Tag Archives: Bird Related Book

Bird Study Merit Badge

As most of my readers probably have guessed, this next Bird Book Review isn’t exactly a book per se. It’s more of a pamphlet. And you may ask yourself, why am I bothering with reviewing something like this? Well, let me set you straight about this overlooked, mis-judged, piece of birding literature.

For beginners, at only $4.49, and only being 96 pages, this would be an excellent book for any budding birder. And since we like to plant the seed early in a young persons life, it’s a very straight forward, easy to follow, how to kind of book. But first let me clear up the purpose of the Merit Badge.

The purpose of the Merit Badge system is to encourage scouts to explore areas of interest that might teach them valuable skills. This could lead to a career, or a life long hobby. And as we all know the future of any hobby or area of interest, lies with the youth who are involved right now. But we shouldn’t neglect the young person who hasn’t yet discovered the joy of birding. And this is where a book like this could be of great value.

Enough about that, let’s go over this book. So at 96 pages you might think how can they cover all that’s needed for a beginner. Remember the age group that this book is written for. Youth from 11 to 18 years old.

The first couple of pages go over the actual requirements that the scout has to complete before earning the merit badge. The rest of the book is broken down into short chapters. They are:

  1. Introduction
  2. North America’s Birds
  3. What Makes a Bird a Bird?
  4. How Bird’s Live
  5. Observing Birds
  6. Bird Study and Science
  7. Bird Conservation
  8. Creating a backyard Bird Sanctuary
  9. Bird Study Resources

As you read through the chapter, North America’s Birds, you’re introduced as to how they classify birds by Order using a nice 2 page outline with a color illustration of a familiar bird from that Order. They explain in the chapter where to find birds, as well as give examples of non-native birds.

The chapter on “What Makes a Bird a Bird”, explains in simple text, using color drawings the anatomy of a bird. It also has 2 excellent drawings of a bird and a wing, with all the key parts labeled. Which is useful when they learn about field marks.

“How Birds Live” educates the reader on the food they eat, and their feeding patterns, migration, courtship and nesting patterns. And they offer advise on who to call in case you discover a banded bird.

My favorite chapter, “Observing Birds”, it what I call the meat of the subject. Now we take everything that we learned so far and put in practical use. And now we get to play with toys. Binoculars, and spotting scopes, and field guides. Oh My. From choosing the right pair of binoculars, caring for them and how to use them properly is talked about here. They devote one whole page on “What Do the Numbers Mean”. Any newbie will benefit from this section. And as they leave you pondering your first set of binoculars, they jump into bird identification, field marks, taking good field notes, and determining the different bird calls. And since this is Boy Scout related, proper birding etiquette. This is great stuff.

The book finishes off with the, “How can you make a difference” portion. This is where we want to plant the seed of thought in the youth. By participating in something as simple as the “Great Backyard Bird Count”, to helping with bird banding, these chapters open up the opportunities awaiting someone with the desire to go that one step further. The final chapter is all about creating your own back yard habitat. Choosing the correct feeder and how to build them for different species of birds. Construction of various bird houses and how to maintain them.

As I was re-reading this book, I read the Acknowledgments in the back just to see you helped with this book. I’m not going to name everyone listed, but for all you birding folks out there, I think even the most die-hard will acknowledge the ability of these people.

Scott Wiedensaul ( Eagle Scout): Natural History Writer, Birder, Bird Bander. His book “Living on the Wind” won him a Pulitzer Prize nomination.

Gary M. Stolz Ph.D. ( Eagle Scout):  Refuge Manager for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Affiliate Professor at the University of Idaho as a Ornithologist and Herpetologist.

Julie Zickefoose: Wildlife Illustrator

Bob Gress ( Eagle Scout): Director, Great Plains Nature Center, Wichita, Kansas.

As I conclude this review I truly feel that by opening the eyes of  anyone who might want to be a part of this great past time, that they give this little book a try. How can you go wrong at such a great price. You can find a Scout Shop in almost every part of the country. Or better yet you can order it on-line through www.scoutstuff.org. And look, if it doesn’t work out, you’re not out a lot of money, and then you donate the book to a local troop. That will give you a warm fuzzy feelin’.       Try it, you’ll like it.

Pseudo-Bird Guide Review

The Visitor’s Guide to the Birds of the Eastern National Parks: United States and Canada.

While I was perusing the nature section of our local Half Price Book Store to see if they had any new field guides, I happened to spot this title that made me reach for closer inspection. Living in the eastern part of the country, and having a affection for our National Parks system, I naturally snatched it up. What a deal for $6.00.

As the title implies, this isn’t a field guide in the traditional way. As the author states in the Preface, ” It’s purpose is to help the park visitor better appreciate the park and it’s bird life”. This is a good little book, 388 pages, as a companion book for your field guide. So let’s say your planning a trip to Acadia National Park, this might be a good book for you.

The meat of the book is divided into 4 sections: Atlantic Maritime, Appalachian Mountains, Coastal Plains, & Southeast and Virgin Islands. Mr. Wauer visits each of the 33 different National Parks, Seashores, Recreation Area, and a National Military Park. As the title implies, he describes 8 different parks in Canada, and 1 in the Virgin Islands. All the rest are in the United States.

The chapters aren’t real long , and they’re a pretty easy read. He begins each chapter with his own personal experience of his visit to that particular park. He’ll focus on  certain species that will help the reader get a better feeling for the park. For instance, as he was describing Fort Jefferson National Monument, he went into great detail when he described the hundreds of   Magnificent Frigatebirds that were riding the thermals over the fort.

The next section of the chapter talks about “The Park Environment”. this is where he explains the geography of the park. He’ll also give examples of the different flora and fauna of the park. The nice part of this chapter is at the end, when he includes the address and phone number of the Superintendent of that particular park. Pretty handy if you need additional information.

The longest part of the chapter is called, “Bird Life”.  This is where the book, I feel gets better. he’ll go into detail as to the whereabouts of certain species, and the best season to visit. Most of the primary bird species that are normally found at the park he’s describing will be included in this part of the chapter. When he describes a certain bird he’ll go into detail as to their field markings, and the particular surroundings that he spotted the bird.

The last, and shortest section is called “Birds of Special Interest”. Mr. Wauer uses this time to pick out 6 to 10 different birds that sticks out in his mind and gives a brief description of the bird. Field markings, and where you might find one. If your a moderate to experienced birder , this part my bore you.

To wrap up this review, I’ll admit that I do like it for what it’s intention is meant to be, a companion book. I hope that some day I’ll be able to visit half of what was covered in this book. And if I do visit one, I’ll take this book along. But, as a experienced birder I’m not going to rely on one book to help me when I visit someplace new. I’ll do my homework, and refer to this book as needed. But first I have to get a passport, or I can forget Canada.

Bird Study Merit Badge Requirements

Bird Study Requirements

  1. Explain the need for bird study and why birds are useful indicators of the quality of the environment.
  2. Show that you are familiar with the terms used to describe birds by sketching or tracing a perched bird and then labeling 15 different parts of the bird. Sketch or trace an extended wing and label types of wing feathers.
  3. Demonstrate that you know how to properly use and care for binoculars.
    a. Explain what the specification numbers on the binoculars mean.
    b. Show how to adjust the eyepiece and how to focus for proper viewing.
    c. Show how to properly care for and clean the lenses.
  4. Demonstrate that you know how to use a bird field guide. Show your counselor that you are able to understand a range map by locating in the book and pointing out the wintering range, the breeding range, and/or the year-round range of one species of each of the following types of birds:
    a. Seabird
    b. Plover
    c. Falcon or hawk
    d. Warbler or vireo
    e. Heron or egret
    f. Sparrow
    g. Nonnative bird (introduced to North America from a foreign country since 1800)
  5. Observe and be able to identify at least 20 species of wild birds. Prepare a field notebook, making a separate entry for each species, and record the following information from your field observations and other references.
    a. Note the date and time.
    b. Note the location and habitat.
    c. Describe the bird’s main feeding habitat and list two types of food that the bird is likely to eat.
    d. Note whether the bird is a migrant or a summer, winter, or year-round resident of your area.
  6. Explain the function of a bird’s song. Be able to identify five of the 20 species in your field notebook by song or call alone. For each of these five species enter a description of the song or call, and note the behavior of the bird making the sound. Note why you think the bird was making the call or song that you heard.
  7. Do ONE of the following:
    a. Go on a field trip with a local club or with others who are knowledgeable about birds in your area.

    1. Keep a list or fill out a checklist of all the birds your group observed during the field trip.
    2. Tell your counselor which birds your group saw and why some species were common and some were present in small numbers.
    3. Tell your counselor what makes the area you visited good for finding birds.
    b. By using a public library or contacting the National Audubon Society, find the name and location of the Christmas Bird Count nearest your home and obtain the results of a recent count.

    1. Explain what kinds of information are collected during the annual event.
    2. Tell your counselor which species are most common, and explain why these birds are abundant.
    3. Tell your counselor which species are uncommon, and explain why these were present in small numbers. If the number of birds of these species is decreasing, explain why, and what, if anything, could be done to reverse their decline.
  8. Do ONE of the following. For the option you choose, describe what birds you hope to attract, and why.
    a. Build a bird feeder and put it in an appropriate place in your yard or another location.
    b. Build a birdbath and put it in an appropriate place.
    c. Build a backyard sanctuary for birds by planting trees and shrubs for food and cover.
The official source for the information shown in this article or section is:
Boy Scout Requirements, 2010 Edition (BSA Supply No. 33216)