The Crossley ID Guide Eastern Birds promises to “revolutionize birding by providing the first real-life approach to identification.” Just what does that mean? It means that the identification photos in the book present multiple views of each species in a variety of poses, at different levels of maturity, in a variety of seasons, and at a variety of distances. In other words, those using The Crossley ID Guide will almost certainly be able to match up what they see in the field with a picture that is both at the same distance and in a similar posture.
The number of images of each bird shows such great variety that it not only reveals the bird’s postures, coloration, and field marks, but also provides evidence of the bird’s behaviors. The Osprey page, as shown at the upper left of this text for example, depicts this magnificent raptor in various flight poses, but also perched at a distance as one is most likely to see it. The background scenery depicts its typical habitat and it is shown in various hunting poses, snatching a fish from the water carrying it aloft, and holding its trophy on a perch preparing to eat. There are also the close-up detailed photos showing the fine detail should the birder get the chance to get near an osprey either physically or with higher-powered optics.
Each of the 640 photo pages is a composite made up of many different photos, 99 percent of which, the author states, were taken by him personally. For the novel approach to bird identification alone, The Crossley ID Guide is my new favorite birding field guide. There are other reasons to like it as well. First, the binding is uncharacteristically sturdy and of the type normally reserved for hard-cover books, even though The Crossley ID Guide is a soft-cover field guide.
Another feature that sets The Crossley ID Guide Eastern Birds apart from other eastern bird field guides is the breadth of species covered. This is important to help identify the vagrant species that can often be found on the east coast. Recently, I had the opportunity to see a Townsend’s Solitaire in my hometown in the state of New Hampshire. The bird was not listed at all in the eastern regions edition of the National Audubon field guide or in Sterry and Small’s Birds of Eastern North America, my two “go to” field guides, but was included in Crossley’s new book.
Another of my favorite features of the book is the 16 page Quick Key to Species. This section shows small profile pictures of each bird in the book, broken into categories. To find the correct page for an unknown bird, you need only figure out in which category it belongs and then match it up to one, or narrow it down to several likely candidates. Categories include Walking Waterbirds, Upland Game Birds, Song Birds, and several others. The pictures are all lined up for easy comparison, to allow the beginning birder to find the correct page for the bird they see in the field without already knowing the bird’s species.
The Crossley ID Guide wins for both number of species and its photographic presentation of each species. It is well put together and as durable as one would expect in a field guide. The single fault of The Crossley ID Guide is the necessary consequence of its completeness. It is quite large. Measuring eight inches by ten inches by nearly an inch and a half thick, The Crossley ID Guide is not a book that can be tucked into a jacket pocket.
In short, The Crossley ID Guide is my brand new favorite birding field guide. Its unique photographic presentation, visual species index, and inclusion of many species that other eastern bird guides lack allow the birder to quickly and easily identify not only resident east coast birds, but also many of the common vagrants that may be seen here.
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This review was based on a review copy of The Crossley ID Guide provided free of charge by the Princeton University Press.