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Good Advanced Field Guide


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The upcoming Princeton field guide has the potential to be superb.While I personally know all the authors, I’ve seen virtually nothing of the guide.

As for KK’s Advanced guide, it’s quite good, though now getting dated.

The primary problem with delving deeply into ID in a field guide is the costs involved in a physical book. I have felt for more than a decade (oddly enough, that’s how long the Princeton guide has been in the works), that the Princeton guide may well be the last excellent hard-copy field guide produced. The technology available today simply screams for an e-guide that can mix illustrations with photos, even videos and sound. Space for text is, essentially, unlimited, enabling deep dives into all sorts of ID issues that are not treated or are poorly treated in physical guides. The future of bird-ID guides is electronic.

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5 hours ago, kansabirdguy said:

Does anyone know if Kaufman's Guide to Advanced Birding is good?

From a beginner perspective, if you have access to a library I'd recommend seeing if they have the two versions of the guide. Each is quite different and you may prefer the style of the one over the other. I think the original (1990 I think?) version of the guide is quite interesting and if you can pick up a cheap used copy it's worth doing so even if you don't end up using it much. Please note that this is a very text-heavy book without many illustrations, but the illustrations that are included are all useful.

4 hours ago, Tony Leukering said:

The technology available today simply screams for an e-guide that can mix illustrations with photos, even videos and sound. Space for text is, essentially, unlimited, enabling deep dives into all sorts of ID issues that are not treated or are poorly treated in physical guides. The future of bird-ID guides is electronic.

I could not agree more, and this is something that will require a major rethink of how the guides are currently done. I find there are elements of physical guides that are not currently translated well into virtual guides due to the way virtual guides are (in my experience always) designed as lists of species accounts rather than as a complete book. So the Sibley app, for instance, doesn't include the really useful sections of the guide that compare appearance and behaviour across species (e.g. hummingbird flight paths, woodpecker drum patterns). But then it also doesn't include the additional information on, say, WCSP subspecies that are available on the website. I think ultimately a fully successful virtual guide would need to include all of these elements, and probably more:

  1. Detailed species accounts including illustrations (not just photos)
  2. An easy way to compare species accounts, profiling those considered similar but not limited to them.
  3. Ways to search birds including Merlin-type search assistance.
  4. Links out to ebird/Macaulay library for photos, sounds, and sightings maps
  5. Reference information and advanced resources for individual species
  6. Those advanced reference resources for groups of species or comparisons between species.
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1 hour ago, PaulK said:
  • An easy way to compare species accounts, profiling those considered similar but not limited to them.

This is the thing I want most, especially if it included sound comparisons too. The allaboutbirds.org comparison pages are useful but leave me wanting something much more.

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I know a lot of people here disagree with the idea that electronic field guides are a good idea.  I happen to think that they are better in many ways, partly for the reasons listed above.  In fact, iBird is my go-to field guide..

Some things that I think could make them better.  Species comparisons including females would be helpful.  Also, as mentioned above, expanded similar sounding species would be nice.

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8 hours ago, Tony Leukering said:

The technology available today simply screams for an e-guide that can mix illustrations with photos, even videos and sound. Space for text is, essentially, unlimited, enabling deep dives into all sorts of ID issues that are not treated or are poorly treated in physical guides. The future of bird-ID guides is electronic.

Birds of the World has some of these features, and is obviously very text heavy.

3 hours ago, PaulK said:

 I think ultimately a fully successful virtual guide would need to include all of these elements, and probably more:

  1. Detailed species accounts including illustrations (not just photos)
  2. An easy way to compare species accounts, profiling those considered similar but not limited to them.
  3. Ways to search birds including Merlin-type search assistance.
  4. Links out to ebird/Macaulay library for photos, sounds, and sightings maps
  5. Reference information and advanced resources for individual species
  6. Those advanced reference resources for groups of species or comparisons between species.

BOW has #4-#6 on this list.

Personally, I think Birds of the World is a FANTASTIC resource. IMO it has room to grow in the media category. It also falls short with regards to illustrations in particular, which is a shame given the amount of amazing bird illustrations there are in guides from all around the world. For example, it would be super cool if there could be a Sibley/Collins Guide element/page to it. The ability to compare the media of two or more species would also be dope.

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4 hours ago, DLecy said:

Personally, I think Birds of the World is a FANTASTIC resource

Wow, I'd never run into this. Thank you! Absolutely fantastic resource, and it includes something else I've been looking for, a good taxonomic index (?) that shows relationships better than the usual guidebook blurb about why falcons are now placed after woodpeckers. Just phenomenal. I've subscribed, and am excited to add it to the pile of resources I don't read as much as I should.

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I'm ready for your 'Okay, Boomer' responses, but

Among the many reasons I endorse a printed guide is because it's a great way to introduce yourself to birds you're not already aware of, and to the relationships between species.  For a beginner, just thumbing through one can reveal species and entire families you may not know exist - grebes, vireos, rails, many passerines.  You can discover the relatively small Least Bittern is closely related to the larger Great Blue Heron; that towhees are oversized sparrows; that there are no 'sea gulls'; or that falcons aren't hawks and swifts aren't swallows.  I'm not talking about intensely studying one either, just keeping it on the coffee table and paging through it during commercials, or in the car when you're waiting on someone (not at the light with the engine running!).

Maybe I'm don't know how to use e-guides effectively but they strike me as great tools =IF= you already have some idea what you're looking for.  I don't see a method to casually familiarize yourself with birds you haven't already seen.  I just know there have been multiple occasions when I've seen a lifer and known immediately what it was, or at least recognized what family it belonged to, because I'd seen it in a guide many times before.

Edited by Charlie Spencer
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45 minutes ago, Charlie Spencer said:

I don't see a method to casually familiarize yourself with birds you haven't already seen. 

Okay, Boomer, here it comes. While I am not a fan of e-guides and prefer my Stokes for browsing through, couldn't someone use an e-guide to flip through the pages/screens and pre-emptively read the same information before they need it on their phone or tablet, just like you and I do with our printed field guides? You asked for it, you got it,  @Charlie Spencer.  :classic_laugh:

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51 minutes ago, Charlie Spencer said:

I'm ready for your 'Okay, Boomer' responses, but

Among the many reasons I endorse a printed guide is because it's a great way to introduce yourself to birds you're not already aware of, and to the relationships between species.  For a beginner, just thumbing through one can reveal species and entire families you may not know exist - grebes, vireos, rails, many passerines.  You can discover the relatively small Least Bittern is closely related to the larger Great Blue Heron; that towhees are oversized sparrows; that there are no 'sea gulls'; or that falcons aren't hawks and swifts aren't swallows.  I'm not talking about intensely studying one either, just keeping it on the coffee table and paging through it during commercials, or in the car when you're waiting on someone (not at the light with the engine running!).

Maybe I'm don't know how to use e-guides effectively but they strike me as great tools =IF= you already have some idea what you're looking for.  I don't see a method to casually familiarize yourself with birds you haven't already seen.  I just know there have been multiple occasions when I've seen a lifer and known immediately what it was, or at least recognized what family it belonged to, because I'd seen it in a guide many times before.

I personally LOVE physical field guides. I have a collection of books for many different countries/regions, and I much prefer a physical guide over an app. However, given the pace of technology, I am excited to see what will be produced! I will always use field guides, but lugging something like the complete Sibley guide around in the field isn’t very fun. I have an app or two for help with bird songs and calls, but I rarely use it for visual IDs. 
(Gen Z/2000’s kid take)

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I'm halfway in between the generational perspectives on offer here. I love physical guides and enjoy flipping through them. While I was a casual birder rather than obsessed, I was really happy to recognize birds I'd only read about in my books. I also find that a physical guide is better when I have absolutely no clue what I'm looking at as it's easier to flip pages than browse through categories in an app or website. 

But I'm excited to see what will emerge as a new electronic model. Whatever gets produced will (hopefully!) end up being something new and combining different types of resources that currently aren't linked in any way. I'm not going to lug around a copy of the Sibley Guide to Bird Life and Behaviour, but it's really exciting to imagine a guidebook including *optional & integrated* reference back to that type of detailed information for species in a way that's simply impossible for a physical guide.

It's also exciting to think that an electronic guide is something that will always be in my pocket, and the potential that a fully searchable guide could have. As an example, thinking as a more beginning birder here, I know that some birds have specific behaviours like bobbing their tails, but I don't know which ones, so being able to search/filter on that along with the usual static identification methods is really exciting. I think whatever emerges here isn't going to be the same type of guidebook as what we have now. And I'm never going to give up my printed guide.

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40 minutes ago, lonestranger said:

couldn't someone use an e-guide to flip through the pages/screens and pre-emptively read the same information before they need it on their phone or tablet,

I don't know, could they?  I admitted to not knowing the most effective way to use an e-guide.  My experience is limited to Merlin.  I don't see an easy way to go directly from one bird to the next without back to to the 'Table of Contents' first, but that doesn't mean there isn't one.  

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52 minutes ago, Charlie Spencer said:

I don't know, could they?  I admitted to not knowing the most effective way to use an e-guide.  My experience is limited to Merlin.  I don't see an easy way to go directly from one bird to the next without back to to the 'Table of Contents' first, but that doesn't mean there isn't one.  

I honestly don't know if they could or not, my experience is limited to iBird Pro. I will say that the app does allow me to easily reference all aspects of similar species while viewing a single bird, which is kind of what I do when flipping through the printed guide. I guess I visualize an e-guide as an e-book read on a tablet and although I have never used one, I would think they would have some form of page turning mechanism built into them. Maybe something as simple as swiping the screen in one direction to go forward a page and swiping another direction to go back a page. I don't think it really matters to either of us since it's not likely you or I will be at the front of the line when the next big digital guide comes out. :classic_laugh:

Now if you'll excuse me, I think I will check to see how much my Monkees lunch box and Marsha Brady poster are worth on ebay today. 

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2 minutes ago, lonestranger said:

Maybe something as simple as swiping the screen in one direction to go forward a page and swiping another direction to go back a page.

I tried that but it changes pictures of the current bird, not from one bird to the next.

I have Merlin on both my iPhone and Samsung / Android tablet.  While I don't have them both with me, I looked at the phone app in a bit more detail today.  Oddly, I think the phone app has more extensive descriptive text than the tablet app, though the tablet clearly has more screen space.  I could be mis-remembering.

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5 hours ago, Charlie Spencer said:

I'm ready for your 'Okay, Boomer' responses, but

Among the many reasons I endorse a printed guide is because it's a great way to introduce yourself to birds you're not already aware of, and to the relationships between species.  For a beginner, just thumbing through one can reveal species and entire families you may not know exist - grebes, vireos, rails, many passerines.  You can discover the relatively small Least Bittern is closely related to the larger Great Blue Heron; that towhees are oversized sparrows; that there are no 'sea gulls'; or that falcons aren't hawks and swifts aren't swallows.  I'm not talking about intensely studying one either, just keeping it on the coffee table and paging through it during commercials, or in the car when you're waiting on someone (not at the light with the engine running!).

Maybe I'm don't know how to use e-guides effectively but they strike me as great tools =IF= you already have some idea what you're looking for.  I don't see a method to casually familiarize yourself with birds you haven't already seen.  I just know there have been multiple occasions when I've seen a lifer and known immediately what it was, or at least recognized what family it belonged to, because I'd seen it in a guide many times before.

Charlie,  I'm older than you (barely young enough to be called Boomer), and if I'm remembering correctly, spent my career in a similar profession.  In general, I agree with what you've said here.  E-guides are not ready to replace paper guides.  I have several (one for the car, one for the truck, one for the coffee table, and several other books and guides, including Crossley.

However, there are things that iBird does for me that my paper guides don't or can't.  For instance:

I can change the presentation from a sort of first or last name, or to family (either alphabetic or taxonomic sequence)

I can change the view mode to compact (just a list of the birds), or icon, or thumbnail (like icon except that there is a description of the bird right in the list), or gallery (either head shot or full body).

Once I've chosen a bird to look at, I can see drawings (is different life stages, with or without field marks), or look at photos.  If I happen to have internet access I can look at pictures on Flickr.

I can call up a page of sounds and listen to song variations, flight calls, alarm calls, and call notes.

I can call up a page of similar birds, and switch over to another choice if that looks better or I want to compare, and switch back if I want.

 

There are pages for everything that my paper guides have, usually more extensive.  These include range maps, behavior information, identity info, various facts, ecology info, full family information, nesting facts, an encyclopedia page.  I can even add my own photos and make notes (I don't do these things.

I realize that some of these things don't mean much without seeing them, but you get the general idea.  If I'm going to sit around in my recliner and casually read about birds, it wouldn't likely be with this app, but for research, this is better for me.

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  • 1 month later...
On 5/20/2021 at 1:28 PM, Charlie Spencer said:

I don't know, could they?  I admitted to not knowing the most effective way to use an e-guide.  My experience is limited to Merlin.  I don't see an easy way to go directly from one bird to the next without back to to the 'Table of Contents' first, but that doesn't mean there isn't one.  

 

On 5/20/2021 at 2:49 PM, lonestranger said:

I honestly don't know if they could or not, my experience is limited to iBird Pro.

What I envision is an entirely new paradigm to how field ID is presented in e format. Some of the features that are possible are included in one or more such e-guides, but too many of such are still thinking too much inside the hard-copy box. I can almost imagine what I foresee coming, but I just don't know the tech anywhere near well enough to know what we can do now and what we will probably be able to do in the short-term future. We need some bright Young Turk fanatic birder with in-depth knowledge of current and soon-to-be tech. When it comes out, it will be incredible!

The downside, however, of the future of bird-ID guides is something that I already see happening and that Pete Dunne addressed in an essay about the future of hawk watching. I don't recall the title of the essay or in which book it was printed, but it predicted the decline of hawk-ID skills due to ID tech that made correct IDs at hawk counts. Crutches are good... in certain situations and in moderation.

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  • 1 month later...

I’m finding that a lot of the bird sounds on the well known apps have been recorded in NY or Colorado. I live in BC and dialects are generally different. I’m using Macaulay lab info, trying to find recordings from my area. Fortunately it’s been getting easier as locals are submitting recordings. Books, started there, love them still. They have drips and drabs of info not seen in apps. 
I’ll admit to a huge frustration over iBird’s lack of detail on female Williamson’s Sapsucker. It’s a dimorphic species. At least they added a description of the female. Sigh. 
 

Off Topic.  Anyone know why recordings are silenced on iBird? 
 

 

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16 hours ago, Ceylon said:

@JP48

I’ve tried to play a recording and got zero sound on some recordings and good recordings on other samples. This was on a variety of species. 

I haven't had that problem, except that some of the birds just plain sing out of my range of hearing.  For instance, I was once helping my son lead a bird walk for a group of beginning birders.  He was trying to describe for them the song of a Cedar Waxwing, and I said "actually they're silent".  Some of the older people in the group understood.

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