Field Guide Requirements-- some thoughts

To: "Bob Forsyth" <>, "Messages Birding-aus" <>
Subject: Field Guide Requirements-- some thoughts
From: "Peter Shute" <>
Date: Fri, 9 Mar 2007 11:26:24 +1100
Some comments from a beginning birder, interquoted below:

 wrote on Thursday, 8 March 2007 5:17

> Australia is very fortunate to have a number of very good
> Field Guides to Bird Identification
> .. although texts over 1Kg such as Pizzey & Knight, and
> Morcombe barely qualify as Field Guides

But if you include all the things you mentioned, won't they just get

> Once the bird has been identified the user can then refer to
> one of umpteen texts to read that author's version of the
> birds' sequence in a Taxonomic listing.

As a beginner I was a bit mystified by the ordering (until I read the
introduction that explained it).  I guess taxonomic order doesn't help
with identification, but at least it makes it possible to have all the
books use the same order, which I think is useful.  I.e. different
authors are going to have different ideas about what looks similar.
Perhaps a compromise is to add some instructions to "see similar birds
on page x".  S&D give a few good clues, e.g. the Wilson's Phalarope
picture has an extra Marsh Sandpiper picture beside it.

"What Bird is That" groups them by habitat, which I find a bit useless
in the garden, as they're not in their normal environment.

I don't mind taxonomic order, but it does tend to wear the book out with
all the extra page flipping.  I've added postit flags to the start of
all the main groups to minimise the flipping I have to do.  I think one
of the Guides has that built into the book.  None of mine do, so I think
it might be Morcombe, which I don't have.

> - Waders/Shorebirds should be in size sequence (or as close
> as practicable)

Or perhaps just add a page of little silhouettes in size order, to

> - Birds that are frequently seen on the wing, should also be
> illustrated as such
> - Birds that are frequently seen from their rear (or below)
> should also be illustrated as such

I appreciate different views, but it's going to make the books bigger,
isn't it?

> - Diagnostic features should be highlighted on the
> illustration, not hidden in the text.

I agree. S&D have little arrows on a few pictures, so at least you're
warned that you ought to  read the text.

> - I have yet to see any Field Guide include a colour chart ! Why not ?
>   How else do you define Rufous, Cinnamon, Scarlet, Olive ?

I have been wondering exactly what rufous is.  It wouldn't be hard to
add a chart, surely.

> All FGs should include >
> - Glossaries    (example S&D 7th ED'n p346-349)
> - Illustrations   (example S&D 7th ED'n p1)

I also appreciated the page of Pizzey that shows what wing bars,
terminal bands, etc, are.

> All should have their own web page listing any errors or
> extra information and a facility to allow feedback of errors
> to the author.

I'm surprised there isn't already such a thing.  Computer books often
have an associated website hosted by the publisher, for errata and
downloading extras.  It's to their advantage, as it attracts web traffic
so they can advertise their other books while you're there.

I wonder if there are any legal technicalities preventing a 3rd party
from setting up such a site.

> - Glossy paper must be kept dry. Nor ideal for a book used in
> all weathers !

I like to add annotations in pencil, but it doesn't work that well on
glossy paper.  I have to admit I've never taken any guides in the field

> - Birds of Queensland's Wet Tropics and Great Barrier Reef,
> Nielsen, 1996
>    Introduces a unique method of listing birds within a
> unique identification feature e.g.
>    Red or orange beak, yellow breast, white rump, etc. Thus a
> bird can be listed under multiple headings. I found the book
> useful for this region.

Is that a text only cross reference, or do the pictures appear again in
various places?  I have found
useful for narrowing the possibilities down according to colour and
size, but of course that's not much use in the field.

Peter Shute

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