Christmas for the birders 

By Max Gotz, Whistler Naturalists

Hot off the presses just in time for Christmas, the new Sibley Guide to Birds ($53 CDN, National Audubon Society, Chanticleer Press, New York, 2000, 544 pp.) written and illustrated by David Allen Sibley is sure to be a popular gift for bird enthusiasts. Sibley's incredibly detailed and accurate illustrations and text are precisely focused on identifying every possible species, sex, age, and geographic variation of bird throughout North America. The result is page after page of beautifully illustrated birds in every plumage and season, even from above and below in flight.

The Sibley Guide has raised the bar for bird identification guides. The clear and concise presentation will be appreciated by less experienced birders but nothing is lost for the experts. The illustrations contained in Sibley are worth any three other field guides. It is a little larger than most popular field guides but like the others, well bound and will stand up to some weather or a little bushwhacking in the field.

Intermediate birders will be especially interested to study illustrations of the more difficult families such as gulls, shorebirds, and hawks in flight. Based on over 20 years of field experience and extensive study of museum specimens, the subtle differences that normally inspire confusion and fear in birders are closely examined. For example, each gull species is treated with at least 10 illustrations. Sibley's account of our own Glaucous-winged Gull includes 12 illustrations: 6 showing each distinct plumage phase to adulthood, 5 showing variously aged birds in flight, and a close up of the head. In addition, another two pages and 12 more illustrations are devoted to the various common hybrid forms of the Glaucous-winged Gull.

Superbly illustrated and amazingly complete and thorough, the Sibley guide covers the identification of 810 species (plus 350 regional forms) found on the continent of North America. If you are standing north of the Mexican border and looking at a bird that's not covered in this book, you could be too impaired to drive. Or even walk. This book is indispensable for anyone interested in bird identification and has become the new standard for North American field guides.

Upcoming Events :

December 2 — Monthly Bird Walk . Meet at the base of Lorimer Road at 8 a.m. Contact Michael Thompson (932-5010) for more information.

December 19 — Christmas Bird Count . Join this annual, continent-wide count by contacting Michael Thompson (932-5010). We need volunteers to monitor sites throughout the valley and on the mountains. Feeder watchers are also welcome.

NatureSpeak is prepared by the Whistler Naturalists. For more information on our group or to become a member, please call 932-8900.

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