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Peterson Reference Guide to Seawatching:…
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Peterson Reference Guide to Seawatching: Eastern Waterbirds in Flight…

by Ken Behrens

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Note: This is a review of a pre-publication version.

I am an intermediate birder. So, I rely on every helpful field guide and reference book to determine correct identification. "Seawatching" is a great addition to my collection.

For me, pelagics and waterbirds are difficult because they are often in flight, and also far away. I am in awe of the experienced birders who can point to a speck in the sky and say, "There's a Wood Duck." There is no way that I'm at that level now, but, one can aspire.

The Peterson "Reference Guide to Seawatching, Eastern Waterbirds in Flight" will be a valuable resource for upcoming trips to Bombay Hook and Cape May. Note: This advance reading copy has black and white rather than color photos and lacks the index. It is still a work in progress. However, assuming that the color photos are up to the Peterson standard of excellence, this should be a valuable reference.

"Seawatching" is more than 600 pages with 900 color photos - much too large to be a field guide. Like Crossley, I plan to have it in the car as a reference, not to carry it while birding. The best use of this reference to read relevant sections in preparation for a coastal trip.

Similar to "The Crossley ID Guide: Eastern Birds (The Crossley ID Guides)," "Seawatching" has many photos of birds in various positions. It includes birds in flock formations as well as individual birds in stages of flight. There are even realistic photos of faraway flocks looking like specks in the sky.

For additional training, "Seawatching" even includes some quiz photos scattered among the others. For example, in the dabbling duck section, there is a photo of a diverse flock. We are asked to use the described process to break down the mixed flock and identify all four species of ducks in the photo. The text describes a seven-step process to break down a flock of dabbling ducks in flight. That's a real challenge!

Descriptions include migration descriptions and maps. "Eastern Waterbirds in Flight" includes Pacific birds due to their appearance during migration. The description of a bird is not precise because you are viewing birds in flight. For instance, a Royal Tern "gives an athletic impression, long and lean but unmistakably powerful." Each bird has several photos at various distances and in various phases of development. An important addition is the section on similar species at the end of each bird chapter.

For those who travel to bird the last section of "Seawatching" is a list of 47 places to see waterbirds with the best times for viewing and single-day high counts for the top ten species.

If you are going to the effort and expense to view waterbirds or live in a wonderful waterbird viewing area like Cape May, you should definitely invest in this book. The photos alone should justify the cost. ( )
1 vote brendajanefrank | Aug 9, 2013 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0547237391, Hardcover)

Seawatching is the challenging act of identifying waterbirds in flight. Since more than one hundred different species can fly past an observation point, often at great speed or in tightly packed, mixed-species flocks, identification of these distant shapes can be a mystery. The keys to the mystery—the subtle traits that unlock the identity of flying waterbirds, be it wingbeat cadence, individual structure, flock shape and behavior, or subtle flashes of color—are revealed in this guide.

Though commonly called seawatching, this on-the-fly observation and identification method is by no means restricted to the coast. There are impressive waterbird migrations on the Great Lakes, the Gulf of Mexico, and many inland lakes and rivers. Nor is it restricted to migrating waterfowl, as the principles of flight identification apply as effectively to ducks flushed off a pond as to distant migrating flocks. Like Hawks in Flight and The Shorebird Guide, the Peterson Reference Guide to Seawatching breaks new ground, provides cutting-edge techniques, and pushes the envelope in bird identification even further.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:16:22 -0400)

A guide that teaches birders how to effectively identify eastern waterbirds in flight using a method of identification that emphasizes birds' structure, behavior, and overall color.

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