The CROSSLEY ID GUIDE [Book Review]
I was surprised this week with a copy of the new “The Crossley ID Guide: Eastern Birds” sitting at my door step. I remember when Sibley came out with his new guide and everyone thought “it’s too big and it could never replace the Peterson’s guide”!! Instantly we find ourselves buying not one but multiple copies (one for the house, car, office, banding bag . . . etc.). Could the same thing happen with this guide?? My first impression of the Crossley ID Guide is WOW and I know for sure it will be used in my library but I have doubt it will replace Sibley or any of my iPhone apps. It is a “BIG” guide and probably why they are not calling it a Field Guide!! To the right birder, it is possible The Crossley ID Guide will be grabbed for help before the more traditional “painted” guides but it is defiantly a picture reference guide more than our traditional “Field Guides”.
The pictures are truly what sell this book but because the pictures take up so much space, the author is very limited in the amount of text/map space allowed for each species. Text is short and to the point but something just tells me we should have more descriptions for identifications. Pictures tell stories and almost every plate in this book is telling the natural behavior of the bird. They show almost all molts of the birds and even what the bird would look like from a distance. Habitat is so important in identification and Richard Crossley took the time to show each species with the appropriate habitat in which the bird would be found in. I seem to notice something different in every plate that I look at as if they were magically placed there to train my eyes in finding the species. I even noticed the American Robin in the Song Sparrow Plate . . . it made me smile.
Osprey print from The Crossley ID Guide
The shorebird and waterfowl plates have to be my favorites. Mostly because they closely resemble my favorite artist Louis Agassiz Fuertes (1874-1927). Fuertes painted the birds where Crossley photographed the birds . . . but he threw in some digital editing to his liking. There are 640 stunning scenes created from 10,000 of the author’s photographs. Richard Crossley clamed over 99% of the photos to be his and says “Unlike other photographic guides, I wanted this to be entirely mine: photographs, words, design – everything.” As a photographer, I congratulate him on an amazing accomplishment in completing a book like this. The photos are stunning and would love to see a follow up 11×17 “Plate” book with all these prints that I could hang on my walls.
Black and White Warbler print from the Crossley ID Guide
Being a bird bander, I would like to say thank you for including the birds 4 letter alpha codes. So many of my field notes include alpha codes and now non banders will understand what a MODO or what a YWAR is. As for the ROPI (Rock Pigeon), please I would never want that many in my back yard . . . however how fun would it be to always have that many EABL (Eastern Bluebirds) flying around the yard?? I did notice there wasn’t any Ivory Billed Woodpecker pictures . . . wouldn’t that have stirred the pot if they exist or not?? Bonus is the golfers, swimmers and other individuals that made it into the backgrounds.
Overall this is an amazing reference guide in helping identify birds. But with first time guides there are some minor errors that need corrected (always happens). However, I don’t see myself looking at our traditional field guides for hours but the plates in this book keep me flipping the book open for the need to see more of the pictures. Every birder needs a copy of this book in their library and another copy on the dinning room table for when you’re having those “bird” talks with friends. Congrats Richard Crossley for starting a movement to a new wave of ID Guides. I can’t wait to see what you can come out with next!!
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Agree this isn’t a field guide, but very attractive and probably more inviting for long-term and protracted study than most field guides. Other guides make my eyes roll after too long, but this one keeps me looking and looking…and not just at the beach goers in the background!
19 February 2011 at 4:07 pm
Wow! I thought of Fuertes too! That at first made me thing this guide was old-fashioned, but as I give it more time, I like it very much! I compared the Crossley and Fuertes in my blog.
20 February 2011 at 3:24 pm
in fairness, the text is small, giving the illusion that it’s “short,” but I think it’s actually pretty comparable to most other guides in length (or word number) — and the more I read the plate texts, as well as the intervening chapter sections, the more totally impressed I am with the writing!
21 February 2011 at 7:59 am
It sounds great. I’ll check it out!
23 February 2011 at 1:32 pm