Saturday, March 31, 2012

How To Be a Better Birder by Derek Lovitch: A review

Birders, even non-competitive backyard birders like myself, are always looking for something that will give them that extra edge as they pursue their winged quarry for the purposes of identification and listing. Because, let me tell you, birding is hard. Birds almost never cooperate. They flit around, constantly in motion, as you try to follow them with your binoculars, and just when you get focused in, zip! They're gone. Frustrating little critters. Warblers are the worst. 

But help is on the way. Derek Lovitch has written a book which is useful for birders at any level of proficiency from the beginner to the obsessive lister. 

It is a short book, only 179 pages in the edition which I read, and very accessible. He explores best practices and gives tips on advanced field identification, birding at night, birding and habitat, geography, and weather. He writes about how to anticipate vagrants, those birds that show up in wildly out-of-range places where they really shouldn't be. Understanding the area that you are birding and knowing what is likely to be found there, as well as having some idea of what might turn up unexpectedly, is more than half the battle in this hobby. 

One thing that I particularly liked about Lovitch's book was his emphasis on "birding with purpose." He is (as I am) an enthusiastic proponent of citizen science projects. He argues for the importance of birders of all levels participating in events such as the Christmas Bird Count, Great Backyard Bird Count, and Project FeederWatch and he strongly advocates for birders contributing checklists to the online data collecting resource, eBird. The data collected by all these citizen science projects are important to the efforts of conservationists to protect and defend birds and their habitats. 

Lovitch has a clear and readable style of writing and he includes links to additional resources for readers who want to learn more about a specific subject. No matter what being a "better birder" means to you, this is a book that can help you reach your goal. 

(A free copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher for the purposes of this review.)

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