Two new field guides have recently been introduced. Here is a quick review for those interested in this sort of thing.
The Crossley ID Guide
I received my review copy of the new Crossley bird ID Guide (Princeton Press) in the mail today. It is billed as an ID guide as opposed to the more common "field guide" reference. Much like David Sibley's big guide, it is too large to carry into the field.
Beyond that, it is not like any other guide. Each species is pictured in a typical habitat, with many different views of the same species. Many images take up most of the space on a page. Birds at the bottom of the image (close to the viewer) are larger than birds further back in the image. Birds are shown at rest and in flight. The eastern version of the guide has over 640 scenes and 10,000 images. The guide does not use strike marks to indicate specific field marks (as on the Peterson series), relying on the birder to learn the bird through a general impression and the text description.
The font size used on the descriptions is very small, almost tiny. If you need glasses for reading, you'll certainly put them to the test.
I like the guide a lot and think anyone that likes birds will also. I rate it as follows:
For beginners: Lots of photos that can be very helpful, but so many images it can be overwhelming.
Intermediate: I think the guide will be most useful to those with intermediate skill level in identifying birds. Top birders rely on general impression, size shape etc to identify many of the birds they see. The number of images of birds in different postures will help the intermediate level birder improve their skills.
Advanced birders: Who needs a field guide any way? Advanced birders will find the guide useful in studying birds for which they have little experience.
There is a lot of content for a $35.00 (list price) guide.
The Stokes Field Guide to the Birds of North America.
Another new effort is the new guide by Don and Lillian Stokes. It is also more of a reference book than a field guide that you stick in your pocket. It features more text per species than most other guides and also includes thousands of images of birds in various plumages.
While not ground-breaking in concept, the number of photographs of each species in many different poses can be a real help. For example, there are 9 different images of the Ring-billed Gull, each in a different plumage (It takes Ring-billed Gulls three years to reach their adult plumage, going through a series of molts. Very confusing.)
For beginners: Easier to use than the Crossley Guide, but so many images it can be hard to find an unknown species.
Intermediate: An excellent tool for the intermediate birder interested in improving their skills on some of the tougher identification challenges.
The quality of the photographs is excellent, much better than the Stokes previous guides.
Advanced birders: A good tool for studying molt patterns in gulls, improving flight ID skills and studying species with which they lack experience.