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08/05/08
Browsing a Virtual Birding Library
Filed under: General, Birding & Outdoors, Illinois
Posted by: Ken @ 2:21 pm

Agramonte, Tibetan Mastiff, almost 8 months old:

A combination of hot weather and being “under the weather” have forced me into a couple of weeks of down time. No extensive hikes, no serious photography, although I captured images of several feeder birds off the deck in our daughter’s back yard. Now in Illinois and hopefully nearing the end of encounters with the health care system, I hope to make it back out to Nelson Lake any day now.

Mourning Dove:

House Finch, Male:

Yesterday, during a brief walk with Agramonte in Hawk’s Bluff Park in Batavia, I watched a Cooper’s Hawk bring dinner toward a couple of shrieking youngsters who had already branched and actually sounded as if they were in two different trees. A month ago, before returning to Florida, I had found the general location of the nest, in a tall oak about 50 yards from the bank of Mill Creek. At that time the young must have been very small, as their begging cries were barely audible.

Forced leisure has induced me to revisit some great birding literature on the Web. Here are a few samples:

One of my favorite places to browse also has some of the oldest content. LIFE HISTORIES OF FAMILIAR
NORTH AMERICAN BIRDS

This electronic book collection of Arthur Cleveland Bent’s species biographies is selected from the hundreds that are part of a twenty-one volume series published between 1919 and 1968 by the United States Government Printing Office. I have reprints of over a dozen volumes on my bookshelf at home and really enjoy Bent’s meticulous attention to detail. Sure, Bent anthromorphizes and is judgemental about “good and bad birds.” So much more has been learned about birds in the meantime by “high-tech” researchers, but reading the prose is pure pleasure. The site contains a species index and an excellent search feature.

For example, I entered “Cooper’s Hawk,” and was greeted by this opening paragraph:

“If the sharp-shinned hawk is a blood-thirsty villain, this larger edition of feathered ferocity is a worse villain, for its greater size and strength enable it to do more damage. Furthermore, it is much more widely common during the breeding season, being one of our commonest hawks in nearly all parts of the United States. It is essentially the chicken hawk, so cordially hated by poultry farmers, and is the principal cause of the widespread antipathy toward hawks in general.”

It immediately reminded me of how my grandfather hated “Chicken Hawks,” although he usually was referring to the Redtails that sailed so conspicuously over his flock as they foraged in our joint back yards. I remember seeing a very frustrated Cooper’s Hawk trying to get through the chicken wire that enclosed his pigeon pen, so intent on the pigeons that it ignored my presence only about 10 feet away. I was probably around 9 or 10, but I will never forget the wildness in its hackled stare.

Another noteworthy and respected collection of birding literature that offers a time travel from the twenty-first back into the nineteenth century is available at the Univerity of New Mexico’s SORA Web site: “Classic Ornithological Journals archived and available to all.”

The choice of journals on SORA is almost too good to be true, and you don’t need a subscription or password to access their full content:

Auk (1884-1999)
Condor (1899-2000)
International Wader Studies (1970-2002)
Journal of Field Ornithology (1930-1999)
Journal of Raptor Research (1967-2005)
North American Bird Bander (1976-2000)
Ornithological Monographs (1964-2005)
Pacific Coast Avifauna (1900-1974)
Studies in Avian Biology (1978-1999)
Wader Studies Group Bulletin (1970-2004)
Western Birds (1970-2004)
Wilson Bulletin (1889-1999)

Of course, an excellent addition to the electronic library is ABA’s Birding Magazine collection of back issues to 2001

Another popular magazine, Birder’s World, provides a search box in which you can enter a species or birding location and have access to much of the content of past issues. To help, there is also an index of past issues. For example, I found this article I wrote about the Sandia Crest Rosy-finch project back in  2004 by simply entering search term “Sandia.”

WildBird magazine has archived copies of tables of contents that go back to 2004, but the articles cannot be accessed, and there are no search functions. Likewise, Bird Watchers Digest has no archives, but there is a useful interactive field guide.

Male Mourning Dove (L) coos and displays to female:

One Response to “Browsing a Virtual Birding Library”

  1. Grant McCreary Says:
    That’s a great selection of links. It would take someone a loooong time to go through all of that information. I had realized that the Birder’s World search would allow me to pull up their past book reviews, but I had no idea it would work with the rest of their articles! I’ll have to play with that. And Bent and SORA - they’re just a treasure-trove of good stuff.

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