The book uses 10,000 photos to create "mini-dioramas" that illustrate how birds live their lives.
There's a major buzz in the bird-watching world over a new book, "The Crossley I.D. Guide, Eastern Birds," produced by well-known photographer and birder Richard Crossley. He'll be discussing his stunning new book Tuesday at a meeting of the Audubon Chapter of Minneapolis.
This is not your standard field guide: For one thing, it's large and very heavy, the kind of book you consult back at home after you've been out looking at birds. Its publisher calls it "revolutionary," and the author says he "hopes it will help change the way we look at birds."
I'm not quite sure it will revolutionize bird-watching, but I feel Crossley does accomplish his goal: The book is a major change from traditional field guides in the way it shows birds as they live their lives -- flying, foraging and perching in their natural habitats.
About 10,000 of Crossley's photos are used to make composite images that illustrate the behaviors and plumages of 640 bird species. For example, the purple martin page incorporates 23 images of martins in action, hawking for insects and perching on martin houses, as well as photos showing various life stages.
Unlike other field guides that depict a single, isolated bird to emphasize its particular identification marks, Crossley's book features large, lifelike scenes for each species. The beautiful montages are almost like mini-dioramas, with a 3-D quality, showing how birds look up close, at a distance, in flight and other contexts.
Since it's not a standard field guide, how will people use this book? I'm betting users will devise their own ways to fit the book to their birding styles.
My birding buddy Clay, an excellent birder, anticipates using the book as a sort of study guide, consulting it for birds he seldom sees or doesn't know well, before going out in the field. The Crossley guide also offers a good refresher on birds like the warbler clan that we see only during migration.
I like the emphasis on bird habitats, and plan to study them for a sense of which conditions suit which birds. These can guide bird-watchers to seek out a particular niche to find particular birds (a marsh for a marsh wren, say).
The Crossley book brings alive the importance of appropriate habitats to birds, and perhaps will encourage some birders to go beyond merely identifying and counting the birds they see. This new guide helps us get to know the birds.
Niggles: Some of the photos in a given scene are too small and distant to be of much use. Because it's organized differently from a standard field guide, it may not be as easy to look up a new bird. And I really wish Crossley had not included the four-letter abbreviations used by bird banders for each species. This jargon has the effect of excluding those who don't know (and don't need to know) that YRWA can mean yellow-rumped warbler. Birds have fine, time-tested names and we don't need to hide them in code. The book also contains several errors; they are corrected on Crossley's blog: www.Crossleybooks.com/blog.