Thursday, 14 March 2013

Field guide revolution

An exclusive preview from the forthcoming Crossley ID Guide: Britain and Ireland, showing the huge potential that digital manipulation offers in selecting and combining a wide range of photographic images into montage plates.
Digital technology has unquestionably revolutionised birding – the very fact that you’re reading this on a blog is ample evidence of that. From journal-keeping to bird sightings, it has impacted on many areas that nowadays we take for granted – a far cry from birding’s back-to-nature origins as an outdoor activity borne of fieldcraft.

Of course, we wouldn’t have it any other way. The advantages are there for all to see. And now even traditional industries like book publishing are being transformed – not just behind the scenes through the application of cutting-edge technology, but now in the very make-up of the identification guides which are key tools of our trade.

Perhaps there’s no better example of this than the Crossley ID Guides. When the first in the series, the Crossley ID Guide: Eastern Birds, was published, it’s fair to say it divided opinion. Undeniably innovative with its photo-composite panoramic plates of birds in habitats, it was probably also a shock to the system for those who grew up with plates of painted figures aligned in rows opposite summary ID texts. Both approaches are valid, but with the potential of digital image manipulation almost unlimited, it’s clear which formula has more latitude.

From the imminent new Crossley ID Guide: Raptors.
The latest Crossley ID Guide, published by Princeton University Press, will aim to win over any who still remain sceptical. Raptors covers an ever-popular family, and though dealing with North American species it will have resonance with birders in Britain and Ireland too – even for those who haven’t yet enjoyed birding on the other side of the pond, a sprinkling of species including American Kestrel, Northern Harrier and Bald Eagle are known here as mega-vagrants, and of course Rough-legged Buzzard enjoys a Holarctic distribution, even if its chocolate-brown dark morph is undeniably Nearctic.

Following not far behind Raptors will be another Crossley ID Guide later in the year, and one which birders in Britain and Ireland will certainly be taking a keen interest in (left). Check the Birdwatch magazine website tomorrow for more news on that launch.

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