Author David Sibley released his newest book The Sibley Guide to Birds, Second Edition on March 11, 2014. Sibley's many publications, including The Sibley Guide to Birds and The Sibley Guide to Trees establish his expertise as an outdoor writer and illustrator. It is through Sibley's books and articles that the splendor of the outdoors can be fully appreciated.
Sibley used previous field observations, sketches, art work, museum specimens, and the latest information from bird experts to update this field guide’s second edition. At his book signing presentation (see below), he discussed how he began reworking details for the second edition immediately after publishing the first field guide edition in 2001.
David Sibley, is introduced at Ryerson Conservation Area in Riverwoods, Illinois.
I attended Sibley’s book talk presentation on April 9, 2014 at Edward L. Ryerson Conservation Area in Riverwoods, Illinois. His talk was informative and entertaining to an audience of over one hundred fans. The talk was presented in partnership with Brushwood Center at Ryerson Woods and Lake Forest Bookstore.
Sibley described his early years growing up in Connecticut. His desire to study birds began at age seven. Early influences of Sibley were his ornithologist father (Fred Sibley) and famed naturalist and ornithologist, Roger Tory Peterson (who also lived in Connecticut and twenty miles from the Sibley’s).
David Sibley’s interests in birds grew as he began to sketch them from field observations. He came to the conclusion early in his life that creating a field guide “seemed like a viable career path.”
Illustration of an Eastern Screech-Owl. The Sibley Guide to Birds, Second Edition.
His earliest sketches were shown to the audience. Sibley explained how he wants to “record what I am seeing and learning… to show to other people.”
According to Sibley, “each sketch is… like an interview with a bird.” He wants his sketches and art work to make sense of what he observes and to allow people to respond to it.
“Sketching is all about simplifying”, he said.
Illustration of a Yellow-Shafted Northern Flicker. The Sibley Guide to Birds, Second Edition.
Sibley then described how he observes birds and then memorizes the details of their shapes, patterns, and colors. From these memories, he transfers the images from his mind and into a sketch. Using the sketch as a framework, the final art is completed.
For Sibley, sketching is a learning process each and every time. “Ask questions and translate to paper,” he said.
Illustration of an Eastern Bluebird. The Sibley Guide to Birds, Second Edition.
Sibley explained how illustrations of birds are more helpful for identifying bird species as opposed to using photos of birds. Background flora in photos vary due to seasonal and regional changes. Those subtle differences may interfere with making a bird species identification.
He related his “eureka" moment in making bird observations and sketching while working on his first field guide. He noticed that feathers on passerines follow a set arrangement of patterns, streaks, and spots on their plumage. He learned that in spite of the diversity in bird markings, the feather patterns are not random, but show similar features and relationships among those species. Once he figured this out, he noted that sketching birds and getting the details down became much easier.
Illustration of an Eastern Meadowlark. The Sibley Guide to Birds, Second Edition.
He considers a field guide to be “an address book.” Sibley has no favorite bird species, but does gravitate toward birds “with character” such as roadrunners, pileated woodpeckers, ravens, jays, and chickadees. (At the mention of chickadees, the audience laughed in recognition of this species' tendency to endear itself to birders.)
I had obtained a copy of The Sibley Guide to Birds, Second Edition from its publisher, Random House. The book is a handy resource for identifying common and rare birds that may be observed in North America and is a welcome addition to my personal library.
Its format is organized by presenting groups of related bird species on adjacent pages. A single bird species is presented in an up and down column on each page. An illustration of a bird species as it appears in flight is at the top of the page. Birds that perch, swim, or are found on the ground are pictured at the bottom of the page. Color range maps are provided.
The characteristics and markings that vary with flight or non-flight positions are useful to help identify an observed bird as it may appear in the field.
Field guide format. The Sibley Guide to Birds, Second Edition.
Written voice descriptions of typical bird calls, flight calls, and bird songs are also included. Sibley noted at his book talk that he birds by ear “a lot.”
The voice descriptions provided in the book are additional useful aids for beginning and advanced birders.
Sibley writes in the book’s preface, “I hope that this book will provide an entry for you to further your own exploration of the natural world, and to share in that sense of discovery."
His newest book has certainly met that goal.
This book is highly recommended to outdoor enthusiasts and birders of all levels.
David Sibley, field guide author and illustrator of The Sibley Guide to Birds, Second Edition.
I am glad I had the opportunity to see David Sibley in person and to learn about his newest book. His personal experiences and how they led to a career in creating field guides were enlightening, encouraging, and entertaining.