I've watched this correspondence with interest and now dive in where the
proverbial angels fear to tread.
As one who is still wearing 'L' plates (yes, there is actually the occasional
learner who is brave/foolhardy enough to be on the expert BIRDING-AUS list -
though I might *just* claim 'P' plates but had better not), I truly can't
imagine going bird-watching without a Field Guide in my pocket - and I note
that, when I go out, several true experts also carry one (battered - and
usually Slater), and that others of many levels of expertise (invariably
superior to me) are not too proud to avail themselves from time to time of
field guide info if they haven't brought their own guide along.
And as, being not so young nowadays, I can no longer cope with loads (despite
all those early bushwalking carrying years), that means for me a true *pocket*
field guide i.e. Slater. And yes, I have another field guide (currently
Morecambe) in the car - and others at home (which I always consult later). As
for back-packs, I'd happily carry one - even one with inbuilt chair (won't get
into the chair-bird-watching debate) - if I felt comfortable doing so (which,
weight-wise, I now don't), so I stuff everything into such pockets as I have
(hoping that Slater and water will fit) and leave behind what won't go!
My objection to load also means that I use very light, one-hand focussing, bins
- in my case, 10x25 Nikon, several years old - and, from experience, they come
*very* highly recommended by me.
But how, without a field guide in hand, is a learner to identify, or imprint on
his/her memory, a bird? Think of all the negative info, and the struggle to
lose that info later, one might imprint on oneself (while one draws a picture
and writes a description as recommended) without the *correct* info to hand -
reinforcement of *correct* info is the very best of learning mechanisms!! I
don't think that using a Field Guide produces a case of wishful thinking in
identifying birds (as has been suggested) but that it is rather a case of
reality taking over (courtesy of reading the field guide) from what one might
wishfully have hoped one had seen but had not.
For twitchers (Oz/Pom/whatever), it's fine if you want to leave your Field
Guides home in order to increase your challenge if this is seen as a sort of
game (like, for expert aficionado's, crosswords without clues, or unpatterned
jigsaws - and I appreciate both of these), but birdo beginners, and birdo
learners of all abilities, are in a different category! I want to learn what
it is that I have seen and I want to be able to identify it next time. So a
Field Guide is my bible and I always take one into the field and will continue
to do so.
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