“BEAUTIFUL BAHAMA BIRDS”: NEW BAHAMAS BIRD BOOK REVIEW


ABACO PARROTS MM 2

“Over the Moon” (Abaco Parrot / Melissa Maura)

“BEAUTIFUL BAHAMA BIRDS”: NEW BOOK REVIEW

Published 2014 ~ 128pp ~ $20, available from the BNT

A fine new book on the birds of the Bahamas has recently been published by the BAHAMAS NATIONAL TRUST and BIRDSCARIBBEAN. Compiled and edited by well-known Bahamas bird guide CAROLYN WARDLE  with the BNT’s Lynn Gape and Predensa Moore, this slim book is packed with valuable information. It doesn’t set out to be an exhaustive field guide, a task already fully covered by Bruce Hallett’s indispensable Birds of the Bahamas and the TCI. Nor is it anything like my own photographic tome ‘Birds of Abaco’, differing in scope and intention, and weighing a mere 225 gms as opposed to 2 kilos! Beautiful Bahama Birds is eminently a book for the pocket, day bag or backback, to be carried along with your Hallett.

I have illustrated this review with photos of sample pages of the book, invariably the best way to give a clear impression of this kind of publication. Apologies that some of my images are a bit wonky, my copy being new and individual pages being hard to keep flat…

Beautiful Bahama Birds 1 Beautiful Bahama Birds 2

The photographs throughout the book are mainly the work of Linda Huber and the late Tony Hepburn. I was fortunate enough to be able to use some of Tony’s photographs for my own book, given with unreserved generosity; it is a fitting tribute to him that his images have now been published in Beautiful Bahama Birds, and that it  is dedicated to him.Beautiful Bahama Birds 3

An idea of the broad scope and of the book and its usefulness to the birder can be gained from the contents pages, which I reproduce here. Click to enlarge them. The book is arranged in 3 parts: Let’s Go Birding; Field Guide to 60 Common Birds; and Conservation Now.

Beautiful Bahama Birds 4Beautiful Bahama Birds 5b

PART 1 offers plenty of useful information and practical advice about birding in general (I wish I could have read this before I started my own book!). Anyone who loves birds will benefit from this whole section, even if they would not call themselves a birder – especially Chapter 3 ‘Getting Closer to Bird Life’.

Beautiful Bahama Birds 6  Beautiful Bahama Birds 7

PART 2 All 5 Bahama endemics are featured in the main section, which is handily divided  very broadly into ‘waterbirds’ and ‘land birds’. Some birds are commonly found on most islands; some have more limited range: for example the Bahama Oriole is now found only on Andros; and breeding populations of the Cuban Parrot are found only on Abaco and Inagua (the increasing number of sightings on New Providence give some hope for a breeding population there too). I’ve chosen the parrot because the underground-nesting subspecies on Abaco is so special; and the Flamingo and Bahama Oriole, both very sadly extirpated from Abaco in recent memory.

The illustrations by Tracy Pederson and Kristin Willams are clear and highlight well the identifiers for each species. Where necessary, species variations are shown, for example between sexes, breeding / non-breeding plumage and adult / immature. This can be a confusing and even fraught area (as I constantly find), which this book usefully addresses.  Some birds in flight are also shown to aid ID.

   Beautiful Bahama Birds 8 Beautiful Bahama Birds 9

Beautiful Bahama Birds 10

PART 3 covers the National Parks, important birding areas of the Bahamas, conservation matters, and a charming section on birds in Bahamian culture. Appendices include lists of Bahamas native plants and their importance for wildlife; National Parks and Protected Areas; important birding areas of the Bahamas; a Checklist; a Bibliography; and a user-friendly Index (not all are…).

 Beautiful Bahama Birds 13 Beautiful Bahama Birds 12

A good Checklist is a vital ingredient for any birder, whether visitor or local. Here, all the species occurring on the islands are shown on the left and their residential status and range throughout the islands across the top. Thus at a glance you can tell whether a given species is found on a particular island and when it may be found there. You would know not to look for Turkey Vultures on Eleuthera at any time; and that the black-bellied plover is a winter resident throughout the region and not to be seen during your trip in June…  I also like the tick-boxes on the left for species collectors.

Beautiful Bahama Birds 11

Overall I have thoroughly enjoyed this small book and unreservedly recommend it. It does not replace Hallett, but it complements it. Furthermore, I’m sure the straightforward style and presentation will appeal to bird-loving non-birders and also to younger birders – it may even encourage some out into the field! On p.20 the recommended reading list includes books that would appeal to young readers and links to appropriate websites, a thoughtful touch. I have learnt, or been reminded of, much from reading this book a couple of times. It is a welcome addition to the relatively sparse avian literature for the Bahamas, a prime birding region that is home to an astonishingly wide variety of birds including rare, threatened and vulnerable species like the Parrots, the Kirtland’s Warbler and the Piping Plover.

BOOK LINKS

RH BOOK REVIEW PAGE

BIRDER’S GUIDE TO THE BAHAMA ISLANDS (Tony White)

JAMES BOND (LICENSED TO WATCH BIRDS…)

SAN SALVADOR BIRDS

DELPHI CLUB GUIDE TO THE BIRDS OF ABACO

BOOKCOMBING: AN OCCASIONAL THEMED SERIES (1) OCEAN DEBRIS


BOOKCOMBING

A MISCELLANY OF BOOKS MORE OR LESS RELEVANT TO ABACO LIFE

These are not books I have read myself. They are books that may be of interest to readers of this sort of blog. Islandy. Beachy. Mariney. A whiff of wildlife. They will be collected together under the BOOKS ETC menu as the series expands. If one of them catches your eye, then check online for reviews, reader ratings and prices. If I get round to one or more of them I will add my own views, but I am still gradually working through wildlife books that I have already paid for…

1. FLOTSAM, JETSAM & OCEAN DEBRIS

Flotsametrics and and the Floating World: How One Man’s Obsession With Runaway Sneakers and Rubber Ducks Revolutionized Ocean Science

by Curtis Ebbesmeyer & Eric Scigliano

“Curtis Ebbesmeyer has made important discoveries about everything from currents to the huge floating garbage patches in the ocean to how life was first spread on earth and how the Vikings settled Iceland. In the tradition of John McPhee’s bestselling books on scientists who both study and try to protect the natural world, The Floating World offers a fascinating look at the creativity and energy of a most unusual man—as well as offering an amazing look at what currents have meant for the world and especially mankind through the centuries.  Hardcover; PP: 288; Illustration: 10-15 images throughout” Smithsonian Store

Washed Up: The Curious Journeys of Flotsam and Jetsam

by Skye Moody

“The ocean gives up many prizes, just setting them on our beaches for us to find. From rubber ducks that started out somewhere in Indonesia to land Venice Beach, to an intact refrigerator makes it way to the Jersey Shore. Chunks of beeswax found on the Oregon coast are the packing remnants of 18th century Spanish gold. Author Skye Moody walks the coast, dons her wet suit, and heads out to sea to understand the excellent debris that accrues along the tideline. There she finds advanced military technology applied to locating buried Rolexes, hardcore competitive beachcombing conventions, and isolated beach communities whose residents are like flotsam congregated at the slightest obstacle on the coastline. This book confirms that the world is a mysterious place and that treasure is out there to be found” (Publisher’s Fluff)

Tracking Trash: Flotsam, Jetsam and the Science of Ocean Motion

by Lorree Griffen Burns

“Tracking Trash is the story of Dr. Curtis Ebbesmeyer, an oceanographer who studies the movement of ocean currents. Dr. Ebbesmeyer’s work has attracted attention because he has received much of his information from studying trash. It all began when his mother heard about sneakers that were washing up on a beach after a cargo ship lost one of its containers. Since then, he has tracked sneakers, Lego’s, and even rubber duckies that have been accidentally spilled at sea and made their way to shore. By understanding how ocean currents move, scientists hope to solve many problems such as fish shortages and animals being caught in fishing nets. This book was very enjoyable to read and easy to understand. The pictures were large and engaging. The author did a great job at making it feel like a story while at the same time giving a lot of scientific information” (Satisfied Amazon Punter)

Moby-Duck: The True Story of 28,800 Bath Toys Lost at Sea and of the Beachcombers, Oceanographers, Environmentalists, and Fools who wen in search of them…

Donovan Hohn

I have just spotted that this book is about to be reprinted and, I imagine, updated at the end of February, so I am adding it to the collection. I note in passing that it is published by Penguin…

One 5* review on Amazon UK sets the scene: “This is a book that follows the journey of plastic ducks, turtles, frogs and beavers after the container they are in falls overboard and breaks open on impact with the sea. Moby Duck is fact that reads as good as fiction. The Author doesn’t only traverse the world of escapee plastic toys but meanders his way through a factory in China that makes bath toys, gets on a ship that is on research mission even though he has a fear of open water and even ends in Alaska where the first plastic duck was found. This is a great read, for anyone who likes a quirky book that tells a true story with wit, charm and gentle humour. Moby Dick is never far away in this book, only he has been transformed into Moby Duck…”

Amazon.com has 42 reviews, averaging a disappoining 3.5*. Some are ecstatic, some lukewarm, few can resist the golden opportunity proffered by the author to be “puntastic”. I like the one titled “An Eclectic Tale, but Caught in Its Own Eddy in the End”. Maybe that is the most astute summary of all.

SOUTHEAST COAST & GULF OF MEXICO MARINE / COASTAL FIELD GUIDE: 5* YALE BOOK REVIEW


BOOK REVIEW

This is a superlative field guide: comprehensive, clear and approachable. The illustrations are excellent, and include helpful examples of birds in flight, different views of marine creatures (basking shark side view and head on), whale fluke comparisons and dolphin profiles. The 11 Chapters comprise marine and coastal plants and habitats; invertebrates; sharks; rays; fish; sea turtles; crocodiles and alligators; marine and coastal birds; baleen whales; toothed whales and dolphins; and finally seals and manatee

Yale University Press 386pp, £20 / $24  ISBN 978 0300 11328 0

rollingharbour rating: a rare and coveted 5*****

Obviously this isn’t the guide for land-based birds – you’ll still need Hallett  or Arlott to help with all those warblers, for example. But for all aspects of marine and coastal wildlife it is as thorough as you could ever wish for in a book that is readily portable. While slightly too large (8″ x 6″) and heavy for a pocket, it would be perfect for a day-bag. Convention dictates that the most enthusiastic reviews should include a couple of tiny niggles to prove a book has been read… so,  the shell section is very brief at 2 pages; and the coral section also, with some types (Mustard Hill, for example) omitted. But such an ambitious yet compact book couldn’t possibly be exhaustive. In practical terms, it has everything you could want from a Field Guide when exploring or researching this area.

Publisher’s Summary [added here to indicate the scope & depth of the book]

  • Entries on 619 coastal and ocean species including seabirds, cetaceans, fish, turtles, invertebrates, and plants
  • More than 1,100 color illustrations & 121 colour photographs
  • 452 up-to-date range maps
  • Overviews of key ecological communities, including mangroves, salt marshes, beaches, sand dunes, and coral reefs
  • Special attention to threatened and endangered species
  • Discussions of environmental issues, including such catastrophic events as Hurricane Katrina and the Deepwater Horizon blowout
  • Glossary
  • Excellent organizational aids for locating information quickly
To which I would add:
  • Clear text alerts for endangered / red list species
  • 12-page index (which works very well)
  • Handy front and back flaps place-markers
  • Colour-coded section divisions

To see the publisher’s UK or US webpages for the book CLICK LINK===>>>  YUP UK   or   YUP US – it can also be obtained from the other  conventional sources already mentioned in the book section of this site

Finally, a declaration of interest: Mrs rh works in the London office of YUP, so I have been consciously avoiding partiality. However this just happens to be an excellent book by any standards, so fortunately the frosty domestic fall-out from a bad crit has been easily avoided…

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)