RE: [Norton AntiSpam] Re: [SWFLBirdline] Digest Number 999
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of these products and own no fewer than 20 varying bird-finding guides (ABA & other) dating back to the first one I purchased back in 1985. None-the-less, let’s use the aforementioned “ABA Birder’s Guide to Florida” as an example. Let me preface by saying that Bill Pranty has done a Fantastic job here and this is one of the best guides in its class. This is not meant at a dig at the guides but strictly as a comparison.
The ABA guide was last published in 2005 and much of the data included was written 2-3 years earlier so some of the data presented is approaching 8 years old. It’s 418 pages and chronicles ~75 birding areas or “loops” complete with directions, etc. for a total of ~320+/- individual sites (from a quick thumb through). Also included is an annotated list, information on other wildlife, a specialty species section, and other stuff. All to the tune of $25.95 retail.
Now let’s compare this to the “Great Florida Birding Trail”:
These guides are smaller regional pamphlets but like the ABA guide offer bird-finding tips, maps & directions, contact numbers for parks, etc. These are absolutely free for the asking and if you can’t find an agency office, etc. that carries them, you can download PDF versions that you can view on your handheld in the field, cell phone, or if you want the “real deal” you can print out all or just the sections you plan to visit. The four guides are ~32-40 pages long each and are broken into four regions East, West, South, and Panhandle. They include 71 “clusters” (similar to the loops in the ABA guide) which cover 487 individual sites. The eastern guide was the first produced 2002, but online there is a list of individual sites and an additional 46 sites are listed here. As names and directions change, the website adds updates (as recent as August 5th 2009) to handle the changes.
So in direct comparison, for $26 I get a 418 page book that covers ~320 birding sites. For free I have the same quality site finding information on 487 (printed) or 533 (electronic) sites. I know personally I have had times where I couldn’t find a newer site in ABA and could on the birding trail site. One requires carrying the large 417 page guide (near the size of the full-sized Sibley guides), the other only requires a cell phone signal. In addition, I note that the Great Florida Birding Trail is synched with “Google Maps” so I can get direct turn by turn directions and even images showing landmarks, (e.g. what the intersection looks like).
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying the book is obsolete. Only that these new resource that are more inclusive of sites (40% more in this case), are more intuitive, and regularly updated are absolutely FREE. Plus, for anyone with an I-phone or Blackberry eliminates the need to print these or pick these up. This is more eco-friendly (no paper waste). Plus since many of these handheld devices also have GPS capabilities, one can simply access the site they want to go to, click the Google Maps tool, and their phone will guide them turn by turn to the site! It’s come a long way from when I bought my first “Lane” Guide (original name of this ABA bird-finding series) 25 years ago and felt like I’d been given the golden ticket, and these changes are ABSOLUTELY affecting the sales of these products which offer (comparatively) old and sometimes out-dated information on notably fewer birding sites.
The annotated checklists in these books was always one of my favorite portions of these but in this case this single checklist for the state requires a bit of guesswork depending where you are in the state. For example, Purple Sandpiper is listed from Late October all the way through June. from October to March it is listed as “Uncommon”, then “Rare” in April, and “Casual” in May & June. However, the first section of this graph is broken up into 5 geographic areas: Panhandle, North Peninsula, Central Pen., South Pen, & keys. In the Panhandle and Keys the listing is Casual, it is Rare in Central & South, and Uncommon only in North Peninsula. Meaning anywhere but the former you have to assume that abundance & likelihood is downgraded marginally to significantly.
Enter E-bird. Using E-bird I can create my own annotated checklists limited to exact sites or geographic areas as I dictate (county, area, township, state whatever). In addition, I can have it list only specific date ranges and the graphs represented include real time data that could include sightings as recent as yesterday from that site in some cases. The annotated checklist in the guide is based on review of 40 years of written checklist data that often includes information on species which are no longer seen reliably. For example, in the ABA guide Smooth-billed Ani is listed as rare year round, throughout the south peninsula region. While this may be correct by definition, the reality of this is that in the past 6+ years no one has reported any birds in the state except for a single family group that is seen near the Ft. Lauderdale airport.
A real time species checklist drawn from modern and recent data would not give a visiting birder the impression that they stand a fair chance of running into these as they bird the southern peninsula. Plus, once again, it’s completely free and you can customize it to the EXACT variables you are interested in!
Leica Sport Optics, USA
Port Charlotte, FL
As much as I use the internet for one of my main sources of info both locally and on the road, having books like this are a must for me -- while real time birding is important, having a handy guide that has a list of all of the bird hotspots (which rarely change), as well as directions on how to get there (which is always useful although I have an iPhone and GPS for my car) is a must for me.
It's not my only source, but it's important for the greater arsenal of info.
Although I am relatively young (30 years old), I am not ready to give books the heave-ho yet -- these ABA guides have been a huge help for me, and I take my SoCal guide with me every weekend I am in the field.
Philadelphia, PA / Los Angeles, CA / Bonita Springs, FL
On Sep 15, 2009, at 10:07 AM, Jeff Bouton wrote:
This has never been a quick process, I know the section I wrote I submitted in 2002 I believe. So the info was already ~3 years old when the guide was new. That said most of this doesn’t change and moreover the need for these guides (and sales of) ha largely been destroyed by the plethora of real time and free info available online. For example, most states have bird trail programs as FL does these pamphlets and subsequent updates are easier and cheaper to produce, plus since these are free publications there isn’t that pressure of having to wait until you sell through the old stock either.
Also bird listserves like this one are VERY common and can be found for any locale with real time info and data. Same for e-bird! The data you can view here represents REAL-TIME current data, not a list comprised from handwritten checklists decades old. This has done much to all but destroy the market need/desire for these local bird-finding guides it seems. I know whenever I prepare for a trip I turn to the internet for my data.
a birders guide to Florida - revised??? in 2005. is that the latest edition? It is 2009 now.
----- Original Message -----
Sent: Tuesday, September 15, 2009 10:01 AM
Subject: [SWFLBirdline] Digest Number 999
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Birding Hot Spots of Sarasota and Manatee Counties Book From: Peter Rice SRQ Bird Alerts
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