I would like you good people to recommend me a concise bird guide book (preferably) that is more specific on teaching me specific bird behaviour and habitat. I would like to know more about where I would more likely find a bird and what to look out for - not the usual identification book. Every guide book I have mostly go like this:
Identification, [useful but sometimes painfully long].
Habitat: (a generic example would be): Found in woodland, farmland, parks and large gardens (That is almost anywhere in Southern England!).
Lifespan. (unsure as to why I’d need to know this)
Distribution. (again, could be everywhere in UK).
Call. (some randomly written phonetic)
So with this wealth of information I sit there and watch Springwatch/Winterwatch/Autumnwatch or read some of these forum entires and I wonder where people get their info regarding specific bird behaviour from?
Such as: Chris Packham was saying on telly the other day it would be evident that a GS Woodpecker has made a hole in a nest box as it would usually be in the lower section of the box?! Also he (or others) might say that one particular bird favours a particular species of tree. Or, I don't know, Goldfinches tend to nest high in a Silver Birch, would never be seen in evergreen woodland and play seed tennis with Siskins every Friday in February.
So basically when I'm out looking around I'd like to know that particular areas or woodland, habitats etc are favoured by certain birds. Don't get me wrong, I'm sure some species aren't that fussed about specific habitats but it’s the detail of the ones that do that I’d like to know. And bird behaviour for the tale-tale signs of certain things etc.
I am at a loss. I reckon Chris Packham would know whether a Buzzard would rather hear a plucked banjo over a nicely played flute. If that's the case I'd like to know where he gets his info from.
Am I asking too much?
I think the short answer is their knowledge comes largely from experience , and you can't buy experience at any price. I read lots of books but most of the knowledge only sinks in after I have experienced it for myself.
Martin, Are you asking too much - Yes and No. To include all this is one book might mean an extra large haversack to carry it in. There is plenty of information on the web but I have something called ' The Birdwatcher's Handbook' which I think covers most of the issues you raise. The bad news for that is I bought it in the 90s for £12 nwhile Amazon still sell it for over £60. There must be other books out there and there are several people on here more knowledgeable than I am.
Figured someone would say that Galatas :-)
Thanks Bob, £60? wowzers.
As Galatas says really the best way is to get out in the field and watch,sure you will make some mistakes but that will not be the end of the world.The two main monthly magazines can be useful for i.d. tips but at over £4 a shot can get a little expensive.If you have a local birding group/club that may be your best bet,birders with a few (or in my case more than a few) years experience always seem to be more than willing to help others out.Open days on reserves RSPB or local wildlife trusts are great sources of information at little or no cost.
you could try 'Birds by Behaviour' by Dominic Couzens .
It links birds to habitat and compares how similar spp often have differing habits that can be ID clues.
Frankly DC writes excellently and it fills a gap in the market. Most people learn this stuff by experience.
Written by a Field Expert not a museum jockey.
I have two daughters with a three year difference in age. They look fairly similar but are far from identical by any stretch of the imagination. People often get confused as to which is which. Of course I have no trouble telling them apart but I'd find it difficult to describe the differences to someone else. It must be the same with birds until you become familiar with them.
most people are not great observers naturally. However once taught HOW to look and what to look for great strides can be made;
This applies not only to birds but in other areas- people watching, driving etc.
S- an observation professional
S. that is one of the best statements I have seen for a long time. Especially the 'taught HOW to'. I was self taught because I knew noone else around watching birds when I growed up. That does mean I am sometimes left wondering how certain people can see the things they do. I managed to get a close look at Jack Snipe (v Snipe) the other day; the first time for a long time. I was with one of our local bird surveyors explaining flight patterns etc and I learnt more in that 30 minutes than out of books.
books are tools and even field guides are really for reference :)
There is no substitute for watching the bird in the field and making your own notes- they make you look harder.
ID courses work because as you noted, 15 mins one-to-one being shown WHAT to look for shows you HOW to do it. Then you can transfer that technique ( eg wader ID) to the ducks on your local patch when you go home
Well, thanks all for your suggestions - I have a few things to go on. Thanks for advice Seymour I'll have a look at Dominic Couzens' books.
Clearly no substitute for getting out there (finding the time!), but a helping hand always goes well.