Thursday, September 8, 2011

Fall Warbler Study: Prep for MBS2011

In anticipation of adding a bunch of birds to my life list at the Midwest Birding Symposium in Lakeside, Ohio in one week...not just ticking them on a checklist, but truly savoring them...I am studying up on the eastern warblers that are likely to still be in Ohio in mid-September.  I want to share with you my study method as I prepare to see these birds.

While I have several field guides in my library, I am really using just three...Crossley, Sibley, and Stokes.  Let's start by referring back to my chart of potential life birds extracted from eBird.  First, I am using Crossley as a workbook, just like I explained in my review of The Crossley ID Guide.  I study the plate, each individual photo, and take notes about the size, shape, color pattern, specific field marks, behavior, etc.  After I feel pretty confident with myself, then I read Crossley's text.  Next I break open The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Eastern North America and The Stokes Field Guide to the Birds of North America, in no particular order, and study the excellent Sibley illustrations and the fantastic Stokes photos and read the text from both.  I compare their notes to my own and see if I was able to come up with the key identifying traits.  The field guide explanations of behavior, habitat, and where I might see them are very helpful.

My initial focus is on the warblers, but I also plan to study all of the birds that I've never seen before using this method.  I'll use the plane ride from Salt Lake to Ohio for some last minute cramming interrupted by reading my digital versions of BirdWatcher's Digest that I have forgotten about (I think I'll go back to the paper copy next year).  Now, we'll see how well I do in the field!


  1. Sounds like you have a very systematic way of preparing for the birding symposium. Have fun:)

  2. I was thinking about trying to brush up on the Fall Warblers.I know that there are some that are still easy to identify in the Fall so I want to narrow down the ones that are tougher and focus on them.-Probably something on the internet for that.

  3. Good luck! I've found that fall warblers are generally overblown as far as ID difficulties, as the vast majority of them aren't terribly difficult. Of course, that's coming from someone who gets them every year.

    There are a few complexes, like Bay-breasted/Blackpoll/Pine that can legitimately be hard, and Cape Mays can show a baffling diversity of plumages to confuse, but if you study, you should be able to go in pretty confident.