Kevin T. Karlson
Bird and Nature Photography

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By Michael O'Brien, Richard Crossley and Kevin Karlson

Click here for a sample page from The Shorebird Guide.

This comprehensive guide to the world of shorebirds presents an initial approach to bird identification quite different from that found in other books. Rather than relying solely on stunning photographic portraits, it presents a more real-life image of each species, including distant birds, mixed-species flocks and varied lighting conditions. Comparisons in the same photo to other members of its own species, as well as other similar or dissimilar shorebirds, are crucial to understanding important considerations of size, structure and variation within each species at the same time of year and under similar lighting conditions. All these factors combine to convey a more realistic impression of each species and place it in context with the real world. After all, this is how we see birds in the field.  

Almost 900 color photographs are contained in the species accounts sections, with each account beginning with a heading describing fundamentals of size, structure and behavior – characteristics that apply to all individuals, regardless of age or plumage. Status and a range map are also included in the heading to give a sense of where and when each species is likely to occur. The galleries of photos were carefully selected to represent a year in the life of a shorebird, beginning with a general impression photo covering representative habitat and behavior. Remaining photos progress chronologically through the life cycle of each species, beginning with juvenal plumage and continuing through subadult to adult appearances. These comprehensive layouts also include transitional plumages and progressive stages of plumage wear.  

Group photos are interspersed throughout the galleries and often contain similar species. These are important since they depict variation in plumage and posture within a species and allow for direct comparison to other shorebirds. Each photo, except the opening impression, has a caption that highlights selected identification or aging criteria. Flight photos occur at the end of each account and attached captions describe the most common flight calls. Photos were also chosen not just on their merit for field ID, but how they meshed with color coordination and balance of poses and sizes with others on the page. This was done to enhance the artistic and visual attractiveness of the overall product.  

Many photo captions contain quizzes in the form of questions, whose answers are found in the appendix. This allows for an interactive experience for the reader, and more detailed analysis of certain photos. Full page photos, many depicting action or behavior, are interspersed throughout the species accounts to allow for artistic appreciation of shorebirds. Photo sections are separated into domestic species and rarities, to allow for a simpler location of desired species.  

The second half of the book contains a concise summary of status, taxonomy, behavior, migration, molt and vocalizations. This text is designed to be supplementary information to assist with various aspects of field identification. Species that nest or regularly occur in North America are covered in more detail, but adequate information is supplied for extralimital rarities and regional specialties.  

While much of the identification criteria focuses on basics of size, structure, behavior, habitat and vocalizations, more specialized treatment involving variations in plumage, molt timing and detailed comparisons of similar species is also included. In fact, straightforward explanations on how to separate species historically regarded by many as undoable, such as the dowitchers, Semipalmated versus Western Sandpipers and subspecies of both willets is included, with photographs added to help with visualization.  

The Shorebird Guide hopefully will enable birders to ‘think outside the box’ and use an approach to field identification that is simpler yet surprisingly accurate when compared with traditional disciplines. If nothing else, numerous stunning and dramatic photos will stimulate the senses and make you want to get out and look a bit closer at these wonderful members of the bird world. 

Published by Houghton Mifflin. 

ISBN-13/EAN: 9780618432943; $24.95
ISBN-10: 0618432949
Vinyl-bound; 496 pages, with 870 color photographs
Publication Date: 04/24/2006

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