Tag Archives: The Warbler Guide

The Warbler Guide App – A British Birder’s View

Every autumn I have a recurring daydream… the dream goes that I’m birding the ‘dead pines’ walk on The Garrison on Scilly. The tail end of a hurricane has battered the islands for two days but now the sun is out and the birds are busy feeding up. A Blackcap is tacking and a couple of territorial (European) Robins are tic-tic ticking but then I hear a high pitched sip. It’s unfamiliar but soon I glimpse a bright yellow throat on a bird as it moves through the pines feeding. Bright yellow super, two big white wing-bars and I’ve bagged myself Britain’s first twitchable Blackburnian Warbler. Mayhem ensues and I dine out on it, literally, all week in The Scillonian Club.

The Warbler Guide App

The Warbler Guide App

The reality is I’m more likely to find a dull greenish-grey bird that stumps me. Is it a Blackpoll Warbler, Bay-breasted or Pine? I’m not sure, I can’t realistically take out every field guide going along with my bins, scope, camera etc so all I have is my phone. Knowing I have to sort this out before I make a fool of myself, oh I learned the hard way on Shetland. Buoyed by finding a Swainson’s Thrush I got cocky. Yes that Grasshopper Warbler had pale tips but a Pallas’s Grasshopper Warbler that doesn’t always make.

So, I need to sort this. The Warbler Guide, see my review here, would be useful now. If only there was an app… with those calls. Well soon there will be.  Due for release in early 2015 The Warbler Guide App will be a major boost for the UK rarity hunter (I’m sure it will also be a major boost for birders at Magee Marsh or Point Pelee in Spring too or a lone UK birder in British Columbia (me)).

Calls are also something that we birders find very useful as I alluded to earlier. As I walk along with non-birders they are often surprised when I mention a bird without apparently looking… “how did you know that?” they ask and it’s often difficult to say by the call as they might not even have heard. Redwing at night is one that often gets non-birders and me as we walk back from the pub. The Warbler Guide did a great job at explaining sonograms and calls but now we are going to be able to put the song or call to the picture that can only increase our learning. The person who knows everything is usually the one who knows least. birding is all about learning.

I can’t wait to load the app and get using it and I will be posting a full review in due course. Meantimes you can keep following the blog tour by visiting Warbler Watch tomorrow for a Q&A with Tom and Scott.

Warbler Blog Tour

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The Warbler Guide


Tom Stephenson & Scott Whittle
Drawings by Catherine Hamilton

Princeton University Press

ISBN: 9780691154824

£19.95

The Warbler Guide

The Warbler Guide

Once in a while a bird book comes along that makes you sit up and take note – this is one of those books. I must admit though, as I opened the book for the first time I was thinking ‘what the…? ‘ and after flicking through a few pages I was still a bit bemused. It seemed to be a jumble of photos, thumbnail views, notes and sonograms. Clearly I needed to start again.

As any woman will tell you men are not very good at reading the instructions, preferring to just dive straight in… this generally results in frustration. The concept here is so new that it is nothing like diving in to a copy of Sibley or The Collins Bird Guide.

Unless you’re a warbler expert (and we’re dealing with Nearctic Warblers here) you simply must start at the beginning – as the song says ‘it’s a very good place to start.’

The Warbler Guide is designed very much a way to quickly and reliably identify warblers in the field and it does this by getting you to focus quickly on what field mark to look for (or listen for) and features many expert tips that are easily explained. There are some very novel ways to do this featured, I particularly like the desaturated photos that help you sort out a Common Yellowthroat, a very novel approach. I’d like to test the book out on Scilly by trying to clinch a Bay-breasted Warbler this October! The quick facefinder would be useful at Magee Marsh in Spring. One day I hope to prove that.

Quick Facefinder

Quick Facefinder

The species accounts are thorough. The bold chapter heading takes you through a quick visual guide with the key shapes, range and habitat before a series of stunning images and useful thumbnails takes you through the distinctive and supporting features. There is also a series of thumbnails for similar species and sections on sexing and ageing as well as discussion on songs and calls. I wonder why my copy already falls open at Blackburnian Warbler? The bird I most dream of finding in the Garrison Pines on Scilly.

There are also plenty of sonograms and a fantastic chapter on how to interpret sonograms, in fact this is probably the easiest account of this skill I’ve ever read. Probably my only gripe is the lack of an accompanying CD. You can download everything you need from the website but I’d prefer the tracks on my MP3 player.

Finally the topography section is amongst the best I’ve ever seen for a beginner and expert birder alike. There should be no excuse for not know you Greater Coverts from your Undertail Coverts now. Couple this with a stunning Northern Parula on the cover and you have a complete winner. Now what’s my luggage allowance on Skybus?