24 March 2013

How I See It

I've found that pictures don't always match reality. This is especially true when it comes to using the images in bird field guides to identify a species I've see in the wild.

Many times, I've struggled over identification because the bird I saw seemed to have significant differences from the ones in the book. Now, I think I know why: The still images on the page capture the birds from an ideal perspective, unobscured with key identifiers in plain view, while the real-world encounter is usually brief and from a tricky angle.

As this entry from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's Round Robin blog suggests, help is on the way for bird-watchers. Birder and photographer Richard Crossley is taking a new approach to bird guides by providing many images of each species from different angles and distances against a more natural backdrop. The pictures even present the species at different stages of its life.

Guides like this represent a great advance in bird identification. I wonder if e-books will be able to take it further by including motion.

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