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Re: [CALBIRDS] New Hummingbird Field Guide

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  • 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 1 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 2 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 3 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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