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New Hummingbird Field Guide

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  • Thomas Miko
    Peterson Field Guides Hummingbirds of North America Sheri L. Williamson, author 230 pages of text, plus acknowledgements, glossary, list of nectar plants,
    Message 1 of 5 , Feb 6 8:57 PM
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      Peterson Field Guides
      Hummingbirds of North America
      Sheri L. Williamson, author
      230 pages of text, plus acknowledgements, glossary, list of nectar plants,
      photo credits, resources, bibliography, and index.
      cost: $22.00

      Dear CalBirders,
      I stopped by Wildbirds Unlimited in Torrance yesterday to pick up the new
      type of adjustable size rainguards for Swarowski binoculars (they should
      work on other binoculars). I'm glad that somebody finally figured out that
      humans have a wide range of head sizes, i.e. pupil distances, and that
      people with wide faces (the Hungarians were, after all, Eurasian mongol
      nomads) like myself have to fiddle with adjusting the binos to a size
      narrower than our pupil distance when moving the rainguards on and off
      during rain, or pelagic boat trips, while others have narrow faces, and are
      forced to go the opposite route. A book caught my eye when I stood at the
      cash register: Hummingbirds of North America by Sheri L. Williamson.
      Sheri is one of the cofounders of SABO, the Southeastern Arizona Bird
      Observatory, which bands migrating hummingbirds on the San Pedro River,
      among its many activities. For more info about their banding program,
      see: http://www.sabo.org/photoalb/banding.htm . She also posts bird
      sightings frequently on the AZNM birder's list. After I spent less than
      one minute perusing the book, I knew that I was going to buy it. Bob
      Shanman, the owner of Wildbirds Unlimited said while running my credit
      card, "this book is to hummingbirds what Garrett and Dunn is to warblers."
      Bob is right. I enjoyed the bus ride to work this morning, reading the
      first 19 pages. For those of you out there who think that you know
      everything you need or want to know about hummingbirds, I suggest that you
      buy this book, and find out how off the mark you are. I could tell you the
      three new things that I learned about them this morning, but that would be
      a disincentive to buying the book or borrowing it from the library, and
      reading it, yourselves.
      As soon as you see the book, go to page 198, and look at the distribution
      map for Black-chinned Hummingbird. This is the second distribution
      map. It has countour lines in various colors, that show how far north
      Black-chinned Hummingbirds arrive by specific dates, like March 1, march
      11, March 21, and April 1. Fantastic! Why hasn't everybody else done this
      up until now? Now we will have to pester the authors of treatises on
      shorebirds, flycatchers, and warblers to do the same in their books. Get
      to work, Kimball Garrett! Williamson also has maps of this nature for
      other species like Ruby-throated, Rufous, and Broad-tailed Hummingbirds.
      The book only has color photographs (a large number, actually), but they
      have been selected, placed, and executed very well, and no criticism is
      warranted about the lack of drawings. There are plenty of good drawings of
      hummingbirds in other field guides, like Sibley, or Howell and Webb.
      My only complaint is that the print is in a small font, the same size used
      in Garrett & Dunn. While I realize that this facilitates keeping the
      book's physical dimensions to a size where it can be carried in a shirt or
      coat pocket, one of the late Roger Tory Peterson's great ideas, birders
      such as myself can have difficulty reading this small print. The only
      other "problem" with the book, per se, is that its small size has the
      potential to mislead birders who see it in a bookstore from even picking it
      up, while they mistakenly believe that there cannot be much "meat" inside a
      book this small.
      In closing, I have never met Sheri L. Williamson, and had nothing to do
      with the production of this book, it's just that I felt the need to share
      with others my enthusiasm for this new tome. Now, can somebody please do a
      flycatchers field guide???
      Thomas Miko (Mikó Tamás)
      2445 Oswego Street
      Pasadena, CA 91107

      home: (626) 793-2133
      page: (310) 366-9990
      cell: (626) 390-1935

      thomasmiko@...
      thomas_miko@...

      http://www.angelfire.com/ca2/birdsofhungary
    • Alvaro Jaramillo
      ... I was surprised that this message wasn t about Steve Howell s new book (Hummingbirds of North America: The photographic guide) from Academic Press which
      Message 2 of 5 , Feb 6 10:45 PM
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        At 08:57 PM 2/6/2002 -0800, you wrote:


        > Sheri is one of the cofounders of SABO, the Southeastern Arizona
        > Bird
        >Observatory, which bands migrating hummingbirds on the San Pedro River,
        >among its many activities. For more info about their banding program,
        >see: http://www.sabo.org/photoalb/banding.htm . She also posts bird
        >sightings frequently on the AZNM birder's list. After I spent less than
        >one minute perusing the book, I knew that I was going to buy it. Bob
        >Shanman, the owner of Wildbirds Unlimited said while running my credit
        >card, "this book is to hummingbirds what Garrett and Dunn is to warblers."

        I was surprised that this message wasn't about Steve Howell's new book
        (Hummingbirds of North America: The photographic guide) from Academic Press
        which has been out for at least a month or so. I am glad that we suddenly
        have two new sources for hummingbirds, and will have to check out the
        Williamson book. Howell's book is an exhaustive treatment of NA hummers,
        with particular attention to their field ID. Its well illustrated with top
        notch photos, and the detail on field identification is authoritative and
        clear. I though I would mention this book, so that hummingbird enthusiasts
        know at least to try and look at both books before making a purchase.

        >As soon as you see the book, go to page 198, and look at the distribution
        >map for Black-chinned Hummingbird. This is the second distribution
        >map. It has countour lines in various colors, that show how far north
        >Black-chinned Hummingbirds arrive by specific dates, like March 1, march
        >11, March 21, and April 1. Fantastic! Why hasn't everybody else done this
        >up until now? Now we will have to pester the authors of treatises on
        >shorebirds, flycatchers, and warblers to do the same in their books. Get
        >to work, Kimball Garrett! Williamson also has maps of this nature for
        >other species like Ruby-throated, Rufous, and Broad-tailed Hummingbirds.

        While this is a very good idea, one question to ask is: how accurate is the
        information. I know that to try and do something like this for many North
        American birds would be extremely difficult as accurate data on arrival
        times is not out there. Then there is the question of what do you pick,
        average first arrival date, or some other measure of arrival? This year
        Allen's Hummingbirds appeared to have arrived a couple of weeks ahead of
        schedule in San Mateo county based on Ron Thorn's report of two separate
        nest building females in late Jan.
        Dunn and Garrett is a great book, with superb attention to detail in the
        maps. One of the first treatises where an attempt was made to plot the
        actual distribution of our birds, rather than filling in vast spaces on the
        map with colour. I bet it would be very difficult to come up with good
        arrival dates for warblers in much of the West, maybe we can do a good job
        here in California where there are a lot of observers, but what about the
        many states with vast birder-less areas?

        >
        > In closing, I have never met Sheri L. Williamson, and had nothing
        > to do
        >with the production of this book, it's just that I felt the need to share
        >with others my enthusiasm for this new tome. Now, can somebody please do a
        >flycatchers field guide???

        It is being done as we speak by Chris Benesh.

        Should be a juicy book.

        regards

        Alvaro

        Alvaro Jaramillo
        chucao@...
        Montara, California

        Birding Guide: Field Guides Inc.
        http://www.fieldguides.com/home.html

        Helm guide to the New World Blackbirds, Birding in Chile, at:
        http://members.home.net/chucao/
      • Thomas Miko
        ... Estimado Alvaro, I was unaware of this book s existence! ... This is true, but perhaps an attempt might be made. Oh, sure, there ll be birders complaining
        Message 3 of 5 , Feb 7 9:20 PM
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          > >card, "this book is to hummingbirds what Garrett and Dunn is to warblers."
          >
          >I was surprised that this message wasn't about Steve Howell's new book
          >(Hummingbirds of North America: The photographic guide) from Academic Press

          Estimado Alvaro,
          I was unaware of this book's existence!

          > >As soon as you see the book, go to page 198, and look at the distribution
          > >map for Black-chinned Hummingbird. This is the second distribution

          >While this is a very good idea, one question to ask is: how accurate is the
          >information. I know that to try and do something like this for many North ,

          This is true, but perhaps an attempt might be made. Oh, sure, there'll be
          birders complaining about the accuracy, but if it's clearly stated that
          this is only a guideline, most birders would understand.




          >Dunn and Garrett is a great book, with superb attention to detail in the
          >maps. One of the first treatises where an attempt was made to plot the
          >actual distribution of our birds, rather than filling in vast spaces on the
          >map with colour.

          Oh, I love the Garrett and Dunn warbler book! I read from it or use it as a
          reference at least once a week. I have a home copy, and one in the car to
          carryin the field. I actually scanned the last 2 pages of the plates with
          the undertails of all the warblers, printed it in color, and had it
          laminated at Kinko's. Now it's in my backpack as a warblertail quick
          reference.

          >but what about the
          >many states with vast birder-less areas?

          You got me there!

          > >with others my enthusiasm for this new tome. Now, can somebody please do a
          > >flycatchers field guide???
          >
          >It is being done as we speak by Chris Benesh.

          Oh, goody!

          >Should be a juicy book.

          Bug juice?
          Thomas Miko (Mikó Tamás)
          2445 Oswego Street
          Pasadena, CA 91107

          home: (626) 793-2133
          page: (310) 366-9990
          cell: (626) 390-1935

          thomasmiko@...
          thomas_miko@...

          http://www.angelfire.com/ca2/birdsofhungary
        • creagrus
          I have had the new Steve Howell hummingbird guide for a couple of months, and it has been a state-of-the-art guide to the extent I have dipped into it so far.
          Message 4 of 5 , Feb 8 10:53 AM
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            I have had the new Steve Howell hummingbird guide for a couple of
            months, and it has been a state-of-the-art guide to the extent I have
            dipped into it so far. Yesterday I had a chance to look through the new
            Williamson hummingbird guide at a book store. It is nicely laid out and
            has the look of the Dunn/Garrett warbler guide in design (part of the
            same on-going series). Alas, it suffers in comparison with the Howell
            book for California species.

            I happened to look at both books on the topic of female/imm-plumaged
            Calliope Hummingbird, in part because there was one at Pt. Pinos that I
            studied this fall. A new field character discussed on humminbird chat
            lines over the last couple years has been the presence of a thin white
            line above the gape from eye to bill in this plumage of Calliope. David
            Sibley's guide illustrates it very well, and it was present on the Pt.
            Pinos bird when I looked for it. Howell mentions the character and many
            of his photos chosen for his book show it, and the photos are published
            large enough to study this area. The Williamson book does not mention
            the field mark at all, and the photos chosen are published at such small
            size as to make it impossible to determine one way or another. The text
            spends more time separating female Calliope from female Bumblebee
            Hummingbird than any Selasphorus! I found very little in the text of
            the new book to help me identify a female or imm. Calliope Hummingbird.
            The Williamson text has detailed descriptions of each plumage but does
            not help one figure out what is important, nor does it address how one
            sexes & ages the bird to start with. Nor does it describe the range of
            variation.So I was very disappointed.

            Earlier in the posts of this topic, the maps that show where migrants
            would be at various spring dates were praised. One commentator wrote:
            >As soon as you see the book, go to page 198, and look at the
            distribution
            >map for Black-chinned Hummingbird. This is the second distribution
            >map. It has countour lines in various colors, that show how far north
            >Black-chinned Hummingbirds arrive by specific dates, like March 1,
            march
            >11, March 21, and April 1. Fantastic! Why hasn't everybody else done
            this
            >up until now?

            Al Jaramillo responded
            >While this is a very good idea, one question to ask is: how accurate is
            the
            > information. I know that to try and do something like this for many
            North
            > American birds would be extremely difficult as accurate data on
            arrival
            > times is not out there. Then there is the question of what do you
            pick,
            > average first arrival date, or some other measure of arrival? This
            year
            > Allen's Hummingbirds appeared to have arrived a couple of weeks ahead
            of
            > schedule in San Mateo county ....

            I looked specifically at the Black-chinned Hummingbird map and compared
            it with what I know about Monterey County. The Williamson book showed
            spring migration dates right at Monterey County to be April 1. This is
            in error. Except for one anomolous mid-March record from long ago, the
            EARLIEST arrival in Monterey County has been April 2, and the typical or
            average arrival date is two weeks later -- in mid-April. In some years
            they don't arrive until late April. So the new book is glaringly wrong,
            since small differences of just 3-5 days are shown by lines much farther
            north. [I suspect that migration up the Central Valley is earlier than
            in the coastal range.]

            The lines on the map might be pretty, but I suspect that they are not at
            all accurate if the Monterey example is any clue.

            I searched the book's intro and appendices to try to figure out where
            their dates came from. I could find no discussion at all. No where was
            it explained whether it was meant to be an average date, or the earliest
            date, or a mean date, and what sets of data were used. Worse, the
            bibliography did not include anything from central California, even
            though these details are in the Monterey County breeding bird atlas and
            others, and have been available for a decade. The bibliography is very
            enlightening. It looks like the author relied very heavily on the
            fascicles in the Birds of North America series -- some of which are
            great and some of which are very weak -- and on the accounts in the
            Handbook of the Birds of the World series. Virtually none of the
            important primary literature in California was cited.

            The maps are drawn at a very broad scale and thus extremely misleading,
            especially such things as showing Costa's Hummingbirds nesting in Santa
            Cruz and San Jose. They could easily have been drawn more carefully. In
            California, at least, they do not compare well to the maps in
            "Warblers."

            The new book lists very web sites as important references, including the
            useful HUMMNET, but entirely overlooks the best web site on hummer i.d.:
            http://users.yourvillage.com/conover/
            Then the book praises Blake Maybank's site as a repository for trip
            reports, blithely ignorant that many of these were posted without the
            author's permission and in violation of copyright laws and that there is
            on-going signficant disputes that could lead to litigation, or that the
            quality of trip reports posted there varies widely. One just gets the
            feeling that the book doesn't distinguish between good information and
            poor information.

            In all, the Williamson book does not compare variably to Howell's book
            on i.d. topics (as least so far as I have been able to review), and the
            maps & text are not all that accurate on range or migration topics in
            California. The whole thing looks rushed and not reviewed by a wide
            selection of regional experts.

            On the other hand, the book does have a fine collection of in-hand
            photos of tails and heads of many age classes and species, and this
            alone will be valuable. I also suspect that the information on Arizona
            species will be excellent, given the author's expertise and experience
            there, and through HUMMNET contacts will be quite good for Gulf Coast
            i.d. and distribution.

            If you have the funds or space, obtaining both books would be useful.
            Arizona or Gulf Coast birders will want the Williamson. But if you were
            to pick just one for California, the Howell book appears superior to
            me.

            Don Roberson
            Pacific Grove, Monterey Co., CA
          • SJPeterson@aol.com
            HI Calbirds, As one who enjoys hummingbirds, I have also purchased both Howell s and Williamson s recent hummingbird books mentioned in previous Calbird posts.
            Message 5 of 5 , Feb 20 2:34 PM
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              HI Calbirds,

              As one who enjoys hummingbirds, I have also purchased both Howell's and
              Williamson's recent hummingbird books mentioned in previous Calbird posts.
              And I've enjoyed reading the "reviews" on Calbird about these books.

              While I certainly can allow folks to have their own opinions of these books,
              however harsh, Don Roberson's review of Williamson's book (Calbird, February
              8, 2002) contains two factual errors that should be addressed...

              Don wrote:

              > I looked specifically at the Black-chinned Hummingbird map and compared
              > it with what I know about Monterey County. ...

              <snip>, then in same paragraph...

              The Williamson book showed
              > spring migration dates right at Monterey County to be April 1. This is
              > in error. Except for one anomolous mid-March record from long ago, the
              > EARLIEST arrival in Monterey County has been April 2, and the typical or
              > average arrival date is two weeks later -- in mid-April. In some years
              > they don't arrive until late April. So the new book is glaringly wrong,
              > since small differences of just 3-5 days are shown by lines much farther
              > north.

              I can't find ANY contour line in the book which shows a difference of "just
              3-5 days." All apparently show arrivals at 10 day increments, as further
              clarified on page 47.

              <snip>

              > I searched the book's intro and appendices to try to figure out where
              > their dates came from. I could find no discussion at all. No where was
              > it explained whether it was meant to be an average date, or the earliest
              > date, or a mean date, and what sets of data were used.

              The section "How to Use This Book" addresses this question. On page 47,
              under the heading "Spring Migration Maps" Williamson writes that the lines
              "show average spring arrival dates in 10-day increments." Then later in the
              same paragraph she says the information was "based primarily on firsthand
              reports..., with additional information from publications such as American
              Birds/Field Notes." Her next sentence warns readers that actual spring
              arrival dates may vary.

              I disagree with much of the rest of the review, but that is my personal
              interpretation and perhaps perspective. I will agree that Howell's book is a
              fine one -- I particularly appreciate the overall layout and the larger
              photos. As a distribution aficionado, I appreciate the attempt by Williamson
              to illustrate the range of every species in as much detail as possible on the
              maps, rather than the "field guide brushstrokes" of Howell's maps, which are
              reserved for common species only.

              It is interesting how two books covering the same group of birds can turn out
              so differently, but perhaps that's the appeal. I'm glad I have both!

              Best,

              --Stacy
              ^v^...^v^...^v^...^v^...^v^...^v^...^v^...^v^...^v^...^v^
              Stacy Jon Peterson
              4442 Sijan St. Apt. A
              Mtn Home AFB, ID 83648
              Elmore County; USDA zone 6a; Sunset zone 3
              SJPeterson@...
              ^v^...^v^...^v^...^v^...^v^...^v^...^v^...^v^...^v^...^v^
              HUMMINGBIRDS: www.geocities.com/trochilids
              ^v^...^v^...^v^...^v^...^v^...^v^...^v^...^v^...^v^...^v^


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