus and vibrant passerines. Birds of Australia covers all 714 species of resident birds and regularly occurring migrants and features more than 1,100 stunning color photographs, including many photos of subspecies and plumage variations never before seen in a field guide. Detailed facing-page species accounts describe key identification features such as size, plumage, distribution, behavior, and voice. This one-of-a-kind guide also provides extensive habitat descriptions with a large number of accompanying photos. The text relies on the very latest IOC taxonomy and the distribution maps incorporate the most current mapping data, making this the most up-to-date guide to Australian birds.

  • Covers all 714 species of resident birds and regularly occurring migrants
  • Features more than 1,100 stunning color photos
  • Includes facing-page species accounts, habitat descriptions, and distribution maps
  • The ideal photographic guide for beginners and seasoned birders alike

 

A little big to carry into the field, but lots of nice photos make this an excellent photographic reference/secondary field guide for Australia.

 

Birds of Australia: A Photographic Guide
by Iain Campbell, Sam Woods, and Nick Leseberg
Paperback; 392 pages
Princeton University Press; November 9, 2014
ISBN: 978-0691157276
$35.00

When Eagles Roar: The Amazing Journey of an African Wildlife AdventurerWhen Eagles Roar: The Amazing Journey of an African Wildlife Adventurer
by James Alexander Currie, with Bonnie J. Fladung

From Ukhozi Press:

Follow the daring safari of James Currie as his love of birds, fascination with wildlife and craving for adventure lead him into humorous and life threatening situations. James captures the essence of what it means to be African today, facing everything from the Big Five to the vestiges of apartheid to the AIDS epidemic. He provides authoritative information on African wildlife and illustrates hair-raising encounters with lions, buffalo, leopards, elephants, rhinoceros and snakes through exciting and humorous stories. The book follows James’s journey from city boy to conservationist and shows what it takes to become an African game ranger. From his first graphic encounter with the brutality of nature on Table Mountain in South Africa to his disappearance as a boy on safari in Malawi to the rigorous training he underwent to become a game ranger at Phinda Private Game Reserve, this book will delight and educate anyone fascinated with nature, wildlife, travel and adventure. James provides wonderful insights into African conservation and a fascinating glimpse into the importance of cross-cultural relationships in Africa’s wildlife tourism environment. He details his own inner journey overcoming physical challenges and finding the balance between following passions and what’s important in life.

 

This memoir, from the host of Birding Adventures TV, is one of the best books I’ve read this year.

 

When Eagles Roar: The Amazing Journey of an African Wildlife Adventurer
by James Alexander Currie, with Bonnie J. Fladung
Paperback; 312 pages
Ukhozi Press; September 27, 2014
ISBN: 978-0990766001
$15.95

Birds of New Guinea 2nd EditionBirds of New Guinea: Second Edition
by Thane K. Pratt and Bruce M. Beehler

From Princeton University Press:

This is the completely revised edition of the essential field guide to the birds of New Guinea. The world’s largest tropical island, New Guinea boasts a spectacular avifauna characterized by cassowaries, megapodes, pigeons, parrots, cuckoos, kingfishers, and owlet-nightjars, as well as an exceptionally diverse assemblage of songbirds such as the iconic birds of paradise and bowerbirds. Birds of New Guinea is the only guide to cover all 780 bird species reported in the area, including 366 endemics. Expanding its coverage with 111 vibrant color plates–twice as many as the first edition–and the addition of 635 range maps, the book also contains updated species accounts with new information about identification, voice, habits, and range. A must-have for everyone from ecotourists to field researchers, Birds of New Guinea remains an indispensable guide to the diverse birds of this remarkable region.

  • 780 bird species, including 366 found nowhere else
  • 111 stunning color plates, twice the number of the first edition
  • Expanded and updated species accounts provide details on identification, voice, habits, and range
  • 635 range maps
  • Revised classification of birds reflects the latest research

 

The first edition of this guide was published almost 30 years ago and, long out-of-print, was commanding big bucks. Needless to say, this new edition has been much anticipated. If you’re lucky enough to go birding in New Guinea, you’ll want this field guide.

 

Birds of New Guinea: Second Edition
by Thane K. Pratt and Bruce M. Beehler
Paperback; 528 pages
Princeton University Press; October 1, 2014
ISBN: 978-0691095639
$49.50

Birds of Western Africa 2nd EditionBirds of Western Africa: Second Edition
by Nik Borrow and Ron Demey

From Princeton University Press:

This revised and expanded edition of Birds of Western Africa is now the most up-to-date field guide available to the 1,285 species of birds found in the region–from Senegal and southern Mauritania east to Chad and the Central African Republic and south to Congo. It now features all maps and text opposite the plates for quick and easy reference. The comprehensive species accounts have been fully updated and expanded, and the color distribution maps have been completely revised. This premier guide also includes more than 3,000 illustrations on 266 stunning color plates.

Compact and lightweight, this new edition of Birds of Western Africa is the must-have field guide to one of the most exciting birding regions in the world.

  • The premier field guide to West African birds–now completely revised and expanded
  • Covers all 1,285 species found in the region
  • Features fully updated maps and text opposite the plates for easy reference

 

The timing of this new edition could be better – I doubt many birders are going to this region right now. Hopefully, this horrible Ebola outbreak will be over soon. And when it is, this looks like a good field guide to have for the region.

 

Birds of Western Africa: Second Edition
by Nik Borrow and Ron Demey
Paperback; 592 pages
Princeton University Press; October 26, 2014
ISBN: 978-0691159201
$45.00

The Stokes Essential Pocket Guide to the Birds of North AmericaThe Stokes Essential Pocket Guide to the Birds of North America
by Donald and Lillian Stokes

From Little, Brown and Company:

A new landmark in nature guides: the most authoritative, beautiful, and useful national pocket guide to birds.

Pocket-size, brilliantly colorful, and easy to use, THE STOKES ESSENTIAL POCKET GUIDE TO THE BIRDS OF NORTH AMERICA contains everything you need to identify and enjoy birds in your backyard and beyond. Whether you’re age 9 or 90, whether you’re a novice or advanced birder, this book will help you identify birds quickly and accurately. It offers more than 580 stunning color photographs, coverage of more than 250 species, key identification clues, descriptions of songs and calls, notes on feeding and nesting behavior, advice on selecting bird feeders and binoculars, important behavioral information and key habitat preferences, and up-to-date range maps.

The culmination of many years of research, observation, and study, this book is factually, visually, and organizationally superior to any other beginner’s guide on the market.

 

Large, stunning photographs highlight this new compact field guide, but it also has lots of useful information for new and budding birders.

 

The Stokes Essential Pocket Guide to the Birds of North America
by Donald and Lillian Stokes
Paperback; 288 pages
Little, Brown and Company; October 14, 2014
ISBN: 978-0316010511
$15.00

Ducks, Geese, and Swans of North AmericaDucks, Geese, and Swans of North America
by Guy Baldassarre

From Johns Hopkins University Press:

Ducks, Geese, and Swans of North America has been hailed as a classic since the first edition was published in 1942. A must-have for professional biologists, birders, waterfowl hunters, decoy collectors, and wildlife managers, this fully revised and updated edition provides definitive information on the continent’s forty-six species. Maps of both winter and breeding ranges are presented with stunning images by top waterfowl photographers and the acclaimed original artwork of Robert W. Bob) Hines. Originally authored by F. H. Kortright and later revised by Frank Bellrose, this latest edition, which has been meticulously updated by renowned waterfowl biologist Guy Baldassarre, continues the legacy of esteemed authors. Each species account contains in-depth sections on: • identification• distribution• migration behavior• habitat• population status• breeding biology• rearing of young• recruitment and survival• food habits and feeding ecology • molts and plumages• conservation and management To facilitate identification, the species accounts also include detailed illustrations of wings. An appendix contains comparative illustrations of ducklings, goslings, and cygnets. This edition of Ducks, Geese, and Swans consists of two volumes, printed in full color, and packaged in a slipcase, along with a CD containing references and additional maps.

 

Wow, this thing is huge! This is a two-volume set, housed in a slipcase. Each of the hardcover books is large and looks great. Its focus isn’t identification (although it does cover that and has lots of photos and some great artwork), but does have just about anything you would want to know about this group of birds.

Preview an excerpt of Ducks, Geese, and Swans of North America

 

Ducks, Geese, and Swans of North America
by Guy Baldassarre
Hardcover; 1088 pages
Johns Hopkins University Press; September 24, 2014
ISBN: 978-1421407517
$69.95

The World of BirdsThe World of Birds
by Jonathan Elphick

From Firefly Books:

The ultimate illustrated, authoritative reference to the avian world.

Written by a highly regarded ornithologist and natural history expert and sumptuously illustrated throughout with photographs and illustrations, The World of Birds is a comprehensive and authoritative guide to every aspect of bird life and a concise survey of the world’s orders and families.

Jonathan Elphick begins by defining the distinguishing features of birds before going on to describe their evolution since the age of the dinosaurs. With the aid of fact boxes and clear photographs, he then explores in greater detail each of the significant elements of bird life.

Topics include:

  • bird biology including anatomy, walking and swimming, plumage, calls and songs
  • flight techniques and styles
  • food and feeding
  • bird lifestyles and social relationships
  • breeding, growth and development
  • bird geography and habitats
  • the mysteries of migration

He also considers human attitudes towards birds through the ages.

The book contains a comprehensive survey of the world’s birds (including extinct species), detailing every one of the 29 orders and each of the approximately 200 families. Reflecting the latest classification changes to the Howard and Moore Complete Checklist of the Birds of the World, it explains how birds are classified and provides an outline of the system of classification.

With special photography from award-winning wildlife photographer David Tipling, this book is a unique insight into the world of birds and essential reading for all ornithologists, bird watchers and natural history enthusiasts.

 

Wow, this book contains a LOT of information. The first part is a mini-course in ornithology, while the second provides an overview of the world’s birds at the order and family level.

 

The World of Birds
by Jonathan Elphick
Hardcover; 608 pages
Firefly Books; September 11, 2014
ISBN: 978-1770853041
$75.00

HummingbirdsHummingbirds
by Ronald I. Orenstein, with photographs by Michael and Patricia Fogden

From Firefly Books:

A comprehensive natural history of nature’s smallest bird species.

The tiny hummingbird has long been a source of fascination for birdwatchers and naturalists alike. They number 300 species and Ronald Orenstein has a passion for all of them.

Hummingbirds are the smallest birds in the world. A hummingbird egg is the size of a pea, barely, and the chick that emerges will be smaller than a penny, if that. But these tiny birds pack a powerful engine: a hummingbird’s heart beats more than 1,200 times per minute.

Nicknamed the “avian helicopter”, a hummingbird’s wings beat from 70 times per second in direct flight, to more than 200 times per second when diving. Not surprisingly, that whirlwind of wing power creates a humming sound. To fuel such energy, hummingbirds must eat as much as eight times their body weight on a daily basis, which means visiting an average of 1,000 flowers — every day — to get enough nectar.

Hummingbirds are found in North and South America, with the greatest number in Ecuador, although some species breed as far north as Canada. Most species migrate from Mexico to Alaska, a distance of more than 5,000 miles.

In this book Orenstein covers all aspects of hummingbird natural history, their relationship with the plants on which they feed, the miracle of their flight, their elaborate social life and nesting behavior, and their renowned feats of migration.

More than 170 color photographs of these magnificent creatures, taken in the wild, adorn the pages of Hummingbirds. Birders and natural history readers alike will gain new insight into the tiny bird and revel in the stunning images.

 

In the first third of this book, Orenstein focuses his text on what makes hummingbirds unique, with emphasis on recent discoveries. The remainder of the book is a portfolio of photos by the Fogdens, probably the world’s preeminent hummingbird photographers. There are 200 photos of 70 hummingbird species, and they are amazing. The book isn’t perfect (I wish there had been more variety in the photographed species), but this is easily the most spectacular collection of hummingbird pictures that I’ve seen.

 

Hummingbirds
by Ronald I. Orenstein
Hardcover; 256 pages
Firefly Books; September 11, 2014
ISBN: 978-1770854000
$35.00