New Jersey Birds and Beyond: A Brief Book Review
This is the crazy winter period, the time of Christmas Bird Count scouting, birding, counting and compiling. And then there are the activities we cram between our CBC duties, like buying holiday gifts. 10,000 Birds has reviewed a lot good books over the past 12 months, many of which would make excellent holiday gifts. Mostly to other birders. For our family members and friends who are not obsessed with molt and migration, we need titles which sometimes take the form of “coffee-table books”. Some interesting coffee table-type titles have been reviewed in 10,000 Birds. To that list, I would like to add New Jersey Birds and Beyond, by Sue Puder.
New Jersey Birds and Beyond showcases about 180 bird species commonly found in New Jersey, from Great Blue Heron to Red-winged Blackbird, as well as some exceptional visitors, such as the Cape May Ivory Gull. The book is organized by habitat, with chapters on the Jersey shore (the longest section); Grasslands, Meadows, and Marshes; Woodlands and Lakes; and Pine Barrens. Most of the photographs appear to have been taken in southern New Jersey, though the Woodlands and Lakes chapter does feature the Highlands, Skylands, and Sourland regions. Photographs of living things that are not birds—Black Bear, Snapping Turtle, Famliar Bluet, Common Sulphur—are included in each chapter, especially the last three. (The Porcupine is particularly cute!) Landscape images—the cranberry bogs of Burlington County, the marshes of the Meadowlands, the Pine Barrens in winter—help give an idea of the rich variety of habitat in New Jersey, a state often maligned for its turnpikes and urban woes.
Poder’s notes on her bird photographs (and those of Howard Eskin, a contributer) tell us which species are common, which are endangered, where the bird can be found, what the bird eats, where it goes in summer or winter. The text does vary in length and detail, but it does provide context. There are some exceptional images here, such as the full-page Green-winged Teal drake, the complexity of its coloring reflected in the pond water, and the shorebirds of the Delaware Bay, flying in Escher-like patterns of brown, black, and white. There are also images that look simple, presentations of birds just as they are, in their avian Jersey glory. These will, I think, help incipient naturalists (such a better term than “non-birder”) identify the birds of their daily lives. Yes, field guides are created to do that, but sometimes you need to approach the uninitiated with a little more pizazz.
New Jersey Birds and Beyond is one of the recent offerings from Schiffer Books, which is establishing an interesting line of books about birds. Unlike some coffee table books, I think this is one that invites use and reading. And, it also brings up an interesting question. Just how many books are there about New Jersey and birds? And, how does that number compare to other states and their bird books?
New Jersey Birds and Beyond by Susan Puder.
Schiffer Publishing, 2012.
11×8.5, 434 photographs, 176 pages, hard cover.
$34.99 (see usual sources for good pricing)