Date: 2/7/17 9:01 am
From: \Shultz, Steven\ (via carolinabirds Mailing List) <carolinabirds...>
Subject: Book Review - ABA Field Guide to Birds of the Carolinas
Here's a review of the recently released guide to Carolinas birds written by our own Nate Swick for your sleepy Tuesday reading pleasure. Nate presented at the recent winter CBC meeting, where many folks had a chance to browse through his book.

American Birding Association Field Guide to Birds of the Carolinas
Nate Swick ISBN 978-1-935622-63-5, 331 pages, Flexibound
2016, Scott & Nix, Inc., $24.95

As you walk by your bookshelf, likely sagging from the weight of collected field guides, you may ask: "Do I really need another book? After all, I have the Peterson Guide, the Sibley Guide, and an old copy of Potter and Company's Birds of the Carolinas... what more do I need?" I will try and convince you that making a space for Swick's recently released effort will be money well spent.

The American Birding Association Field Guide to Birds of the Carolinas (hereafter referred to as "the book" for brevity) finds a niche and fills it nicely. 290 species regularly encountered in the Carolinas form the tome's backbone. The goal is to provide quick, correct identification of species encountered in the Carolinas while providing essential distribution and abundance information. Birds rarely seen, or not likely to occur in the Carolinas, are not treated, making this a very handy reference for beginning birders, visitors to the states, or someone wanting to know what that cute little black, white, and grey bird is at the feeder. Since Carolina Chickadee is right there on page 201, there's no mistaking the bird for a Black-capped Chickadee (though, for that one person who has a feeder at 5,000 feet in the Balsam Mountains of NC, Black-capped is covered in the text). And this is one of the book's strengths. By not treating all of the vagrants, occasionals, and rarities (though all are listed in the appendix), the book focuses on which birds are likely to been seen, and thus improves the usability of the guide for much of the target audience.

This approach necessarily requires some level of culling, so while Buff-breasted Sandpiper is included in the shorebird section (and is arguably the least common sandpiper covered) the equally abundant, in terms of actual number of birds, Red-necked Grebe is omitted. But in looking back over a typical birding year, I realize that I usually "get" a Buffie, and usually miss Red-necked Grebe, so the decision on what to include seems spot on.

And getting to the correct identification is much of the puzzle. Once one knows that the bird is an American Redstart or a Yellow-throated Warbler, a Sibley or Peterson can help identify age, specific plumage, and subspecies.

So why not carry the trusted Peterson and be done with it? Because a critical component of the book's value proposition is the focused distribution and abundance information, which is of great value to visiting birders, as well as those wanting to increase their knowledge of avifauna in the Carolinas. Knowing, for example, that a birder wanting to add American Avocet to their North Carolina list needs to plan a trip to Pea Island NWR, since the species is uncommon to rare anywhere else in the state, is the equivalent of a gold nugget.

And if even that is not enough, then just get the book for pearls scattered throughout such as the mnemonic: "Eew Eew I-stepped-in-Poo!" Which Carolina bird repeats this phrase from moist tangles starting in mid-April? You'll have to get a copy of the book and find out!



*I have no financial interest in the book, and all opinions stated are mine alone.


Steve Shultz
Apex, NC

 
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