“Birds of the Gulf Coast,” by Jim Stevenson, 2020, 300 pages, $ 33.40
Jim Stevenson’s Birds of the Gulf Coast is a unique local field guide that provides entry level bird watchers’ guide.
In contrast to the typical ID books, this reads more like a personal travel log along the 1,500 mile long Gulf Coast from the Florida Keys to Mexico. The author draws from his personal experience of more than half a century of studying the birds in his backyard, be it in his early years in Florida or in his 25 years here in Galveston.
Jim’s photos show not only a representation of a bird species, but also an insight into their daily life. In most cases, multiple photos show different seasonal or age-related plumage patterns. There is also an emphasis on similar species and common misidentifications that make bird identification books so useful.
The text was written from the perspective of an ornithologist who specializes in birds that are found in the southern plains of the eastern United States and that can include the “why” and “how” in addition to the expected “what”.
The species descriptions include natural history, ecology, biology, biochemistry, physics, and conservation status, and provide easy-to-decipher clues to help you determine what you see and hear in the area. The author gives a personal touch with his historical perspective on habitat changes that have taken place over the decades and the plight of birds to cope with the challenges they face.
The spectrum on which this book focuses provides an interesting twist in capturing the migration paths of the eastern half of the United States, with an emphasis on the coastal hotspots that provide refuge for trans-Gulf migrants, as well as the ups and downs Migrants from the Gulf, as the seasons in your area dictate. By devoting the entire volume to the snapshot we see along the migration routes, we get more useful information than the inclusion of the entire seasonal patterns of the species.
As an evolving bird watcher here in Galveston, this book provides the precise guidance someone like me can use to hone their ID skills and learn about the birds that visit us year-round. Unlike other identification books that deal solely with species identification, I found this book to be a fun and informative read from start to finish.
Greg Whittaker is Chairman of the Galveston County Audubon Group and President-elect of the Houston Audubon Society.