Jim Williams has been watching birds and writing about their antics since before "Gilligan's Island" went into reruns. Join him for his unique insights, his everyday adventures and an open conversation about the birds in your back yard and beyond.
In stores now is Richard Crossley's newest field guide to birds: The Crossley ID Guide -- Raptors. It's similar to his first field guide, but better. It deals with a family of birds well suited for his idea of setting many photos of a species against a large photo background.
His first book covered all of the bird species of eastern North America. This book deals solely with raptors. Crossly's initial effort, published in 2011, was called revolutionary for the way it presented its photos. Each species was presented on full pages with multiple photos, birds seen from every conceivable point of view. Crossley wanted to duplicate your field experiences.
The raptor book makes the most of this idea. Raptors are often, perhaps most often, seen flying. Crossley's photos of birds in the air -- birds soaring and gliding and swooping -- would be better only in video. The book's photos do match what you see in the field; they are very pertinent. There are raptors near and far, high and low, raptors perched, raptors overhead.
Raptors are special because it's possible to make accurate identifications at a distance, when plumage details are not easily seen. How are the bird's wings set? Is it bulky, or slender, large head or small? The physical attributes of the bird, perched as well as aloft, can spell its name. Crossley has captured this well. His idea really works with raptors.
Supporting the hundreds of fine photos is text on each species, the particulars similar to what you can find in other guides but more extensive. There are range maps. And if you want to hone you raptor ID skills, Crossley provides several pages of quiz photos. They show a mix of raptor species in various poses at various distances, what you might see in the field. This is a wonderful idea, a true test. He does provide answers, for which I was grateful. (I need raptor work.)
Crossley's had collaborators for this effort, well-known raptor experts Jerry Liguori and Brian Sullivan. All of the photos used were taken by these three men.
"The Crossley ID Guide -- Raptors" is soft cover, 285 pages, extensively illustrated with double-page photo spreads, glossary index, $29.95. The book is another in the fine series if bird guides published by Princeton University Press.
Below is one page of the two-page spread for Cooper's Hawk.
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