May and June are excellent times of year to introduce people to the birding fraternity. Males are dressed in their best finery. Birds fill the air with their beautiful songs. The frenetic activities of courtship, nesting and feeding young make it easy to observe birds. And, of course, our bird population here in Maine soars as so many migratory breeding birds return from their wintering areas to take advantage of the long days and productive habitats of Maine.
Two bird guides have been recently published that are geared to beginners. A gift of one of these along with the sharing of your enthusiasm and knowledge of birds may hook another person on birds.
The first book has a local flavor. It is written by Jeff and Allison Wells of Gardiner, Maine. Jeff is a Senior Scientist for the International Boreal Conservation Campaign and Allison is the Senior Director of Public Affairs at the Natural Resources Council of Maine. Their book is called Maine’s Favorite Birds and covers just over a 100 of the most common species in Maine. Each species has a short paragraph giving identification features, voice description and size (length and wingspan). On the facing page, one or more color illustrations are presented. The illustrations by Evan Barbour I are life-like, accurate and very pleasing to the eye.
The limited coverage of Maine’s diverse bird fauna in this guide is an asset for a beginning birder. Most of the species a novice is likely to see will be in this guide.
The book ends with a short section on good spots to go birding in Maine and a list of ways a person can take action for bird conservation. Several opportunities for citizen-science are listed.
Bill Thompson’s The Young Birder’s Guide is explicitly designed for kids. A Peterson Field Guide, this book has the standard field-guide size so is portable into the field.
The book begins with the standard material in most field guides: bird identification features, choosing the right optics, birding etiquette, participating in bird counts, ways to help conserve birds and other wildlife, and the importance of habitat for bird-finding.
About 300 species are covered with one page devoted to each species. The top of each account has a photograph or two. A line drawing is provided in the middle of each page. A map is in the lower right with some information in a Find It box that gives the habitat for that species.
The text provided is in three blocks. Look For gives visual identification skills. Listen For provides descriptions of the vocalizations. I particularly like the prominent depiction of the voice because so many beginners do not realize that one’s ears are often more important than one’s eyes in bird identification. A Remember section gives an interesting fact about the species.
Each account also has a Wow! circle of text that gives an amazing fact about each bird.
Thompson writes that this guide is likely not the only guide anyone will need but should be a very fine first guide.
The latest addition to the Peterson Field Guide series is an exciting contribution to moth identification. This guide, Field Guide to Moths of Northeastern North America, is written by David Beadle and Seabrooke Leckie.
I suspect you will be surprised at the diversity of shapes and sizes of all the moths in our area. You have to be enchanted by many of the common names too such as The Beggar, Four-lined Chocolate, Forgotten Frigid Owlet, The Hebrew, Green Marvel, The Laugher and the Slowpoke!
The guide is arranged with identification features and maps for several species on the left pages with excellent photographs of those species on the right.
Most moths are nocturnal and the authors discuss several ways to attract moths where they can be seen and photographed.
[First published on May 13, 2012]