Through the wonders of online browsing, I discovered an outstanding series of birding books that are excellent guides to our avian friends in many, many states. The books are by Stan Tekiela, a naturalist and photographer from Minnesota who is building a one-person franchise of nature guides.
The first of Tekiela’s books I picked up was “Birds of Texas Field Guide,” which I thought would help me on a trip to the Lone Star State early last year. It did, and I bought a copy of the “Birds of Washington State Field Guide” ahead of a recent trip to Seattle.
The Tekiela guides are unusual in that they do not group birds by the way most bird books do, that is, by type (hawks, owls, thrushes) or by behavior (perching, seafaring).
Instead, Tekiela came up with a brilliant idea, grouping the birds by color.
I was a bit puzzled with that approach at first but it didn’t take long to discover the genius of the concept. Most bird books put each bird on one page in its proper group. But Tekiela, sorting them by color, puts the birds under multiple colors.
Let’s face it. When most people see an unusual bird for the first time, their initial reaction isn’t to ask whether it’s an accipiter or a buteo, but they’ll simply think, what the heck is that black and white duck?
Conveniently, Tekiela’s guides not only have black and white sections, but there’s even a black-and-white section, which is where in the Washington guide you can find the male hooded merganser. Even better, the male hooded merganser page (61) has an inset photo of the female hooded merganser, which you’ll find featured in the brown section on page 173. That page has an inset photo of the male and a referral to his page.
Once you find your bird, you’ll get a clear description of its typical dimensions and markings as well as many tips on behavior and more. The field guides are pocket-sized, easy to carry and won’t weigh you down if you like to bring a guidebook while birding.
By themselves, these guides are terrific resources, ideal for beginning birders but equally valuable for those of us with intermediate or advanced experience. Used with other birding guides, the Tekiela books deepen and broaden one’s knowledge in an easy-to-read, informative and entertaining way.
Tekiela offers many other nature guides and even wildlife tours through his NatureSmart website. I bought the Texas and Washington guides through Amazon, and I’m hoping Tekiela will crank out a New Jersey field guide at some point soon.