Review: The Warbler Guide, Tom Stephenson and Scott Whittle
All of this (137 pages) before we ever get to the heart of the book -- the species accounts. The species accounts are unlike any others that I know of. They are incredibly rich in detail and profusely illustrated. Each account is headed with a few basic drawings showing the bird’s profile, a very effective schematic showing the plumage pattern, an undertail drawing, a range map, and a drawing showing the tree height at which one should expect to find the bird. This is followed by three panels listing and illustrating the major points of identification of a “typical” bird. Then the fun starts with distinctive views, additional photos (of living birds – most are perched, and some in the hands of banders) and photos of museum study skins showing subtleties of plumage variation. The species accounts also include photos of similar-appearing species and photos aimed at sorting through age and sex variations. And, of course, sonograms for songs, chips, and flight calls. Below are two plates from the species account of the Canada warbler:
As I stated at the beginning of this review, it is impossible to do justice to “The Warbler Guide” in a brief review. Telling you what is in it can only suggest the countless delights and the incredible treasure trove of useful, well-organized detail which will delight and instruct every lover of this family of birds.
Bravo to authors Tom Stephenson and Scott Whittle for raising the bar by which we judge specialty guides. “The Warbler Guide” is a labor of love which had to have taken years to produce. We birders also owe a special debt of gratitude to Princeton University Press for this wonderful contribution to the pleasures of our pastime and for all the other excellent guides they have produced over so many years.