March 9, 2011

The Crossley ID Guide: Eastern Birds
An America field guide: useful for birding in Mongolia?

Why a review of an America field guide on a blog about birds in Mongolia? There are two main reasons:

1. The Crossley ID Guide from Princeton University Press covers 115 species occurring in Mongolia (c. 25% of the country total), including 25 species of waders (shorebirds) alone.

2. The Crossley ID Guide uses a radical new approach for a field guide (more about this below), resulting in the presentation of 10,000 photos!

So, what is so special about it? Each plate of the guide is a lifelike “scene”, a piece of photographed habitat that has been composed (“photoshopped” photomontages) of a large numbers of photographic colour images of a single species seen from multiple angles and distances, with birds shown in various plumages and behaviours, resting on land, swimming, and flying. The total number of plates (= species) is 640! While a few plates look a bit kitschy to me, most are rather pleasing lifelike.

Sample page from The Crossley ID Guide: Osprey

One example for a species breeding in Mongolia: On the Gull-billed Tern plate, resting birds shown include an adult in non-breeding plumage, an adult in breeding plumage, a fully grown juvenile, and two more adults resting in breeding habitat. In flight a distant juvenile and a distant bird in its first summer plumage + 6 more birds are shown. The scenes capture the birds as one would see them in reality, contrary to most other field guides, which present birds in an idealised style. Thus The Crossley ID Guide won’t replace traditional identification guides. But studying the scenes will certainly help to prepare for the field, or to appreciate what one has just encountered outdoors.

Sample page from The Crossley ID Guide: Black Scoter

The Crossley ID Guide is probably a book no one will take into the field in Mongolia. It’s a huge tome, measuring 25 x 19 x 3.5 cm and weighting impressing 1.6 kilos. However, at just US$ 35 cover price (already available for US$ 21 at it is definitely very good value for your money. I wish I had a copy when I was living in Mongolia—it would have been really diverting during the fiercely cold winter days and the dust storm periods in spring!

The associated website: click here

If you are interested: a throughout review (and links pointing to more reviews) can be found at: 10,000 Birds.

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