Saturday, October 29, 2011

Birds in Ecuador

Birds in Ecuador: A Photographic Journey
by  Bartley, Glenn
2009, 119pp, ISBN: 9780981321202 
Basics:  softcover; beautiful color photographs of 131 species, short captions with each photo; no   other text 
This is a simple book consisting of just photographs, yet the extraordinary quality of these photos makes the book so much more.  Within this book are 131 species found across four areas of Ecuador.  These areas are categorized as east, west, south, and Sierra. Other than the Sierra, these areas are loosely defined since it is possible to see many of the birds in multiple areas.  However, the birds shown are quite typical for their region. 
What makes these photos so special?  First, they show the highest quality of color, focus, lighting, and pose of the bird.  Each time I flip a page, I’m impressed with the vivid colors that are captured.  The printer of this book did an awesome job.  Every bird is front-and-center in the photograph and not partially hidden by vegetation or shadows.  What also makes the photographs so remarkable is the size of each bird.  Many of the photos take up the entire page of this large format book.  The pages are 9x12 inches. 
I thought I was a decent photographer, but this book demonstrates a new level of skill, patience, and passion.  Ecuador is perhaps my favorite birding location and I’ve taken many photos, so I can understand the difficulty the author/photographer experienced when trying to get the perfect shot to include in this book.  Of course, some luck goes with getting the active upper-canopy tanager to hold still in just the right spot; or, for that frustrating antbird to do the unthinkable which is to come out in the open.  But it also takes patience and skill to be in the right spot at the right time; and, to get those camera settings set properly. 
Within this book you’ll see a variety of tanagers, pittas, woodcreepers, trogons, and hummingbirds.  The hummingbirds are featured most prominently with 34 species shown.  The tanager family ranks second with 17 species.  You must see the photo of the Paradise Tanager on the last page. 
Each photo is accompanied by the bird’s common name along with a brief caption.  The caption may simply identify or describe the bird; or, some captions will include a short commentary about the bird’s habits, distribution, or behavior.  Other than a half-page note about conservation at the beginning of the book, no other text is included, not even an index.  I find the lack of an index to be a minor distraction.  When I want to see the Barred Becard again I am forced to randomly thumb through the pages until spotting it.  Since the hummingbirds are scattered throughout the four regions of the book, finding a specific one can take a little searching.  Come to think of it, if there is no index or table of contents, then why are the pages numbered? 
This book is the prototypical, high-quality "coffee table" book that must adorn any birder's or naturalist's library.  After looking through the pages - many times - this book will leave you wishing to see future works of this photographer for all of Ecuador's birds. I know I'll make note to keep track of his future works. 
This book can be purchased directly from the author at his website HERE for approximately $30 with discounts on multiple copies. – (written by Jack at Avian Review, December 2009)