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Pete Dunne's Essential Field Guide Companion: A Comprehensive Resource for Identifying North American Birds Hardcover – May 11 2006

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Pete Dunne's Essential Field Guide Companion: A Comprehensive Resource for Identifying North American Birds + The Art of Bird Identification + The Warbler Guide
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 28 reviews
44 of 46 people found the following review helpful
A Jam Packed Birding Reference June 9 2006
By Amazon Customer - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Dunne has performed a remarkable feat with this book. He has captured in 700 or so pages the wisdom of a lifetime of birding. This is all the more amazing, or at least shocking compared to all the other bird ID books out there, in that there are zero pictures or illustrations.

Every breeding bird species is covered with a ½ to 1 page write-up. Each write-up is presented in a consistent manner making it fairly easy to scan for what you are looking for. Throughout Dunne adds some levity to a topic that could use more (obviously the Bathtub Duck = Ruddy Duck). Since there are no illustrations the focus is on GISS (general impression of size and shape) or gestalt. The GISS method of birding is an extremely valuable tool for the birder's toolbox. How many times has a bird gone unlabeled because it was only a silhouette or just a fly by? GISS can greatly aid in these ID situations. There is also a great deal of info on behavior and habitat that can be equally valuable in IDing a bird.

Due to the sheer volume of information in the book the density of information is very high and as a result it is not the easiest book on the eyes. Each page has 2 very dense columns of print. Some of the sections within a species account tend to run together, a bit more white space would have helped. It would have meant more heft but this is hardly a book that you would haul into the field so that extra weight would likely not matter.

Overall even with my minor quibbles this is an outstanding book and one that no birder should be without.
28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
As Necessary as Binoculars, for Making/Confirming I.D.s Aug. 21 2006
By P.Broadnax - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I won't repeat the (well-deserved!) accolades. Rather, I write to ensure that potential buyers are aware of one particular feature which is as profoundly helpful as it is unique. Each bird discussion includes the assignment of a V.I., that is, Vagarancy Index. This is best explained by example.

... You're looking out into your yard, and see a new bird (new to you, that is) around the feeder area. You digest its markings, then flip thru a field guide or two, trying to confirm an i.d. You're just about sure that it's, say, a white-throated sparrow, but the maps in your state guide AND a more enlarged regional guide indicate that this particular sparrow would only show up in your neck of the woods, if at all, during the winter--- and it's the dog days of July...

In the past, I would have immediately assumed I was wrong. But instead, I went hunting thru Dunne's Essential Field Guide Companion. I learned: the white-throated sparrow is so extremely likely to be found outside the areas depicted in field guide maps, that those maps become all but irrelevant as regards that particular type of bird. This happened again just last week, as regards a black and white warbler.

In other words, despite being relatively new to the birdwatching hobby, my passion grows as I get confirmation-- from an expert-- that I not only have a clue, but sometimes, I'm right on the money, even when the field guides would have me believe otherwise! Therefore, this is the most aptly titled book you will ever encounter, and I can say, withOUT reservation, that it truly deserves a spot on your bookshelf.

A diplomatically stated postscript: I learned about this book, published this summer, after running a keyword search on BIRD at (2d page of results hitlist)
33 of 37 people found the following review helpful
Good, but slightly flawed Oct. 2 2006
By P. Belardo - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Pete Dunne's latest tome, Pete Dunne's Essential Field Guide Companion, has been reviewed several times by various bloggers already including <a href="[...]">here</a>, <a href="[...]">here</a>, and <a href="[...]">here</a>. After receiving this book for a birthday present a few weeks ago, I thought I would throw my $.02 in.

As everyone knows, this book has no photos. I'm ok with that. I understand that the point of the book is to explain the "Cape May School" of birding, otherwise known as the "GISS" method. I think the book accomplishes its goals with some minor flaws. As a somewhat experienced birder, I think the most useful purpose for this guide is to learn some of the nuances of the more difficult to separate species such as the Empidonax and Myiarchus flycatchers, kingbirds, Catharus thrushes, gulls, fall warblers, etc. Learning to distinguish these species can help advance a birder's field skills immensely. Pete's detailed descriptions of the species are a true companion to your Sibley guide. You can sit with your field guide by your side and read the descriptions and really see the differences. Also, some of the species accounts have a section called "Pertinent Particulars" that I found especially useful. This section gives helpful hints on distinguishing the bird from similar species or just some general tips on identifying it.

My biggest complaint about the book are the silly names that Pete has given to some of the birds. Some of them are useful, but some seem like he was trying too hard to find a name for the bird or the name seems very personal to the author. The Ninja Heron for Tricolored Heron? Twig Fairy for Blue-gray Gnatcatcher? Peterson's Woodpecker for Northern Flicker? "A Busy, Jerky, Single-minded Little Bird" = American Pipit. Huh?

My only other complaint is the length of the book. If it truly is a field guide companion then he possibly could have left out the range descriptions completely or at least shortened them. That information can easily be found in a field guide.

I salute the intent behind this book and all of the work that Pete Dunne put into it. I'm sure I will be referencing it periodically.
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
Essentially Dunne June 29 2006
By Amazon Customer - Published on
Format: Hardcover
How much would you pay to travel across the country for a year birding with one of America's biggest birding celebrities? While such a trip might set you back tens of thousands of dollars, about [...] can get you the next best thing if you buy Pete Dunne's Essential Field Guide Companion. Reading this new book is like following Pete Dunne on an extended field trip across the continent as he rattles off his own impressions of over 700 bird species--including his own nicknames for the birds, as well as tips on identifying them, their characteristic behaviors, and even unique aspects of the the way each species flies. While "essential" might be a bit of an oversell, this field guide companion will be useful to most birders, as well as a treat. It provides more information than most birders will master in a lifetime, as well as the closest approximation that most birders will get to actually birding with Pete Dunne in the field. As such, this book is valuable and fun to read, as in the final analysis, it provides a window into birds and the joys of birding that is essentially Dunne. [...]
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
A good companion is hard to find Feb. 23 2007
By Bryce Stevens - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This field guide companion looks stark at first, with no pictures, but that is part of the point. With many fine field guides available, this is meant to supplement them, and in no way replace them. The necessarily brief descriptions of a field guide are nicely fleshed out in this volume, which is best suited to browsing after returning from the field, or for thumbing through when you can't get out into the field. The best addition to my stay-at-home birding library since Ehrlich, Dobkin & Wheye's "The Birder's Handbook."