Things I am Thinking About Right Now...

  • 1. Finally Updated; A busy ( and not-so-birdy fall ) fall
  • 2. A smew in Ontario ??? And I got to see it !
  • 3. Thinking about summer vacation...
  • 4. And Sping trips too !
  • 5. Quite a few Winter rarities around. May try to add a few more to the list
  • 6. Still no snow on the ground...
  • 7. Project FeederWatch is going strong. Two eports submitted...
  • 8. I think I have convinced my wife to visit Cape May next summer !
  • 9. The Elephant Pepper Development Trust ( Check out their site ! )
  • 10. Tying to decide how to spend my remaining gift certificates !

Monday, 25 April 2011

Father/Daughter Review: The Crossley ID Guide

The Crossley ID Guide was released to a lot of fanfare this spring. Birdwatchers certainly have never seen anything anything like this guide before. Does it live up to the hype ? My daughter and I will attempt to answer this question.

First Impressions

Dad: The difference between the Crossley ID guide and other "traditional" bird guides is apparent from Plate 1 through to the end. The plates are works of art, showing species at different angles and expanding on one of the traditional limitations of a field guide; the lack of anything but side-on views. Add on the placement of all these images into a "typical" habitat for the species and you have a guide that is unapologetically innovative.
One of the many stunning pages...

The creative format of the Crossley ID Guide will draw most of the attention but I enjoyed the writing. It is at times technical but with playful humour scattered throughout. Here are some choice Crossley quotes:

On the White-eyed Vireo: "Also growls at you, spit and see if I care or come at me real quick - a bird with real attitude."

On the Black-capped Vireo: "Moves quickly for a vireo, but when you eventually lay eyes on it, you realize it was definitely worth the effort."

On the House Sparrow: "The likeliest bird to encounter when you get your morning coffee, in the farmyard, the mall parking lot, nesting in the eaves of the nearby building ( any cavity ), or at your feeder"

On the South Polar Skua: "The shout of 'Skua' causes a commotion on pelagic trips"

On Gulls: "Add to this their intrinsic ID challenges...and you have the perfect recipe - depending on your personal likes and dislikes. My wife puts it more bluntly: ' I hate the. I have to stand out in the cold for hours, and they all look the same.' Maybe having our first date at a sewage outfall didn't help !"

Daughter: It's very nice... ( This is the best I could pry out of her )


Dad: The multiple views from so many angles is the central innovation of the guide. The use of photographs instead of drawings tears at me because I love the artwork by a Sibley or a Peterson. I will count it as a strength, simply for the creative arrangements. Speaking of arrangements, the placement of similar species side-by-side is important for comparison. There was definitely consideration made to this end and it pays off with great comparisons of species like the Common/Barrow's Goldeneye or Black-capped/Carolina Chickadee.

until now

I could never tell the difference...



Daughter: ( Allow me to replay a conversation )

Daughter: I like this one...(points at the Glossy Ibis plate, p.204 ) It is beautiful...
Dad: That's a Glossy Ibis
Daughter: Yeah ( turns pages ) I like this one too...( points at Least Bittern plate, p.190 )
Dad: Oh yeah, I like that too. Actually, I never noticed the pink on his face. I guess it's kind of hard to show that in a drawing.
Daughter: Well, how did he do it in his drawings ?
Dad: Oh, these aren't drawings. They are his pictures that he took with a camera.
Daughter: How did he get all the birds to sit together like that ?
Dad: Oh, no he didn't. These are all from different pictures. He cut out all the different pictures and pasted them onto these backgrounds using a computer. It's kind of like a collage. Have you done a collage at school ?
Daughter: No but I have done a story. It's about a princess...
Dad: Oh, well this is a collage ( pointing at Least Bittern plate in the book )
The plate that hatched my daughter's curiosity


Dad: It's hard to get into complaints without sounding extremely nit-picky. Not every plate can be perfect and it's a lot to expect that from this type of book. I'm sure all guides have something to be critical better representations of  Marsh Wrens or Little Gulls ( no breeding adult pics, really ? ). As I said, nit-picky and overwhelmed by the volume of amazing pictures included.

Daughter: It's very heavy but don't worry, I can still carry it...( Note from Dad: It is a huge book and is probably a better home reference than true field guide...)

Favourite Plate

Dad: Many but I will limit my favourites list to two. The Black-Throated Blue Warbler plate is a full-on blitz of colour from the bird pictures to the fall foliage in the background. In fact, all the warbler plates are pretty amazing. The Rock Dove plate is great too; sometimes the beauty of these birds is forgotten as we defer to some of the negative aspects of these birds. The plate allows for one to appreciate the aesthetics of the common "pigeon".
I love how you see the posture of the Black-and-White Warbler in addition to its field markings

Daughter: The parrot plates on p.290-291, the Blue-headed Vireo plate on p.398 ( pretty leaves ) and the Pine Grosbeak plate on p.477 were the big winners !
My daughter's fave...


Dad: Yes! Yes! Yes! It works as an ID guide but if you are loathe to give up your Sibley's/Peterson/Stokes, use the Crossley Guide as a coffee table book. Treat yourself to some of the most interesting bird art you will find. It is also a great way to introduce kids to birding and nature. The visual nature of the book is a kid magnet. The potential to play games within the plates is great too. For instance, my daughter and I try to find all the birds within a plate.

Can you find all the Barred Owls ?

 Some plates also allow great opportunities for a youngster to count all the individuals on a page.

How about counting all the Oystercatchers ?

When they get older ( or more interested ), you can also introduce the birds and talk about the habitat the bird lives in. My daughter has a good knack with birds but to see a bird in a natural setting, in so many different poses, it brings up more questions from her. Although, she was a bit puzzled about why Chipping Sparrows like to hang out on golf courses.

So the Crossley ID Guide becomes a great way to connect kids to birds. So for birding parents ( or grandparents ) that want to subtly promote the activity with their child, the Crossley ID Guide may be a really good option !

Daughter: Yes! It's a great collage ! ( I will point out that she fell asleep with the Crossley ID Guide under her pillow last night...)

*All images posted with permission of publisher

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