Monday, July 2, 2012

Book Review: How to Be a Better Birder

Disclaimer: Princeton Publishing provided a copy for review.

The Skinny:

How to Be a Better Birder by Derek Lovitch
just under 200 pages
~9 topic specific chapters
Size: not quite pocket sized, but small...
Price on the back: $19.95

The lowdown: the author has put together a nice collection of topics and ideas regarding several topics that "expert" birders practice and study, generally chapter-specific, but it builds on its own ideas well as the book progresses...

Here's a look at the chapters (off the Princeton website for the book) :

Table of Contents:

Acknowledgments ix
Introduction 1
Chapter 1: Advanced Field Identification 5

--- I enjoyed this chapter... The author tries to teach (and convince) the reader that the time has come for birders to study birds more. A major interest of mine is studying common birds and learning how variable they can be. In my opinion, this is an awesome way to improve your birding goals, no matter what they are (vagrants, nesting birds, photography etc etc) 

Chapter 2: Birding by Habitat 31

--- Another fun chapter... If you're looking to expand your birding into new horizons (and don't pay attention to habitat) then this will be a fun learning experience...
Chapter 3: Birding with Geography 53

--- what more can I say? I wouldn't have gone to Netitishi point multiple times if I wasn't keen on geography... At this point, I'm starting to think that if you enjoy reading this blog, you're going to think the book is a fun read... 

Chapter 4: Birding and Weather 75
--- I love weather! And its another fun chapter... Although its not quite the same as the weather theories I throw around on the blog here, there are a lot of great ideas if you're hoping to learn more about the relationship between birding and weather... 

Chapter : Birding at Night 101

--- Ok you lost me... A lot of this chapter talks about nexrad radar, fight calls etc... Which are all fun, but this is where I started to remember something important to remember with a book like this... Not everyone is going to find the same topics interesting (or even care for that matter). 

Chapter 6: Birding with a Purpose 123

--- Ebird? CBC's? Breeding bird surveys or Atlas work? There's a number of great ways to give your birding purpose... Heck, I do stuff like trying to see how many species of birds I can see in a specific day while working (or on a specific site) - even if its just an empty lot in suburbia.. A chapter I enjoyed quite a bit!

Chapter 7: Vagrants 134

--- Anyone on the blog enjoy finding vagrants? 

Chapter 8: A New Jersey Case Study 155

--- A great way to bring most of what we looked at together into a "final chapter" so to speak... 

Chapter 9: Patch Listing 172

--- I'm trying to make "Patch Listing" a major part of my own birding as soon as possible... It's not there yet, but I think the idea is great and also really enjoyed this chapter... 

References and Additional Reading 181
Index 187


Harsh critique: I love a solid, 100% honest critique of my stuff, so here's one for the book:

One thing that bugged me a bit is how the book seems a bit short-sighted at times when talking about "major trends" - one specific example I can bring up is a large photo of a Roseate Spoonbill --- the text says something like "increasingly being found north of their usual range" --- whereas I can tell this Chapter was written in late 2009 or 2010 - because the Spring/Summer of 2009 had a surprising "irruption" of this species north of their usual range ---- which brought Ontario its first record in June 2009 ---- but hardly seems to be a "long-term" trend to me... Since I really don't think any pattern has continued into 2012........ It's not really a big deal, but was on my mind from time to time as I read through it..... 

Biggest peeve with the book: I REALLY don't like the cover illustration. I think its ugly...  The small digital copy above looks way better than the book I'm looking at.... 



So there's a look at the book! Obviously there is a lot more than what I've written, so if you're keen to read more, you'll have to grab a copy... The author does mention at the start that there really isn't anything to the term "better birder" or "expert birder" ... A great way to look at this book would be to say "here's some birding related things you can do to learn more and be active - instead of sitting inside watching TV"

If you approach it as a fun way to learn some new things surrounding birding, you will probably enjoy the book (especially if you enjoy reading)... And for $20, its not a bad idea.... Because lets be serious --- there really isn't much to the term "expert birder" --- more like, "birder with more spare time than others" !

So yeah! That's my take... If you've read it, let me know what you think!


  1. Derecho, straight line winds equal to a small
    hurricane through Ohio.

    There must be other birds beside the


  3. Tropical storm Debbie pushed the Frigatebird up the coast
    in front of the derecho.

  4. Fred,

    You are correct. I saw Yellow Warblers today too!

  5. Yellow Warblers are suppose to be going south in July.