I would like to offer a 'latest opinion' on the value and use of the
celebrated 'Chambers', if I may.
I have just returned this week from a three week solo driving birding
holiday in NZ. When I set off I determined I was interested in the
endemics and natives. I have seen most of the introduced species
elsewhere and was happy to catch up on them whenever, but not actively
seek them out.
I have to admit - I borrowed a copy of 'Chambers' and feel guilty now
that I didn't purchase my own.
I had read the emailed comments regarding the book prior to going and it
was with some trepidation that I began to refer to it, as, according to
some commentators, it was 'out of date' and 'unreliable'.
I have to say that I found both these comments incorrect in the main
and, using the book the way I suspect Mr C intended, found it extremely
useful and accurate.
As a visitor I had no way of knowing where possible birding spots may be
located and in NZ there is a lot of cleared and private land limiting
the birding spots considerably. I accepted - as we all should - that
when someone says 'Yellowhead may be found here" one does not take it
literally. Where would be the challenge if it was so? Would any of you
out there guarantee a specific bird at a specific spot on a specific
day? I think not! What I did find was the book accurately described
birding 'spots' and how to get there. I could then decide whether it was
worth the trip or not. in most cases I located the 'spot' quickly and
easily and then commenced looking for the bird or birds. I was not
always successfull, but did have some luck along the way. For example I
found Gertrude Valley and walked in for an hour or so looking for Rock
Wren - no luck, but I could see I was in the right environment, it just
wasn't to be my day. (the little bugger still eludes me!)
If I had a problem with the information the only thing I would like to
see added would be some detail on distance. Let me use Rock Wren as an
I went to Glenorchy and drove to the end of the Routeburn Track as
described - it would have helped to know it was 26 kms from Glenorchy
and 18 of those were unsealed. The book description is as follows "Soon
after crossing the river Rock Wrens may be encountered in rock garden
areas when weather is good". I crossed the suspension bridge and walked
thru the forest for about 20 minutes wondering when 'soon' would come! I
was not prepared for a hike in rough, relatively remote, terrain so
returned to the car park and checked the map board (maybe I should have
done so before I set out, however...). From what I could see the
earliest exposed rock gardens were about one and a half hour's walk in.
I know that that distance may be 'soon' if you're walking the whole 4
day track, but it's not really 'soon' if you are dropping in to try to
find a bird! At this stage I was not prepared to devote 4+ hours to a
walk so I abandoned the search and moved on. Please understand this is
not a negative, but possibly a suggested improvement? If I had known
what was involved I would have been able to make a decision earlier and
may not have gone to Glenorchy at all, however, I probably would have
given it a go and may have been successfull. Still with Rock Wren (!) I
went to Arthur's Pass and tried to find the track to Lake Misery. "After
the top of the Pass look for a pull-in area on the left with an
information board and map for Lake Misery" (the description then
contains walking times and advice) I drove over the pass twice and went
half way down the Otira gorge (western) side looking for Lake Misery and
never did find it! I was starting to run out of fuel by the time I gave
up and at $1.38 a litre in the Pass had to accept defeat. I wonder how
far past the top of the Pass it was? or did I just miss it somehow? (I
tried Dobson's Nature walk with no success).
As I said these examples should not be construed as an overall lack of
information. The book is full of great stuff and when (not if, when!) I
go again I'll get my own copy. Promise!
(Incidentally I did end up with 49 lifers and a total list of 102
species which I was very happy with and I am writing a trip report for
those who may be interested)
Thanks again, Stuart, for your work and the help it gave me and I hope
you feel you can offer your assitance to any future work of this type.
(Alison - I didn't get to Pureora forest, I'm afraid, I took a wrong
turn and ended up at Kuratau Junction instead so I don't know what
colour the NI Kakas are! Maybe next time!)
"So many birds, so little time...."
On Mon, 16 May 2005 20:36:52 +1200, "S and A Chambers"
> Dear Birders
> I enjoyed the discussion on my Locality Guide. Feedback is a
> rare commodity for a writer. Although not perfect the overall
> impression I got from the discussion was that it had filled the
> vacuum meantime until something more modern and up to date came
> The history of my book stems from when I started taking
> organised birdwatching tours of NZ in the 1970s and early 80s.
> An American friend suggested I should write such a book as he
> felt the bird tour would eventually die out as people started
> doing their own thing. He offered to publish it.
> It was his and my view that 'gungho' birders, to use his
> terminolgy, wanted to find their own species. They wanted to
> fill their own lists. They weren't so interested in itineraries
> which catered for everyone. Hence we decided to put the book
> together in the format it is, to cater for that. At the time it
> was aimed at Americans.
> As Andrew Crossland rightly pointed out in the discussion of it,
> if it is Yellowhead they want, well then that is all they want.
> So the book was so structured to meet this need. My friend also
> wanted everything about NZ birds in the one package. Birders
> don't easily open their wallets, he said. They will buy one book
> but even that they do reluctantly, a thing I had observed on my
> tours in the seventies when I provided the only field guide in
> the bus.
> So a quick field guide was added to the localities and the book
> became the total package.
> Prior to my book there had been the Ross McKenzie book. Ross's
> book had been a modest seller. Many were remaindered and it
> never went to a reprint. Ross's book was an AA guide with a few
> pics thrown in and a certain amount of Maori folklore to make it
> big enough to look like a book. It was extremely useful for
> those wanting to find birds but had little coffee table appeal.
> Hence it was hard to sell.
> My aim was to present something that the wider market would buy
> and I have always been especially interested in encouraging
> people to birds and to help them to get to know them. So colour
> pictures were added and other details that 'gungho' didntt need
> but learner did.
> The end result has been a steady seller to a stage where the
> last of the second run are almost gone - and when they do 7000
> will have been sold.
> The expense involved in publishing it though has been enormous.
> My publisher pulled out in the end leaving it over to me. The
> financial return to me has been minimal. Because of the
> production cost being so high, short cuts were taken and that is
> the main reason why the second edition has tended to fall to
> pieces. In order to save money we dispensed with binding and had
> it perfect bound.
> The time has come though for a new edition and people on the
> Birding Group seem to want one too, although I wonder why when
> most seem to know all the birding spots and the internet fills
> the gaps.
> That is why if another one is contemplated it basically has to
> follow the formatt I set up. If it only appeals to the twitcher
> and not everyone, no publisher will want to bother with it. In a
> small place like NZ books are hard to sell. It is a constant
> battle and when you do make sales you have to do all the work
> yourself - wrapping, posting, billing etc.
> Also, in a book like my one places have to be accessible. There
> is no sense including places which require the birder to ask
> permission of a landowner. There is also no sense in producing
> an AA guide type or a Lonely Planet either. There are not enough
> birders around to fund it. I have tried Lonely Planet on that
> At times I have considered an update but the effort is large and
> the returns neglible. Further, as Chris Gaskin suggested, you
> have to have a thick hide. Bidrers generally are hard to please.
> If the bird doesn't turn up in a spot they get annoyed.
> Further they are very often of the belief that they know it all
> and no one else does. They therefore find a need, often based on
> jealousy, to crticise to the last fullstop.
> Among twitchers there is also a degree of egocentricity - enough
> to finish me off as a tour guide anyway. So any author on birds,
> and this included Ross Mckenzie, suffers from constant
> criticism. In fact the tour company I helped out in the 70s gave
> up on bird tours for that reason - constant crticism and people
> unhappy that the bird they 'needed' hadn't shown up.
> Then there is the DOC problem. DOC wasn't happy with my
> publication of bird spots. They don't want birders hanging
> around their birds.
> I therefore suggest that future publishers of locality guides
> tread carefully. There is a market out there but it is limited,
> probably 200 copies and a few to libraries.
> For a book like I produced there is a bigger one but it is still
> hard work and considerable money on the line.
> But thanks for the feedback and it would be good if someone did
> collate all the birding spots in the out of the way places which
> my book didn't go.
> Stuart Chambers
So many birds, so little time......
Birding-Aus is now on the Web at
To unsubscribe from this mailing list, send the message 'unsubscribe
birding-aus' (no quotes, no Subject line)