‘A BIRDER’S GUIDE TO THE BAHAMA ISLANDS’: BOOK REVIEW


A BIRDER’S GUIDE TO THE BAHAMA ISLANDS (INCLUDING TURKS & CAICOS)   

 ABA BIRDFINDING GUIDES (American Birding Association)

  Anthony W. White

  Published 1998

  302 pages

  Wire-O binding

  ISBN 1-878788-16-7

QUICK REVIEW In a rush? Scroll down for a 30-second bullet-point review. If not, hang in here for fuller details…

PUBLISHER’S BLURB (précis) The first comprehensive guide to finding birds on the islands of The Bahamas and TCI. The islands host an unusual mix of Caribbean and North American species, with over 300 bird species recorded. There are 3 endemic species: Bahama Woodstar, Bahama Swallow, and Bahama Yellowthroat, and a host of other specialties, including such birds as West Indian Whistling-Duck, White-cheeked Pintail, Key West Quail-Dove, Great Lizard-Cuckoo, Cuban Emerald, West Indian Woodpecker, Bahama Mockingbird, Olive-capped Warbler, Stripe-headed Tanager, Greater Antillean Bullfinch, and Black-cowled Oriole. Seabird nesting colonies [include] Audubon’s Shearwaters, White-tailed Tropicbirds, and 8 tern species. The parks and refuges of The Bahamas and TCI protect a great diversity of subtropical birds, among them the Bahama Parrot (an endemic subspecies of Cuban Parrot), and many North American wintering birds, including the endangered Kirtland’s Warbler. The New World’s largest flamingo colony nests on Great Inagua, protected by the country’s largest national park. The Guide [includes] complete descriptions by Tony White of more than 150 birding sites on the major islands and smaller cays. It also features a beautiful eight-page Photo Gallery of many of the Bahamian specialty birds, several of which show up regularly in Florida

RH VIEW This book obviously covers a far greater area than Abaco / Northern Bahamas – indeed, it is about as comprehensive of the whole Bahamas region as it could get. Where it scores highly is in taking the area island by island, cay by cay, and identifying the prime birding areas on each. I have to say that, being a 1998 book, some of the descriptions of places on Abaco that I am familiar with are not as you will find them now; and doubtless this applies across the whole region. As the Table of Contents shows, the book is split into ‘places’ chapters, with additional and useful general information chapters. Abaco is covered in just 20 pages. It’s not a lot, but the birding hotspots are well covered, and expected / hoped for bird species are given for each.

Despite the relatively little page space given to each region, there is much else to be got from this book. The final third of the book includes a detailed annotated list of the speciality bird species (also shown in photo gallery format earlier in the book). This is followed by a huge 20-page bird checklist, with every species given a numbered code for each region, ranging from 1 (easily found) to 6 (cannot be found – extinct or extirpated). So you will find, for example, that a Forster’s Tern is rated ’4′ for Abaco – ‘extremely difficult to find’. There are short notes on other Bahamas wildlife, divided into mammals, reptiles, amphibians and insects – followed by helpful appendices (a glossary; a list of common name alternatives); a massive 22-page bibliography; and a serviceable index

The chart inside the front cover shows where the specialty Bahamas birds are to be found . At the back is a large area map showing the total coverage

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BULLET POINT REVIEW FOR THOSE WHO ARE PRESSED FOR TIME
  • Fairly weighty 300 pages covering the entire Bahamas region
  • Short but helpful descriptions of birding hotspots on the islands and cays, with the species you may encounter
  • Excellent ancillary species and distribution checklists
  • Focus on specialty birds of the Bahamas
  • Particularly useful for anyone investigating different regions of the Bahamas, or wishing to compare them
  • 14 years since publication is a long time in the islands’ development; expect some irrelevant references for 2012
  • Overall a useful, interesting bird location book, but NB not intended as species identification field guide

SHELLS OF THE ATLANTIC COASTS & WEST INDIES: PETERSON FIELD GUIDE


SHELLS OF THE ATLANTIC COASTS & WEST INDIES 

PETERSON FIELD GUIDE    Abbott / Morris   350pp

An excellent and comprehensive field guide which covers the area as thoroughly as one could wish. It’s not exactly a pocket book, and at 350 pages it’s quite a chubby paperback – but the sort of size you’d happily throw into a day-bag or backpack. This authoritative shell guide dates from 1947, with frequent reprints. Mine is a fourth edition (1995) – there may be a 2002 one.

Currently £18 from Amazon UK,  or new / used for around £7 (a bargain); and a great deal cheaper on Amazon US. Overall 4* reviews

Rolling Harbour rating *****

THE BOOK IN A CONCH SHELL

  • Numerous clear illustrative line drawings throughout (115, in fact)
  • 74 colour plates grouped together at the heart of the book, showing living creatures and a huge variety of shells – 780 in all
  • Introductory articles on collecting, preparing, arranging and naming shells; also classifications and measurements
  • The text comprises 800 brief but helpful family / species descriptions, with notes on habitat and other remarks
  • Bi-valves cover 120 pages; Gastropods a stonking 150 pages
  • The substantial illustrated core of the book has shell groups on the right-hand page, with ID and text references on the left. The system works very well, especially with the many shell types that are very similar
  • At the back there’s a useful ‘Conchological Glossary’ to help sort out the crenulates from the reticulates
  • A huge 30-page index that is both thorough and user-friendly
I personally found the illustration section very helpful as a first stop; then a trip to the text to confirm the description. I had no idea what a shell we recently found in a drawer might be, but it didn’t take long to nail the ID as a STOCKY CERITH a shell I’d never even heard of. First I found a very clear illustration of it, then turned to the text description which matched what I had in my hand. Overall, as a complete amateur, I found this book the best practical guide I have yet tried for shell identification – and I suspect more sophisticated shell-seekers will get a great deal out of it too.

PETERSON CONCISE GUIDE TO SHELLS OF NORTH AMERICA: REVIEW


PETERSON CONCISE GUIDE TO THE SHELLS OF NORTH AMERICA

This pocket guide is part of the well-known Peterson series of natural history guides. It’s called a ‘First Guide’ to denote its ‘beginner’ / condensed status, and to distinguish it from the serious business of the excellent and comprehensive Peterson Field Guides (I shall review 2 of these in due course. When I have read them. In 2012).                                  rh rating **

SUMMARY: this 128pp ‘concise field guide to 224 common shells of North America’ is a simple pocket guide, with quite basic descriptions, and colour drawings rather than photos. All the main gastropod and bivalve species are represented, each with a few variants. The vast majority of these will be found on Abaco and more generally in the northern Bahamas. For the used price I paid for a 1989 edition with a creased front cover (1 pence + P&P on Amazon UK!) I have actually found it quite useful for comparing or confirming IDs, or for snippets of additional information. However, it’s not the one to rely on entirely to identify your beachcombing finds or to get species details. Apart from anything else the illustration colouring is often somewhat approximate. At best, I’d say it’s a useful preliminary tool for ID on the beach if you don’t want to lug a much larger field guide around with you. Don’t use it for your doctoral thesis. Overall, some use, but not a great deal. There are better books: see FISH & SHELL BOOKS

BOOK REVIEW – ABACO: HISTORY OF AN OUT ISLAND & ITS CAYS


STEVE DODGE, illus. Laurie Jones – White Sound Press

• Original Edition 1983 (170pp), reprinted                     rollingharbour rating ****     • Revised and expanded edition 2005 (270pp)                    [I don't have it!]

These are the 2 covers, to help distinguish them if you search online. Beware, the covers are often used interchangeably… so check the edition date

                              

The cover image, colourfully made over for the new century, shows the Albertine ‘Adoue’ – the last Abaconian sailing mailboat (giving way to diesel power in 1923)

1st EDITION REVIEW: The first 5 chapters cover the more distant history of the Bahamas in general & Abaco in particular. Starting promisingly “Two hundred million year ago…”, the early chapters briefly cover the formation & geology of the islands and the demographic & social history, with plenty to interest and not too much detail – very informative for a non-Abaconian like me. I personally am uninterested in the boatbuilding chapter (I like the illustrations) but it will surely appeal to people who feel comfortable out of their depth. The history of gradual expansion, increased trading importance, & the less attractive sides – e.g. wrecking – are well-covered. 

The final 3 chapters form the second half of the book – the 20th Century when Abaco moved from relative isolation to greater significance. Here the detail becomes denser as Abaco rapidly develops. There are parts that I skimmed, but there’s much of interest and many factual nuggets about the political developments in the later 20th century. Overall the book is an excellent primer for an Abaco novice for an overview up to the 1980s. I guess residents will also get plenty from it as well.

I haven’t seen the new edition, but I am sure it is the one to get. The Am*z*n blurb for it, which I recklessly copy, says “This expanded and updated second edition has completely new sections on Lucayan Indians, Wilson City, and contemporary Abaco, and many revisions. This is the only general, comprehensive history of Abaco, Bahamas available; it covers from the geologic formation of the Bahama Banks to the middle 1990s. Cover painting by Phil Capen,; illustrations by Laurie Jones. 112 illustrations, photographs, and maps. Appendix on boat building in Abaco”  There are plainly many more illustrations and photos than in my copy; and I notice boatbuilding has been moved to an Appendix…

CURRENT COST: Unlike most of the books I have reviewed, this book is not cheap at the moment. The new edition can be bought for $25 on Amazon.com /  £33 on Amazon.co.uk – none on Abe. The original edition is a mere $4 on Amazon.com, unfeasibly expensive on Amazon.co.uk, but reasonable on Abe

THE GOOD BOOK GUIDE – DELPHI CLUB, ABACO


Selected Birdyographyplease see the BOOKS page for full details – starting with the ‘Go-To’ reference book

Bruce Hallett

Birds of the Bahamas and the Turks & Caicos Islands

James Bond

Birds of the West Indies (Collins Field Guide)

Birds of the West Indies Norman Arlott

Birds of the West Indies (Collins Field Guide)

P G C Brudenell-Bruce

The Birds of New Providence and the Bahama Islands (1975) 

 Flieg and Sander

A Photographic Guide to Birds of the West Indies

 Herbert Raffaele et al

Field Guide to the Birds of the West Indies (Helm Field Guides)