This morning the postman Kevin came with a wonderful surprise, my pre-publication copy of The Crossley ID Guide Eastern Birds (of North America). As a fan of North American birds and a previous twice volunteer to Long Point Bird Observatory, I was keen to examine this promised for sea-change in birding guides.
And folks, before I go on to look in more detail at this book, my advice is to place an order right now, because as sure as eggs is eggs, the first print of this phenomenal publication is bound to be a huge seller resulting in a shortage for birders not quick off the mark to the book store or to place an Internet order.
The advance publicity by publishers Princeton University Press described the book as “revolutionary” in the way it changes field guide design to make better birders of beginners to experts, and anyone in between. Certainly the book is innovative, exciting even, in the way the reader can interact with what is in effect a real-life method to bird identification, reality birding, unlike the traditional pointed arrow, look-and-learn approach. Richard Crossley is an internationally acclaimed birder and photographer, birding since the age of seven and who by the age of 21 had hitchhiked more than 100,000 miles in pursuit of birds across Britain and Europe, but who now lives in the birding hot-spot of Cape May, New Jersey.
The quickest way to appreciate both the educational and fun way this book works is to take a look at some of the plates I chose with birds familiar to both US, UK and I guess mostly European birders. However birding is such a worldwide phenomenon I suspect some Far East blog readers have already tagged this book as a probable buy.
Unlike other guides which provide isolated photographs or illustrations, this is the first book to feature large, lifelike scenes for each species. The scenes, 640 in all are composed from more than 10,000 of Richard Crossley’s images showing birds in a wide range of views, near and far, from different angles, in varying plumages and behaviours and colours. The single image plate for each species is backed up by a small but accurate piece of text at the foot of the same page. I have to say that each bird scene page contains a wealth of detailed visual information that made me look at not only the overall montage of birds, but also each of the subtly different individuals, and to even then search again through the page for more birds to look at. Just like a birding trip in fact.
The publishers quite honestly annotate this book as a “guide” rather than a “field guide”, a subtle but realistic difference when considering that the book weighs in at 700 grams and measures some 200 x 250mm. This is not a criticism, but rather by the natural depth of the publication’s subject matter and spectacularly innovative design, we should applaud the eventual compactness even if it does not fit in a pocket. Rather I see this book as a “stay at home, or preferably in the car” back up to a pocket guide, something to refer to and consult with when returning from the immediate bird encounter.
A hugely pioneering aspect to this book is an interactive website crossleybooks which as planned will include expanded captions for plates and provide species updates as they come along.
Whilst Crossley ID is primarily aimed at a US audience, I predict there will also be a large demand for it across the pond, not only for European birders who go to the US, Canada and Central America, but also from birders who look for Transatlantic vagrants over here.
Now here is the even better news - The truly remarkable and outstanding Crossley ID Guide will be available from March for the unbelievable bargain price of $35 or £24.95. Read more about it here