“The Crossley ID Guide (Eastern Birds)” came across my desk this week. It’s a big, beautiful book, 529 pages long and heavier than my “Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary.”
The book, which came out this year and was published by Crossley books and Princeton University Press, was written by Richard Crossley, a native of Great Britain who lives in Cape May, N.J.
The book’s emphasis is pictures, and it was made possible by the magic of digital photography. Most of the more than 600 birds are shown in a variety of poses on a single plate, from close up to off flying in the distance.
Here’s what I like and don’t like about “The Crossley ID Guide”:
* The pictures are gorgeous. If you buy this book, I predict that you will spend a lot of time just gazing at the pictures and enjoying them.
* I especially like the inclusion of the far-away images. Even I can eventually identify most birds if they’re up close. I need all the help I can get with those far-away views, which seem to be more common.
* Crossley’s descriptions of birds are short and lively.
* Because it’s so heavy, you aren’t going to take it in your pack. It would be fine to keep around your favorite bird-watching spot at home, and perhaps to take along in the car.
* Crossley uses alpha codes for birds; a red-breasted nuthatch is a RBNU, a mourning dove is a MODO. He gives the common and scientific name of each bird on the page where it’s presented, but every other reference is to the alpha code. In his description of the yellow-throated warbler, for example, he says it is “often creeping around limbs like BAWW,” and later compares its singing to “CARW qualities.” Unless you happen to know, you have to flip through the pages to figure out that a BAWW is a black-and-white warbler, and a CARW is a Carolina wren.
Is it worth the list price of $35? Well, if you don’t already have some kind of bird guide, I would start with a basic field guide you can easily take anywhere, such as the “Sibley Field Guide to Birds.” If you do already have something like that, you might enjoy this as a supplement. It’s sure fun to look at.
On another topic, a sign of spring: On Monday, I saw my first chipmunk of the year foraging for bird food on the deck.
Your bird pictures and stories welcome at: firstname.lastname@example.org.