69 of 73 people found the following review helpful
on February 16, 2011
BASICS: flexcover, 2011, 529pp; large photo identification guide to the 660+ species in eastern US/Canada; excellent color photos show multiple plumages and poses of the bird digitally inserted over natural backgrounds; brief text gives concise descriptions of the bird and its vocalizations; additional notes provide key pointers on identification; map for each of the non-rare species shows summer, winter, and resident ranges
This is an intriguing book that differs notably from the familiar guides out today, which will probably cause both positive and negative comments from the various groups of birders. First, this is an awesome collection of photos that deserves high compliments and respect for the mere creation of this work. Second, this book is an identification guide but definitely not a field guide.
Why not a field guide? The three reasons are: (1) It's a large and heavy book on par with some college textbooks (10 x 7.5 x 1.75 inches and 2 pounds); (2) the layout of the species and of photos does not allow for quick comparisons between birds; and, (3) the lack of notes or arrows on the plates plus the text crammed at the bottom of the page demands more time to be spent looking away from the bird.
The most outstanding feature of this book is the wide selection of excellent color photos of the 660+ eastern birds of USA/Canada, including rarities. The 10,000 photos used to compile this book show vibrant colors and nearly all the plumage variations (gender, age, season, race) one would expect to see in the field. For the American Redstart, you see the male/female, the adult/immature, perched/in-flight. With the shorebirds and gulls, you can enjoy inspecting the various plumages, all crammed onto one page. Yes, crammed in many cases. Some pages are nearly overwhelming, causing your eye to dance all over the page trying to look at each plumage. As an extreme, over 50 different Snow Buntings and over 20 Herring Gull are shown on the page. A consequential distraction with this format is having to inspect each individual to see if it is another plumage variation or, if it's just another photo of the same. This would be a severe distraction when trying to use this book in the field while trying to keep your eye on an unknown bird.
However, as an identification and not as a field guide, this busy format provides a wonderful reference of detail to be inspected when at home with the book. You can stare at the perched or in-flight bird to practice for upcoming excursions or, when recalling your sighting; or, when examining your own photo.
A few nice touches I like about this book involves the ducks. Instead of the readily identifiable male, it is the female that is typically put up front in the selection of photos. This may come in handy for anyone with doubts about the female mergansers, scaup, scoters, or teal. Another is the inclusion of many eastern rarities (e.g., Garganey, Fieldfare, Bahama Mockingbird, Thick-billed Vireo). Also included are many western species that routinely stray to the east. However, some of these birds seem a bit too rare for inclusion (e.g., White-eared Hummingbird, Greater Pewee).
In addition to a very busy page, a few other small critiques can be made. Some of the birds seem a bit too dark, such as the Empidonax flycatchers, the Gray-cheeked & Bicknell's Thrush, and some of the warblers. Perhaps this may mimic realistic field conditions but, it does not always translate into an easier way of learning the bird. The inclusion of a photographed habitat in the background makes for an attractive photo while also giving a sample of the bird's typical habitat choice. It also adds to the busy look to the page, forcing you to search around for birds that may get lost in the collage - especially the little birds in the background. See if you can find all the Brown Creepers.
As a couple of quirks, the order of the birds in the book follows familiar taxonomy for the most part; however, the jays/crows are sandwiched between the woodpeckers and hummingbirds while the swallows precede the flycatchers. This is no big deal, but may cause some birders to search a little more to find a particular family group. One other interesting tidbit is the plate showing the Song Sparrow. How did that American Robin slip into the background?
Accompanying the photos is the seemingly smaller amount of text. As noted in the introduction, the author prefers pictures and may find text to be boring. The material offered focuses mostly on description and on identification. After reading through many species, the smaller amount is actually strengthened by the conciseness and potency of the information given. This will prove to be very useful for beginning to intermediate birders. The text, backed up by the photo, points out the long undertail coverts of the Connecticut Warbler, the contrasting white undertail coverts of the Tennessee Warbler, and the dark eye of a first year White-eyed Vireo in the fall/winter. Additional notes that are useful are key comments on the bird's behavior and habitat.
Which of the beginning, intermediate, and experienced birders will appreciate this book the most? Probably the intermediate, who is looking to learn from those additional tips and views which are abundant in this book. The experienced birder will immensely enjoy the thousands of photos but probably won't read or see anything new. In contrast, the beginning birder will certainly like the great photos but the sheer volume of birds and the crowded, busy pages may be daunting.
The author said in the introduction "a picture says 1000 words", promoting the quick mental snapshot of an image versus reading and memorizing information. However, quickly interpreting a picture or a view of a bird in the field comes with experience - and frustration. The newer birder often does not know what in the photo may demand extra attention; what things must be compared; how to read relative sizes and shapes; etc. The beginner won't have the experiential knowledge needed to free him from the text and to rely on only the photos. Having just said that, any birder will still greatly enjoy this book so long as he knows what is and is not in this book. - (written by Jack at Avian Review with sample pages, February 2011)
I've listed several related books below...
1) Kaufman Field Guide to Birds of North America by Kaufman
2) Birds of Eastern North America: A Photographic Guide by Sterry
3) National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of Eastern North America
4) The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Eastern North America by Sibley
5) Peterson Field Guide to Birds of Eastern and Central North America by Peterson
6) Stokes Field Guide to Birds: Eastern Region by Stokes
7) The Stokes Field Guide to the Birds of North America by Stokes
8) National Wildlife Federation Field Guide to Birds of North America by Brinkley
9) Smithsonian Field Guide to the Birds of North America by Floyd
57 of 66 people found the following review helpful
on March 23, 2011
At first, the new Crossley book seems like a great idea that was long in coming - publish a book for bird identification that presents photos of birds in natural settings, and in poses and positions that people will actually see in the wild instead of the Peterson style of consistent poses where most species on a page are in the same position. Peterson's book was great for many reasons but birds rarely showed themselves in his poses and this sometimes led to problems in identification.
What Crossley has done is take photos of a species from various times of the year and merge them onto a single photo plate, arranging the plate so that the birds look to actually be where they are presented. Most times these plates will show natural habitat and the birds are shown in places where you'd actually expect to see them; shorebirds are on beaches or mud flats, rails are in marshes, warblers in trees, etc. Many plates have images of birds in flight, including small passerines, in a manner and angle that is true to what we actually see in the wild. Where the book goes wrong for me is in the execution of this concept. Many of the images are extremely small on the page, making their usefulness less effective.
Some have argued to me that this is like natural birding - birds are often distant and seeing all the details of a close-up photo is impossible. Although I agree with this observation, I also think that it is ineffective to not provide all the detail that can be learned about a plumage or molt that can't be seen in these fingernail sized images. I remember when I first started banding how confusing it could be to have a bird that I had seen hundreds of times in the tops of trees in the hand, where every minute detail could be seen, and how the overload of field marks caused me to hesitate in some of my identifications. Details in bird observations are an example of where more is always better and Crossley fails to do that.
The static images of print material limits what is a concept that would have been much more effective in the digital world of a software book or a website. The same 'plates' presented on a computer screen could allow the same presentation of species in various positions and poses on the page, but a click on an image could then zoom in to allow the individual birds to zoom to a more natural size for the viewer. In this way, all of the small details could be seen and learned, while at the same time allowing the birds to return to the smaller size with another click of the mouse that might be more realistic in the observer's binoculars in the field. The same digital concept could also incorporate motion and sound through links on the page to audio recordings and video of a species. Profits could be retained by selling log-ins to a site or through DVD sales for the digital version of this concept.
On the whole, the book is too large to take into the field but it's not a bad reference book that could be kept in the car or on a nearby shelf to retrieve on return home. I think most people that buy this book will enjoy the novel approach that this book presents for the first time, and the "Where's Waldo" novelty of trying to fully scan each plate for all the hidden images that are throughout the book. Eventually though I think the book will be relegated to a place on the shelf that gets forgotten or only pulled out on rare occasions, instead of the must used guide that Richard Crossley had envisioned when he started to take this concept from idea to publication.
18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on May 12, 2011
The new Crossley ID Guide to Eastern Birds has received a lot of visibility and hype but this birder finds it raises some unanswered questons in what need it is trying to fill. I am reasonablly workmanlike birder, far from being an expert but with a larger then average library.
The ID Guide does not seem targeted as a field guide. It is significantly larger and heavier then the big Sibleys making it at best an automobile guide. That is toss it in the back seat and refer to it when you come back to the car after birding. I doubt I would ever carry it in the field.
Some additional characteristics make field use difficult. The layout leaves many accounts difficult to do comparisons between similar species due to the order used. For example the Prairie Falcon and Peregrine Falcon are a page apart meaning constant page turning to compare details. Several of the Flycatchers and warblers suffer the same problems. On the other hand the Redhead and Canvasback ducks are neatly opposite each other for comparing.
The second problem is I think a major shortcomming. The print size used in the text portion of the species accounts is terrible for outdoor use. The font is very tiny and thin and as a result has the appearence of being printed in a grey ink. In the low light of a woods when chasing warblers it would be virtually unreadable for most 'mature' (myself included) birders.
The photos have received a lot of attention. First. the idea of showing multiple views of the birds from close-ups to distance shots is really an neat approach. There is a lot of potential in this approach. However many of the implementations leave something to be desired. For some species it works quite well but for others more work is needed. Some species accounts leave out pictures of some of the typical views of the bird. For example the European Starling page does not include any overhead profile views of the bird and the Northern Flicker does not have an underwing view of the red-shafted form. These would greatly help starting birders sort out a regular bird. In some photos the mixing of bird photos with differing focus and feild of views when pasted together on a background photo that itself has a different focal point make for confusing images. Your eye spends more time sorting out the images than picking out the diagnostics for the species. Additionally some species have parts lost or merging into the background photo and so the overall shape of the bird is lost (Common Pauraque). Another weakness seems to be in the ability to easily do size comparisons between species. For example the Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers do not allow easy comparison of the bill/head proportions and sizes of the two species (Yes in that fine print is the length measurement).
One really great feature is the practice of including the ornithological alph code with each species. This I think many birders will find useful and I hope that practice spreads to other guides.
Given that this is not a field guide I don't think National Geo, Sibley, Kaufmann or Peterson are in any danger of being displaced in the field.
If then it was not ment to be a field guide but instead a reference book why is the text so skimpy. If this is to compete with the Smithsonian or Nat Geo Complete Birds of North America I would like to see the text entries broadened, filled out and done in a larger, darker font. For an experienced birder with a good library this is a useful addition but for a new birder with few resources I would not recommend it.
13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on February 13, 2011
This may be one of the most accessible guides to the field identification of eastern North American birds presently available. While spare in text, nearly all the plates depict each species at a variety of angles to the observer seen perched and in flight, near and at distance. It's a rather big book (bigger than The Big Sibley, in fact!), but I feel that most readers won't find its size troublesome once they "get" one of the concepts behind it: this book aims to acquaint the reader with the "gestalt" (e.g., size, shape, contrasting plumage patterns, etc.) of each species covered so that they may begin to make useful comparisons to other species they see in this book and in the field. In this sense, I agree with the author's assertion in the Introduction that this book is best regarded as a kind of study aid rather than a field guide in the same sense as Peterson or Sibley.
As a hawkwatcher, I really appreciate the thought that went into this guide! Birds rarely pose for me nearby in ideal lighting, and this guide makes a credible effort of surmounting some of the challenges of identifying birds at distance. As an adjunct to Sibley and Birds of North America Online, I can't recommend this guide highly enough! And it sells on Amazon for a price that belies its quality and scope.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on March 23, 2011
After spending the evening with The Crossley ID Guide I have a few observations and a suggestion.
First the suggestion: READ THE INTRODUCTION! Pages 22 through 25 are especially important. Why? Because this ID guide is unlike any other you have ever seen. You need to understand why the author created the book to take full advantage of its genius. This guide was never intended to be one you slip in a jacket pocket or the hip pocket of your jeans while you're in the field. As the author says, this ID guide was meant to be interactive, not just a reference. That interactive quality is what makes The Crossley ID Guide unique and that leads me to the observations.
First, the plates in this guide are simply astonishing in their beauty! I could just enjoy this book on that level alone. Over 10,000 of the author's photos of some of the most beautiful and graceful creatures on earth are set in their natural, strikingly beautiful habitats.
Second, I began "interacting" with the plates without even realizing it was happening. When I was a kid I used to "get lost" in the Currier and Ives book on my parents coffee table. The illustrations were so detailed and full of adventure. It was as if I could walk right into them. Richard Crossley's plates have that same walk-in quality. They invite you to just hang out with the birds. Wander around their natural environment. You can almost hear the calls and songs and smell the air. I began to think that the only way to make my experience with the plates more "real" would be to set the book up on one side of the room and view the plates with my binoculars from the other side.
This "walk-in" quality is what I believe sets The Crossley ID Guide apart from all other field guides. The more time you spend wandering around inside Richard's plates, the more information you will absorb about the birds. Their size, shape, behavior, habitat color, how they fly, how they feed, how they flock, how they sleep, dive, take off, land, how they relate to one another, and so much more are found in these plates. This experience with the plates can't help but make you a better birder.
Third, this walk-in quality of the plates is best realized and appreciated in a larger format. I can't imagine using a digital version of The Crossley ID Guide on my iPhone. The many birding apps for the iPhone have that area covered pretty well. When I want a paper guide to carry in the field there is Kenn Kaufman's (the first edition fits perfectly in the hip pocket of my jeans. The second edition with the flex binding doesn't fit) or the "little" Sibley (which didn't fit until I used a band saw to trim it down). Those bases are also well covered and are designed to work in a small format.
The Crossley ID Guide was designed to be appreciated in a larger format to facilitate Richard's unique, interactive concept. The current dimensions of the book are adequate to realize Richard's vision while keeping weight and production costs reasonable. I for one would love to see an oversized, "coffee table" edition with plates at least twice the size of this edition. Experiencing these plates in an oversized edition would be really exciting!
16 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on February 10, 2011
Basically I waited in anticipation for this book and even got one-day shipping. I wasn't disappointed! Here are the pros and a couple of cons for this book:
Simply stated, the scenes are beautiful to look at. I enjoyed flipping through the book, and I will later sit down and try to find all the little birds hidden in the background. The only one I didn't really like was the American Tree Sparrows on a pile of dirty snow.
I loved how the birds are scene in flight, from the front, from behind, etc... gives you lots of different views compared to most bird ID books.
The species names are mostly up-to-date. I did spot a couple of Latin names that were not, but that's a nitpicky detail.
Some of the night scenes were a little too dark.
Bander's codes, I understand why he used them, but people not familiar with them might have problems reading the text.
Despite a couple of little flaws, I give this book 5 stars. It's a must-have for any major bird enthusiast.
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on February 22, 2011
I finally received my copy of "The Crossley ID Guide - Eastern Birds". Stunning does not even begin to describe this book - It's magnificent. Unlike Sibley and Peterson, the pictures are photographic composites, many images of a species in one background setting. In my view, this goes far beyond Peterson, Sibley, or any other guide I've seen. I have little doubt this book and it's soon-to-arrive western sibling will eclipse all others as standard reference books.
I want to be clear, this is not, by any reasonable assessment,
a "field" guide, at least, unless you have a "bearer" to carry it, since it is about an inch wider than the "big" Sibley, as well as taller, thicker and heavier. It is listed as a hardcover, but in fact, it is the same type of flexible cover as Sibley, about the same weight, I would guess. Although it does not have too much written info on each page, it is a little more than what Sibley provides.
There is never total agreement on the "best" guide, and assume there won't be now either, but my mind is already made up. I noticed a remark in one review that the book is not a field guide, as I explained above, but I don't believe it claims to be - certainly not in the title.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on March 8, 2011
The Crossley ID Guide offers a totally new and revolutionary take on the classic field guides. The entry for each species consists of a single plate with various photos of the same species at different angles and distances photoshopped onto a common background. The photoshopping is impeccable. This allows the reader to get an idea of the shape, behavior, and common habitat of each bird. The more common birds take up an entire page, while the less common birds get half a page.
All in all, this is a great book. It's genuinely fun to read. Given its size, (slightly larger than the big Sibley guide) you're probably not going to take it out in the field. Still, it's a great book to add to your collection, and it's priced at a real bargain on Amazon right now. Within a week of buying it for myself, I purchased 2 more for friends. It's the kind of book that makes non-birders get interested in birds. If you're at all interested in nature, buy this book; you won't be disappointed.
I don't usually write reviews, but I believe so strongly in this product that I had to give my two cents here.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on July 23, 2011
If you are a serious birder, you already have National Geographic, Sibley, Kaufmann and Peterson on your book shelf. Treat yourself; purchase Crossley for your coffee table. My only disappointment with this volume is that due to a binding glitch pages 449-456 were duplicated and pages 457-472 were missing.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
"Oh, birding is like stamp collecting -- Boring!"
That was my nerdy friend, dismissively glancing at Richard Crossley's "The Crossley ID Guide - Eastern Birds," on my coffee table.
"I didn't know you were a birder," he said.
"I'm not," I answered.
"I don't get it," he said. "You find another pretty stamp and paste it in an album. You sight another pretty bird and put it on your list. What real good is it?"
"You're missing the point," I said. "With birds and other wildlife rapidly diminishing, birding's annual surveys keep track of migrations, catalog increases or decreases in numbers, and detail losses of environment, as from industrialization and encroaching suburbia. Like canaries in a coal mine, birds reflect present dangers, telling us what we have to protect. Rescue is not only for the birds, but for ourselves."
Sure, my friend granted, birds are beautiful, but many are so distant, tiny, flighty, and fast-moving. How can you make out much about them?
You don't have to be the genius, scientist, and painter John Audubon was, I said. You just learn to see the details in what you're looking at. That takes smart eyes and the right equipment, like anything else. And you have to take copious notes, the way Audubon did in making his detailed paintings.
Unfortunately, back in those days, Audubon felt he had to resort to killing specimens with fine birdshot, then using wires to present them in different natural positions. Crossley and today's birders use fine scopes and cameras . . . and plenty of patience.
Crossley emphasizes that the best book to take with you for bird watching is not a field guide, but a notebook, to record every detail you can see. Crossley's guide is big (about 8 by 10, and over 500 pages) and shows you what to look for. Full-page color photographs, culled from thousands he has taken, show all the eastern species in all their variety, up close and far away in typical flight patterns.
He guides you in noting shapes, relative sizes, and usual behaviors. The goal is to discern birds' gender, age, and feather patterns. Are they juveniles or adults? Note the condition of the feathers. Are they worn from wear, and in process of molting?
On his beginning pages Crossley has careful visual guides to what species you are seeing, whether they are Waterbirds of Swimming, Flying, or Walking types, or whether they are Landbirds classified as Gamebirds, Raptors, Aerial Landbirds, or Songbirds. Crossley's photos tell the story. He shows you what you are seeing.
From the common names, you can parenthesize over to the scientific, should you want. Most importantly, he quickly makes you comfortable with the handy -- and I would say almost indispensable -- four-letter ID Codes, like AMRO for American Robin, YWAR for Yellow Warbler, NOCA for Northern Cardinal, COLO for Common Loon, YLGU for Yellow-legged Gull, COTE for the Common Tern, even RFBO for Red-footed Booby.
The names are fun. The book is fun, and the photos far outdo Audubon as a practical guide to ID the birds you are seeing. Crossley's hundreds of pages are compilations of thousands of photographs. Crossley has been generous in his time and wanderings. He knows more and we follow to learn more. The book is worth getting and absorbing. The learning is how to see what you are looking at. Happy birding, y'all, including my nerdy friend.