- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 10, 2006

THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The latest title in National Geographic’s series of bird books — “National Geographic Field Guide to Birds: Maryland & Washington, D.C.” — is worth the $14.95 asking price, even if minor portions of the location descriptions of various birds tend to be annoying.

This bird guide, beautifully color-illustrated and properly indexed, features Maryland and District waterfowl and other seabirds, landbirds, songbirds and raptors. It is easy to carry in a coat pocket, which is a big plus for serious bird lovers.

As a duck and goose hunter, there have been mornings when I sat in a hedgerow blind — with songbirds roosting on nearby fences — wishing I had such a guide with me to help identify the little creatures. Never mind the times when friendly arguments erupted in our fishing boats as we spotted a great egret and someone insisted it was a snowy egret. They are, after all, both white, but there’s a difference and the National Geographic’s guide can settle such disagreements.

What bothered me — and it’s not a big deal — is editor Jonathan Alderfer’s apparent infatuation with Maryland’s Eastern Shore and such birding hot spots as Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, Assateague Island, and other shore locations that received favored treatment concerning the best sites to view a variety of the birds.

The guide says wild turkey can be found in Western Maryland and the Eastern Shore (i.e., Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge or Pocomoke State Forest), which is true. But I have news that isn’t exactly of the “breaking” variety — wild turkeys can be seen in fields and running across every rural road in Charles, St. Mary’s, Prince George’s and Calvert counties, almost to the point where residents now are casual about seeing the magnificent birds.

The bufflehead duck, the guide says, is best looked for at Sandy Point State Park, behind Assateague Island and the Cambridge waterfront. Friends, there isn’t a tidal river, bay, inlet, or creek in Maryland (even District portions of the Potomac) that doesn’t show buffleheads by the dozens during winter. The guide should have said that they’re found everywhere in tidal waters.

It continues in this fashion to a point that irked me a little, but remember: The bird guide isn’t wrong. It’s just that in matters of best bird viewing locations, it simply was a little too narrow.

— Gene Mueller

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