Shorebird Book Review

15 09 2010

Woohoo! It’s that time of year again – the Shorebirds are back. And with it, frustration as you can’t work out if x bird is a weird looking regular, or something super special. That’s when you will need to look at some books, and you’ll probably want something that has a bit more detail than your regional field guide (which generally aren’t quite up to standard when it comes to shorebirds), while not really wanting to enter into the wonderful world of HANZAB. There’s a few out there, and I’ll look at a few of them today.

Over the years I’ve got my hands on many wader/shorebird books, and as I should probably be writing an essay, what better time to review some books on birds, instead of writing about vegetation survey techniques. Hopefully this will be useful to someone out there. If so, please add a comment below.

Shorebirds of Australia / Andrew Geering, Sarah Harding

ISBN:0643092269

Troy Score – 8/10

A very good book for Australian shorebirds. It is geared towards Australian birds, so it doesn’t bother showing most of the birds in breeding plumage (useful for us) and the photos are top shelf.

Every Australian birder should have a copy of this book.

I do find it odd that every bird is facing the same direction, as it never happens like that in the field, but it’s a good book all the same – that’s a minor – very minor – quibble.

Ok – that’s it for Australian shorebird guides. The rest are Northern Hemisphere or global.

Shorebirds of North America, Europe and Asia: A guide to field identification / Don Taylor

ISBN: 0691126712

Troy Score – 5.5/10

I’m not sure what it is about this book, but I’m not a very big fan – it will be the book I turn to last to help identify that troublesome wader. The layout is strange (it has seperate sections for standing and flying plates, with the maps located under the flying plates), and something about the artwork doesn’t sit well with me – all the birds look really well fed. It does have a very useful wing pattern guide section though towards the back of the book. I’ve got so many photos of flocks of shorebirds flying away from me, and you can identify them from wing bars and rump patterns, and that section has been useful more than once.

You should probably have it in your library – it can never hurt to have too many books at your disposal when trying to work out an odd wader.

Shorebirds of the Northern Hemisphere / Richard Chandler

ISBN: 1408107902

Troy Score – 8/10

A pretty good photographic guide. I picked this one up cheaply through Amazon some time ago, and was surprised at the quality of the text and photos given the price. It has the images and species accounts together on the same page, with some good maps showing breeding/wintering and stopover sites. Most birds also have a number of photos showing a range of plumages – a very good way to go about it.

My only complaint is that some of the photos look a bit washed out or something – I don’t know if it’s just my copy, or if it’s a printing problem. Apart from that, can’t fault it – you should have a copy of this.

It also goes very well with …

The Shorebird Guide / Michael O’Brien, Richard Crossley and Kevin Karlson

ISBN: 0618432949

Troy Score – 9/10

This is one of the best photographic identification books I have seen. The photos are outstanding, the species accounts (in the second half of the book) are accurate and very descriptive, and it is simply a must have book. I find this book is not only useful in helping to identify waders, it also gets me excited about birding. It also inspires me to take better photos, the shots are that good.

One of the quirky features is that it has little tests throughout the book – so rather than being just an identification guide, it is also a learning tool. Having shots of birds in silhouette and then it says “can you identify the little ringed plover from this group of waders?” is a really innovative way to go about it.

My only complaint is that some of the bird names aren’t what they are here in Australia, but that’s not that big a deal – that’s what pens are for.

This is a book that every birder should have, whether they like or loathe shorebirds. The photography is outstanding, and it is possibly one of my favourite bird books.

And finally …

Shorebirds : An Identification Guide to the Waders of the World / John Marchant, Peter Hayman and Tony Prater

ISBN: 0395379032

Troy Score – 9.85/10

This is THE field guide to get if you’re into your shorebirds. There is a hardbacked and a paperbacked version, and the hardcover is the one you want to try to get – it costs a bit more, but it’s got more accurate colours. It is a fantastic book, with good maps, plates and species accounts. Although it is much older than the ones above, it is the first book I will go to when I’m looking into information on waders/shorebirds.

I hope that this is useful for someone out there – if so, please comment below! The ratings are purely subjective, based on my opinion of using the book/s over the last several years. YMMV!

Happy birding!

Troy

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Round Hill NR via Chiltern

15 09 2010

Perhaps not the most direct route, but it had to be done. ~2500 km, probably 100ml of rain, and 152 birds (full list in the comments).

Google Earth with all my survey sites overlayed.

Day 1-4 was Sydney -> Chiltern with some uni work thrown in. It was cold, wet and windy. Not a lot of birding to be done. See earlier posts for the highlights.

Day 5 involved driving to Lake Cargelligo, which was to be my HQ for the following 3ish days. I firstly tried to re-create my last trip to Leeton and crossed fingers hoping for another Grey Falcon, but it wasn’t to be. I did manage to get photos of a Hobby eating a White-breasted Woodswallow though, so that’s pretty cool. The lake was super full! Last time we were there it was probably 60% full, and earlier in the year, there was footage on ABC news of the lake totally empty, so it was good to see it with some water in there.

A view of the lake

Between Chiltern and Lake Cargelligo, the first inland birds started to make an appearance – Blue Bonnet being my marker bird – when I start seeing them, I know I’m inland. There were more Blue Bonnets on this trip than any previous.

Blue Bonnet. This was taken at Whoey Tank, Round Hill NR, but you get the idea 🙂

Day 6 was a trip to Round Hill and Nombinnie NR’s, and a visit to Lake Cargelligo STW. First up was “Chat Alley”, which was devoid of Chats, but did produce White-winged Fairy-wren and Rufous Songlark. Whoey Tank at Round Hill was fantastic. The usual suspects were there (Spotted Bowerbird, Hooded Robin etc). Unfortunately the rain meant that I couldn’t get in to Nombinnie, although as the day was looking sunny and windy, so I had hopes that it would dry out a bit over the afternoon. The STW was, as always, fantastic. I ended up with about 30 species in 30 minutes, including Yellow-billed Spoonbill and Red-necked Avocet, both birds I’ve struggled with this year. They’re now safely on the year list. I also managed to see a pair of Major Mitchell’s Cockatoos and got a dodgy record shot of them.

Day 7 – had a planned trip again to Round Hill and Nombinnie, as well as going out to Mt. Hope. Unfortunately there was no power into Lake Cargelligo until 1 pm, so I had my half tank of petrol and around a 200km round trip… I decided to risk it, but as soon as the fuel meter got below 1/4 full, I would turn around. Fortunately the trip passed without event, and I was able to get into Nombinnie and the fabled “Old Wheat Paddock”. There was, however, a lake in the middle of the road, so I couldn’t get very far along the track, so no Red-lored Whistler for me, but I did manage Southern Scrub-robin, Shy Heathwren, Grey-fronted, White-fronted, Brown-headed and Black-chinned Honeyeaters, and a pair of Splendid Fairy-wren! Not a bad morning. At Whoey Tank I seemed to spend more time taking photos of plants than birds, although the highlight would have to be an obliging Mulga Parrot.

Mulga Parrot - this male had me running around trying to get a clear shot.

Day 8 – Up early for sunrise, and an uneventful trip home via Grenfell. I was going to camp at Weddin Mountains on the way home, but I’d ran out of food and was making good time, so home it was.

The Lake at freezing oclock

All of the images are being a bit cropped on the right – I’ll try to sort that out tonight on the late shift at work.