Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Finding Your Wings-A Great Beginners Course in Birding

Sometimes after many years of searching, you find just the book you have been looking for!

Most of you know that I love to watch birds and have started to keep a life list of birds that I have identified. Although I am able to recognize quite a number of birds at this point, I am still an amateur when it comes to distinguishing lots of birds I come into contact with.

For instance, take the Purple Finch, the House Finch, and the Cassin's Finch. They are so similar and I really have had to learn to look at certain distinguishing qualities to pinpoint which one is in the feeder.

Last week when I was at Yosemite National Park, I was browsing the bookstore on a hot afternoon's break from hiking. I skimmed through the shelves to find anything interesting and I was rewarded with this beauty of a book!!!
The Peterson Field Guides' Finding Your Wings: A Workbook for Beginning Bird Watchers by Burton Guttman.

This book is spiral bound and has 206 pages. It is written as a course in beginning birding. You use this worktext along with either:
A Field Guide to the Birds of Eastern and Central North America, fifth edition
A Field Guide to Western Birds, third edition
depending on where you live.

If you follow the link to the workbook above, you can look at the table of contents. While you are there, take a look at the sample pages and see what you think about this book.

I have read through just about the first hundred pages of this book and I found it very reader friendly and basic enough to give me what I need to get started but deep enough that it is going to really give me the help I need to learn to identify more birds, more quickly.

The first sections help you choose equipment like binoculars, field guides, and notebooks. After the introduction, there are chapters on learning to really "see" birds and then it moves on to teaching you to see the "easy" birds first. There are exercises with each chapter and they are to be done using the field guide for your particular area of North America. References are given to the particular field guides so it is easy to look up the birds that are being discussed. Each chapter has its own field exercises for you to complete.

There are also quizzes for each section to help you remember what you were introduced to in the chapters.

After the introduction and general lessons, there are lessons to learn about each family of birds like sparrows, wrens, blackbirds, etc.

I am seriously thinking about using this book as a supplement to the boys' biology courses or as a part of our weekly nature study. The book is set up so you could very easily make it into high school level course in ornithology. Or you could just work through it as a means of getting the basic understanding of a life-long hobby, birding.
Here is a quote from the "How to Use This Book" section.
"This is a workbook. It contains specific questions and exercises, requiring you to look at certain points in the field guides or to go out and make certain observations. As I explain in chapter 2, birding is largely about learning to see (and to hear), so most of the exercises ask you to look at the birds on a certain plate in the book and see something specific about them."
I am really looking forward to working through this book, both on my own and with the boys. I think this is just the starting point for a more thorough understanding of how to identify birds. If your heart's desire is to get to know more about birding, I highly recommend this book.

I was thinking that using this book would be a great way to supplement Apologia's Flying Creatures book too.

His whole strategy in this book is based on his idea that the best way to identify birds is "bird by bird". Taking one bird at a time, we can build a long life list of birds identified.

This book is a gem.
Barb-Harmony Art Mom

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