The Top 5 Things
I Like about
The Warbler Guide
Before taking in someone's review of a book, it sometimes helps to know a little bit about the reviewer, especially when considering something like a bird guide. Knowing a little about the reviewer's experience level and how they'd rate themselves as a "birder" can help determine if you might experience the same benefits and notice the same shortcomings if you were to use the book.
So, consider me an intermediate birder. I am challenged identifying warblers, except those with very distinct markings or those that I see on a somewhat regular basis. I'm not great at identifying them by song either; I'm okay at it but my repertoire is small. Fall warblers are especially challenging, when duller or indistinct plumage abounds and the birds are not singing.
With that established, I'll now share the top 5 things I love about The Warbler Guide. They might be little things that more experienced birders are less impressed by, but for me, they're features that have made this my go-to guide when I see a warbler I can't identify. These are some of the features we like to point out to customers in our Wild Birds Unlimited shop when they are considering the guide.
1. Warblers are listed in Alpha order
Unlike most field guides, birds are shown in alphabetical order instead of taxonomic order. This makes it so much easier to find a particular bird, especially for less-experienced birders.
2. Separate section for male/female or bright/drab
When a species, like the Black-throated Blue Warbler, has a very bright, colored form as well as a drab form with seemingly few field marks, whether male/female or seasonal, this guide covers each in their own section. I think this makes it easier to find key identifying marks, especially in those drab-colored birds.
3. Diagnostic field marks clearly noted
Sometimes, one or two field marks on a bird can rule out all the rest. These diagnostic marks are clearly described and marked with a check mark, and the mark is pictured as well. If there's an "easy button", why not use it? The diagnostic check mark is just one of the many icons used throughout the guide that make it so fun and interesting to use.
4. Visual Finder Guides
The one page I have tabbed in my Warbler Guide is the Eastern Undertail Visual Finder Guide. It groups drawings of the undertails of all the warblers by color and checks when the pattern is diagnostic (another easy button). There are also Quick Finders for face views, side views, 45° views, under view, as well as spring and fall quick finders.
5. Aging and Sexing section
If a warbler can be aged or sexed, there are pictures, descriptions and codes to help you make this distinction. I'm not quite fluent in the coding used (such as AdM 1yM AdF 1yF) but I will get there, which will increase the book's value to me.
I know I'm going over five but there are two other things I want to slip in.
6. Pictures pictures pictures
This guide is PICTURE RICH. There are views of each bird in multiple positions, some obscured, some partial, some even blurred, just like you're likely to observe them in the field. All very helpful in making an ID.
7. Migration information
I love the migration maps (spring and fall) and the graphs showing migration timing, or when in the migration season you'd be most likely to encounter the bird.
There is SO MUCH MORE in this guide that I haven't even touched on like the topographic tour, a section on what to look for on warblers, quizzes to help you learn, measurements, habitats, and more. The guide is also provides a very comprehensive look at warbler song including how to listen, visual sonograms and descriptions, pneumonic devices to help you recall the bird's look and sound, and more.
Anyone interested in warblers to any degree can pick up this guide and find it useful. And for intermediate birders like me, The Warbler Guide provides plenty of room to grow and learn. I look forward to using it for years to come, delving deeper and deeper into all it has to offer. I think you'd enjoy the journey too.
THE WARBLER GUIDE
By Tom Stephenson and Scott Whittle
Published by Princeton University Press
$29.95 - available at Wild Birds Unlimited - Saratoga Springs NY
In accordance with Federal Trade Commission 16 CFR Part 255, it is disclosed that the copy of the book read in order to produce this review was provided gratis to the reviewer by the publisher and is for sale in the reviewer's Wild Birds Unlimited shop.