The Crossley ID Guide Book, Front Cover Jacket. Copyright 2011 © by Richard Crossley. All Rights Reserved.
I’ve now spent several weeks off and on with the new and certainly unconventional “The Crossley ID Guide Eastern Birds,” by Richard Crossley. I made the point of attending a meeting of the New York City Audubon, as I knew that he would be presenting on the new book. I bought the book on the spot and immediately felt compelled to share my enthusiasm for the Crossley approach, not as a bird guide reviewer but with a shoot from the hip, first impressions, from the point of view of an interested amateur birder. So what follows is really a non-review, review.
The Crossley ID Guide Book, Plate name, Long-tailed Jaeger, Page 129. Copyright 2011 © by Richard Crossley. All Rights Reserved.
Every moment that I have spent working through the pages of the guide reinforces the notion that he has done an exceptional, even a remarkable job. You can simply flip a page and start a fresh journey of discovery into a familiar species or the next tick on the life list. The real danger is that each plate can hijack you and suck far more time away than intended. There is so much in each plate to take in. Richard has not only gone outside the box, he has created an entirely new box. He chose to march to a different beat, and offers this novel approach of showing various views of birds in their environment. This should help interested birders learn what to expect and more importantly help them relate to what they actually observe, and this should apply to all, no matter whatever level of prior experience.The Crossley ID Guide Book, Plate Name, American Oystercatcher, Page 154. Copyright 2011 © by Richard Crossley. All Rights Reserved.
Richard Crossley has given careful consideration to how human beings actually see birds in natural settings, and he has worked incredibly hard to show each bird in its typical environment throughout all the plates. Each plate is augmented with depictions of birds in various plumages, typical poses with many angles, flight shots, relative sizes near and far, and many commonly observed behaviors including foraging, flocking, perching, flying and singing etc.
The Crossley ID Guide Book, Plate Name, Red Knot, Page 169. Copyright 2011 © by Richard Crossley. All Rights Reserved.
To me, the bountiful and detailed illustrations are telling stories about the birds that I can relate to. This is how I have always looked at birds; they are a part of a natural world. This environmental approach ties the elements together and offers a compelling and natural thought process for the viewer who is trying to learn the birds. To me it makes complete sense and is so obvious that it is brilliant!
The Crossley ID Guide Book, Plate Name, Long-billed Dowitcher, Page 182. Copyright 2011 © by Richard Crossley. All Rights Reserved.
I have always wondered why most of the bird guides have birds on white backgrounds? It seems unnatural. Everywhere you look at real birds they are found with real backgrounds, not on white. I do know that it is sometimes difficult for me to relate the illustration of a flat bird on white to one in a natural setting without understanding it’s habitat.
The Crossley ID Guide Book, Plate Name, Coopers Hawk, Page 242. Copyright 2011 © by Richard Crossley. All Rights Reserved.
I was one of the lucky ones; I had parents deeply interested in the natural world. I followed my mother around as she looked at her own backyard through a camera lens. Richard spoke of his journey towards the guide with his camera and it re-inspired me; it was a good reminder that there still are photographers who value traditional tradecraft but have evolved through progressive technology to a new level. There are not many who would take such a chance on forward thinking and then be confident enough to break the mold because it seemed like the right thing to do. It only takes a few visionaries to make a real difference in the world. Thank you Richard, you have broken the mold with The Crossley ID Guide Book and set the bar higher for all. Hurray!
The Crossley ID Guide Book, Plate Name, Blackpoll Warbler, Page 422. Copyright 2011 © by Richard Crossley. All Rights Reserved.
I just wanted to stop by and say hello! Nice blog and I will remember to stop by again. Richard’s book looks great.
Thanks for stopping by my blog. Great to meet you down at Nickerson Beach NY. Always loads of fun meeting new folks like you and of course running into old friends like Artie Morris. I look forward to the next time soon.
Hi Mardi. Great post – in fact the only thing about this short review I would disagree with is calling it a ‘non review’! The Crossley ID Guide is just the sort of book that produces a ‘gut reaction’ like this, and though I wouldn’t dream of putting words into Richard’s mouth, I’d be willing to bet that he’d be very pleased with the elements you highlighted: the natural behaviour, the natural backgrounds, and the design work that has gone into this book. I actually asked him the other night how the UK version is going and he said that it’s still some time away – which is frustrating for a ‘Crossley ID Guide’ fan like me as I can’t wait to see what he comes up with. He did say that he had a couple of books in the pipeline that US birders will (I predict) LOVE, but I promised I wouldn’t say what they were…but if you like this one, I’m sure you’ll be thrilled when he reveals the next in the series.
Thank you for your kind words and detailed remarks & understanding of my point of view, “gut reaction” to the Crossley ID Guide. I noticed Richard had mentioned several tidbits coming down the road in his website & blog of several goodies. I do look forward to the next in his series as well. I hope we don’t have to wait to long though!
Mardi, Thanks for the wonderful review of the Crossley ID Guide. I agree with you 100%. I love this innovative book and the use of natural habitats and natural behaviors. Like you I could never quite get past those white backgrounds. I am a bander and don’t get to see birds in the field as often as I would like to, Crossley gives me some idea of what I am missing along with the wide variety of natural behaviors, postures and flight patterns. I find the illustrations much more helpful than the 2 dimensional drawings seen in most guides. The plumages differences and the discriptive sections are helpful with banding too.
I feel that this book could mark the beginning of a new direction in ID guides, how they are illustrated and how they are utilized. It certainly is a most worthy addition to my research books.
CT Audubon Coastal Center
Thanks for the in-depth response to my write up. This is just the kind of remarks that are extremely helpful and very valuable all around. See you soon in the field, not just at the Banding Station!