It’s hard to believe that I haven’t bumped into a Grey Partridge yet but it’s true, so, to rectify that and to be in with a slim chance of a Gyr Falcon I wandered off to Mirabel today. The Gyr was a non-starter, as expected, but the partridges were well behaved and their ‘lump of mud’ impression fooled nobody.
While out that way I always like to take a look at Lachute dump. It was probably the best I’ve seen it this winter with the gulls at reasonable range, well most of them, and even a photo op with a Glaucous Gull. There was a real imbalance between Glaucous and Iceland Gulls, score 40:3. Ring-billed were back and the rest of the loafing birds were mostly Great Black-backed with about 50% fewer American Herring Gulls. I had half-hoped that the Gyr was feasting on gulls there but no sign and no unexplained panics, good theory though.
My Sibley 2nd edition came yesterday and so I eagerly got stuck in to looking through it. There is a lot of web chatter about the book, some fair, some overly critical. First and foremost I believe that it is still the best field guide to North American birds – definitive, as it say’s on the back – no, not really, that is a very big ask and would take more than one book. What the overly critical seem to forget is that Sibley is a one-man show. Text and illustrations by one person is something way beyond all but a tiny percentage of birders. Being a one-may show is also to its detriment because Sibley is not good at drawing some species or perhaps it is better to say that some species’ illustrations don’t work here.
On an initial view I have to agree with others, some of the image printing is awful, wrong colours and too dark. I’ll not list the obvious problems because you will see them when you look at a copy. The text is too small, way too small. This is the publisher’s fault, not Sibley’s although presumably he had some say-so in the final product. The maps could be better in that some species only occur in a very small area but the map shows the USA and Canada, not sure why? If something only occurs in Texas, only show Texas in as large a scale as possible. If it is solely restricted to the east coast or even just Newfoundland, ditto, more detail please.
I think that, because the first Sibley is so good, and ahead of its time somewhat, the second edition will meet a more critical readership. I also think that we are a very long way from a definitive guide to the birds of North America. At $25.00 a pop the Sibley is cheap, very cheap and the income it will generate can in no way compensate Sibley financially for all his work and effort. Despite the gripes, I still think Sibley is the best and anyone who thinks that they are a birder should own one. It is one of the two, possibly three essential field guilds that all birders must own; the other being Peterson and the National Geographic.
Perhaps we are seeing the gradual end of the printed book, the process started some time ago. The disappointment at the reproduction of Sibley’s artwork is valid, as are the complaints regarding text size etc. After looking at the new guide and then comparing the illustrations in there to the app, the app is better. The app shows you how the images were supposed to look and you can bump up the text to a reasonable size. Add to that the calls and songs and the app is a superior product. Personally I still like to hold a book, leaf through it, write notes in it if I see something I think will help ID a species or that I get from an ID paper. You can’t personalise an app!