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Re: [CALBIRDS] New Hummingbird Field Guide

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  • 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 1 of 5 , Feb 6, 2002
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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 2 of 5 , Feb 7, 2002
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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 3 of 5 , Feb 8, 2002
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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 4 of 5 , Feb 20, 2002
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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
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