I've been rather frustrated with my inability to ID shorebirds with any kind of confidence, so I finally knuckled down and got a couple of new books: The Shorebird Guide, by Michael O'Brien, Richard Crossley, and Kevin Karlson -- the shorebird bible! -- and (finally!) the Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Eastern North America, and (just for my masochistic side) Extinct and Vanishing Birds of the World by James Cowan Greenway (books like this always just make me sad and angry). That last one hasn't arrived yet, but the first two arrived yesterday and I am THRILLED so far with what I've seen!
First, I dove into the shorebird guide. From the Introduction on, I was learning new things, like the fact that woodcocks and snipe are shorebirds. Yeah, I didn't know that. Still don't really get it, either. But when I read the section on woodcocks and snipe, I'm hoping to understand more!
Both books, especially the shorebird book, stress shape as a critically important aspect of identification. The best part? I went to the CMBO View from the Cape site and just clicked on some shorebird photos they had without looking at the ID info. Two straight birds, I only looked at the silhouettes on the back flap, and I ID'd them both! Granted, they weren't peeps--one was a Marbled Godwit and the other was a Willet; both have distinctive shapes. Still, it was a thrill for a dummy like me!
I'm getting to the Sibley, but probably not until the weekend. AB will be in Baltimore visiting our new niece, so I'll just basically be birding my little heart out and studying my books!
I'm really looking forward to studying hard and taking notes, especially with the Cape May Autumn Weekend coming up. I'm hoping to do a little ID on my own, instead of just following the guides around and letting them do all the work. Plus the big bunker pond at the lighthouse is always a great place to look for peeps and other shorebirds, and I really want to be able to be more than just a beginning birder.