“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

BIRDS OF SAN SALVADOR, BAHAMAS: BOOK REVIEW


Birds of San Salvador (cover) JPG

THE BIRDS OF SAN SALVADOR, BAHAMAS

  • Authors: R. Hays Cummins, Mark R. Boardman, Mark L. McPhail
  • Published 1 Jan 2013, 132pp with 400+ images covering 54 species
  • Available spiral bound for $29.95 on Am@zon; and a steal at $3.16 for Kindle (£5.99 in the UK)
  • STOP PRESS Also available on iTunes for iPhone / iPad, where I imagine it looks great. Once downloaded, author Hays says it can be viewed on a Mac, certainly if you have the latest OS X Mavericks. UK price: a very modest £1.99 (= $3.30)

Within a couple of weeks of the decision to use Tom Sheley’s wonderful Bahama Woodstar as the ‘cover bird’ for “THE BIRDS OF ABACO”, another Bahamas bird book was announced. The same colourful and enchanting endemic bird had also commended itself to the authors for their cover. I wrote to Hays Cummins at once to check whether he would mind another Bahamas bird book encroaching on the territory, especially one using the same cover bird into the bargain. He very charmingly said it would be fine and declared his support for our (luckily) rather different project.

It’s been a while since I added to the section BOOKS, but I thought I’d mention this one for two reasons. First, it is described as ‘A Photo Essay of Common Birds’, which in practical terms means that most if not all of the species featured will be common to the northern Bahamas and therefore familiar on Abaco. Secondly, I very much like the format of the book: there are clear photos; and all necessary general information including notes on individual characteristics and similar species is presented in an easily assimilable way. Were the Delphi book not designed to be the 2 kg bird-showcasing non-field guide doorstop it is, the San Salvador book is one I should liked to have produced! Birds of San Salvador (sample page 1) Birds of San Salvador (sample page 2) DESCRIPTION “This enchanting book addresses a need for an important audience, the budding naturalist, which many of our students are. Without fanfare and pomposity, the book presents beautiful and inspiring photos and lively discussion, but does not indulge in the details of the accomplished birder. The authors present information about the natural history of birds on San Salvador, Bahamas, not through the eyes of a professional or advanced birder, but through the eyes and photographic lenses of inquiring educators and naturalists. This book will help capture and catalyze the interests of aspiring birders and will be an asset for introductions to the birds of the Bahamas and neighboring Caribbean. Over 400 images, representing 54 species, are all original and include a variety of behaviors and highlight recognition characteristics. The authors’ aesthetic photography, printed on high quality paper, will help reinforce identification and enjoyment. Birds are organized by habitat (Coastal, Interior, and Lakes & Ponds), not by taxonomic affinities. A taxonomic index is included.” 

I’m pleased to see the decision to depart from the usual taxonomic ordering of species, though I recognise that for a serious field guide that tradition is pretty much sacrosanct. We played around with categories and sub-categories a bit (sea birds, water birds, land birds; big, medium, small; cute, splendid, dull, plug-ugly) before settling on Peter Mantle’s excellent idea of straight alphabetical organisation. For a mainly photographic book this gives an element of surprise to turning the pages, and avoids  e.g. 37 pages of warblers species, mostly yellow, all huddled together.  Birds of San Salvador (sample page 4) Birds of San Salvador (sample page 5) I notice that there is a single Amazon review, a good one, that says “This guide to one of the lesser known islands in the Bahamas is a nice one. While not exhaustive, it covers most of the species likely to be seen on San Salvador. The style is unorthodox for a field guide (elements of humor, gives brief description of species, but no real key field marks), the descriptions, locations on the island, and behaviors make this guide useful for those visiting San Salvador. The photographs are excellent.” Birds of San Salvador (sample page 3)For anyone interested in a useful reference guide to the common birds of Abaco, and in possession of a Kindle, this book is easily worth getting electronically.  ‘To be brutally honest’ (™ Sandy Walker), I’d like in due course to produce a small book very like this for Abaco, but it would obviously be naked plagiarism to do that, so of course I won’t. Still, all the same…

“THE DELPHI CLUB GUIDE TO THE BIRDS OF ABACO” HAS LANDED…


JACKET GRAB JPG

WHAT HAS THE GESTATION PERIOD OF A WALRUS (16 MONTHS) AND WEIGHS THE SAME AS A PAIR OF FULLY GROWN PINEAPPLES (2 KILOS)?

“THE DELPHI CLUB GUIDE TO THE BIRDS OF ABACO”

A unique bird book is  been published and has arrived on Abaco today. Printed in Italy at the end of January, it has made its way from Florence via Bologna, Leipzig, Brussels, Cincinnati, Miami and Nassau. Having spent an unexpectedly long sojourn in Nassau,  2 pallets of books are now safely at the Delphi Club… at last!Cuban Pewee on Abaco

The Guide showcases the rich and varied bird life of Abaco, Bahamas and features both resident and migratory species including rarities and unusual sightings. It is available for sale now from the Delphi Club in a limited edition of 500.  The main features are as follows:

  • 272 pages with more than 350 photographs
  • 163 species shown in vivid colour – nearly two-thirds of all the bird species ever recorded for Abaco
  • Every single photograph was taken on Abaco or in Abaco waters
  • All birds are shown in their natural surroundings – no feeders or trails of seed were used
  • Several birds featured are the first ones ever recorded for Abaco or  even for the entire Bahamas

Clapper Rail Abaco Bahamas Tom Sheley

  • A total of 30 photographers, both experienced and amateur, have contributed to the project
  • The book has had the generous support of many well-known names of Abaco and Bahamas birding
  • Complete checklist of every bird recorded for Abaco since 1950 up to the date of publication
  • Specially devised codes indicating when you may see a particular bird, and the likelihood of doing so
  • Specially commissioned cartographer’s Map of Abaco showing places named in the book

Least Tern_ACH3672 copy

  • Informative captions intentionally depart from the standard field guide approach…
  • …as does the listing of the birds in alphabetical rather than scientific order
  • Say goodbye to ’37 warbler species on consecutive pages’ misery
  • Say hello to astonishing and unexpected juxtapositions of species

Abaco_Bahama Yellowthroat_Gerlinde Taurer copy

  • The book was printed in Florence, Italy by specialist printers on grade-1 quality paper
  • Printing took pairs of printers working in 6 hour shifts 33 hours over 3 days to complete
  • The project manager and the author personally oversaw the printing

Smooth-billed Ani pair GT

  • The book is dedicated to the wildlife organisations of Abaco
  • A percentage of the proceeds of sale will be donated for the support of local wildlife organisations
  • A copy of the book will be presented to every school on Abaco

Piping Plover BH IMG_1919

The book is published by the Delphi Club (contact details below). The project was managed by a publishing specialist in art books. The author is the wildlife blogger more widely known on Abaco and (possibly) beyond as ‘Rolling Harbour’. Oh! So that would in fact be Mrs Harbour and myself. Well well. What are the chances?

cuban-emerald-delphi-abaco-3

The Delphi Club at Rolling Harbour
PO Box AB-20006, Marsh Harbour, Abaco, Bahamas
Tel: +1-242-366-2222
General Manager – Sandy Walker: +1-242-577-1698
delphi.bahamas@gmail.com

American Oystercatchers BH IMG_2000 copy 2Images by Tom Sheley,  Bruce Hallett, Gerlinde Taurer, Tony Hepburn, RH

THE NAME’S BOND. JAMES BOND. LICENSED TO WATCH BIRDS…


JAMES BOND – THE ORNITHOLOGIST WHO LENT HIS NAME TO A FICTION LEGEND

Jamaica, 1952. The night was hot, too hot. Fleming cursed as he made his way up the steps to his neighbour’s verandah. He heard the clink of ice from within the house, and guessed that the rum punch was being mixed just the way he liked it. Stirred, not shaken. As he passed a low table on the verandah his eyes were drawn to a small book lying on it. Fleming paused, taking in the information, his senses suddenly alive. Bond. James Bond. A bird book about the avian species of the West Indies. Suddenly, it all made sense. Fleming knew now the direction he had to take, and with a thin smile he flicked back the insolent comma of dark hair that had fallen across his face and strode into the house towards the sound of the ice…

James Bond, ornithologist (1900 – 1989) was an expert on the birdlife of the Caribbean and wrote the seminal Birds of the West Indies, first published in 1936 and republished in varying formats ever since.

Ian Fleming lived in Jamaica and was a keen birdwatcher. The story goes that one evening, visiting friends, he saw ornithologist James Bond’s Birds of the West Indies on a table, and borrowed that short, punchy name for his fictional hero 007 for Casino Royale, published in 1953. He later said he wanted a name that sounded ‘as ordinary as possible’. In an interview, Fleming said “I wanted the simplest, dullest, plainest-sounding name I could find, and ‘James Bond’ was much better than something more interesting, like ‘Peregrine Carruthers.’ Exotic things would happen to and around him, but he would be a neutral figure — an anonymous, blunt instrument wielded by a government department.” Fleming wrote to the real James Bond’s wife “It struck me that this brief, unromantic, Anglo-Saxon and yet very masculine name was just what I needed, and so a second James Bond was born.” He also contacted the real James Bond about using his name in the books and Bond replied that he was “fine with it.” At some point during one of Fleming’s visits to Jamaica he met the real Bond and his wife. The meeting was recorded for a documentary.

FACT, FICTION & IN-JOKES

In Dr No Fleming referenced Bond’s work by basing a large Ornithological Sanctuary on Dr No’s island in the Bahamas. In 1964, Fleming gave Bond a first edition copy of You Only Live Twice signed “To the real James Bond, from the thief of his identity”. In the 2002 Bond film Die Another Day the fictional Bond can be seen examining Birds of the West Indies in an early scene that takes place in Havana. However the author’s name (James Bond) on the front cover is obscured. In the same film, when Bond first meets Jinx, he introduces himself as an ornithologist.

Ian Fleming Lived Here in Jamaica **

I had been planning to research the history of the various editions of Birds of the West Indies, the locus classicus for Caribbean species. Then I started to look into it and found that someone – Jack Holloway – had already done it so thoroughly that I would be wasting my time. So I contacted Jack for use permission, and I am very grateful to him for granting it by return. This next part is all thanks to him. I recommend a visit to his very good online bird resource website at AVIAN3
♠ ♣ ♥ ♦ ♠ ♣ ♥ ♦ ♠ ♣ ♥ ♦ ♠ ♣ ♥ ♦ ♠ ♣ ♥ ♦
THE HISTORY OF BIRDS OF THE WEST INDIES BY JAMES BOND
1936 (The Original)
This is the alpha of the “Birds of the West Indies” books by James Bond. Its longer subtitle is “An Account with full descriptions of all the birds known to occur or to have occurred on the West Indian Islands“. Published just shy of two years after Peterson’s A Field Guide to the Birds of the West Indies, this book was the first field guide to cover all the birds of the West Indies (outside of Cory’s annotated book of 1889).
Somewhat in contrast to what is stated in the later 1961 version as the “First American Edition”, this 1936 book was published by The Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia (at which Bond worked) and was printed by Waverly Press, Inc. in Baltimore, Maryland.
This book is certainly quite scarce and typically commands a price ranging from $500 – $1,500 depending on its condition and the presence of a dustjacket.
Ultimately, one may ask, “What’s the difference between this first book and the subsequent versions?” Here is the answer in the form of a table (see below)

1947 (The Next Version)
This 1947 version is often advertised or assumed to be the first edition. This may be due in part to the rarity of the original 1936 edition and/or to the presence of “First Printing” printed on the backside of the Title Page in the 1947 book (see image below). This “first printing” refers only to the second book. For the true, original book, you must go back another 11 years to 1936.
Despite the notation of “First American Edition” in the 1961 version, this 1947 book was published by the MacMillan Company of New York and was printed in the United States. The 1936 edition was also US published and printed.
As an obscure note, the title of the book printed on the dustjacket does not match the title printed on the book itself. The cover reads, “Field Guide of Birds…” while the book reads, “Field Guide to Birds…”. Also, it is likely this is the version owned by Ian Fleming which inspired the naming of his charismatic spy (see below)
Depending on the condition of this book and the presence of a dustjacket, this 1947 version ranges in price between $30 and $100.
STOP PRESS  As a guideline, I’ve now bought a copy of this edition on eBay for $80, in very good condition with good dust jacket. On a first edition, I beat the seller down from $2250 to $1600, but it was in poor condition and I left it at that…
                             James Bond Birds 1947 ed f:c                        James Bond Birds F:P 1947 ed

1961 (“1st American Edition“)
Just as a note of interest — or irony — this 1961 version is labeled as the “First America Edition”. Keep in mind the 1936 and 1947 books were both published and printed in the US. Additionally, just beneath the statement of “First American Edition”, you will see “Printed in Great Britain”. Completing the picture, this book was published by the Houghton Mifflin Company of Boston; thus, the American connection (I guess).

1970s
1971 1971 1974

1980s
1980 1980 1985 1986 (?)

1990s (the adoption by the Peterson series)
1993 1995 1999

2000s
2002 (?)

OTHER COVERS
1960s?

ADDENDUM
1966

Needless to say, the name James Bond has a familiarity beyond just the birding world. Several myths and slight distortions have grown related to how this name has been transmogrified from ornithologist to international spy.

In 1966, Mrs. James (Mary Wickham) Bond wrote a 62-page book How 007 Got His Name that outlined the circumstances which led to the use of Mr. Bond’s name in the series of books written by Ian Fleming.

As noted on pp. 16-17, Dr. Bond first became aware of his new recognition in 1961. This was after seven spy thrillers had already been published and were just becoming popular in the US.

Mrs. Bond wrote a light-hearted letter to Mr. Fleming on February 01, 1961 to make note that he had “…brazenly taken the name of a real human being for your rascal!” (p.18). A return letter by Mr. Fleming was most gracious and apologetic.

In this reply, (contained in full in Mrs., Bond’s book), Mr. Fleming wrote, “I will confess at once that your husband has every reason to sue me in every possible position and for practically every kind of libel in the book, for I will now confess the damnable truth.” (p.21).

He then provided an explanation of how he selected his character’s name for the first book in 1953: “…I was determined that my secret agent should be as anonymous a personality as possible…At this time one of my bibles was, and still is, Birds of the West Indies by James Bond, and it struck me that this name, brief, unromantic and yet very masculine, was just what I needed and so James Bond II was born…”

Mimicking Mrs. Bond’s light-hearted approach, Mr. Fleming continued his reply with this unique offer: “In return I can only offer your James Bond unlimited use of the name Ian Fleming for any purpose he may think fit. Perhaps one day he will discover some particularly horrible species of bird which he would like to christen in an insulting fashion.” (p.22).

Mr. Fleming also offered the Bonds an open invitation to visit his residence in Jamaica and to visit the birthplace of the second James Bond.

Iam Fleming and the real James Bond met only once, which was February 5th, 1964. This was in Jamaica, six months before the death of Mr. Fleming.

This short book by Mrs. Bond is a nice, quick read. I appreciate it for the first-hand accounts of the historical beginnings of Bond vs. Bond as opposed to the hearsay and myths created over time. The book also offers entertaining stories of how James Bond dealt with his new popularity and the avid “fans” upon their discovery of his name.


Comparison Table of the Books’ Contents over the Years
** “THE FLEMING VILLA” (SHOWN ABOVE) – THE FACTS
  • Once rented by Noel Coward
  • Sting wrote “Every Breath you Take” here
  • Princess Margaret, while a guest, broke a toe on one of the beds (rum punch alert!)
  • Ian Fleming himself designed the house, and wrote all the Bond books here
  • It has 5 bedrooms, and was built by a former donkey track bought by Fleming in 1946
  • You can rent it (and its full-time staff) for £3500 (including breakfast). Per night…
  • It is part of the ‘Goldeneye’ Estate (and no, there isn’t a ‘Thunderball’ Estate)
  • Other guests: Errol Flynn, Katharine Hepburn, Lucian Freud, Truman Capote & Evelyn Waugh

(Source credit: The Quarterly)