Nationally renowned wildlife author Kenn Kaufman of Oak Harbor has penned several “Field Guide” books on birds, butterflies and mammals of North America.
His latest field guide publication, “Kaufman Field Guide to Advanced Birding,” published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Company, will be in local bookstores next month.
“It's sort of a different approach from other field guides I've done,” Kaufman said. “The other ones are for people who have never looked for a bird before. This one is more for people who are seriously into birds and have been doing it for a while. Most kinds of birds are fairly easy to tell apart, but some of them are challenging. The new book is to help the more experienced birders to go and figure out the most difficult birds.”
A true “field guide” is a compact book designed to help the user quickly identify things in the field and to accurately put names on things. Kaufman's “Field Guide” books have been widely regarded as the best field guides for new birders. His books contain a straightforward layout, clear illustrations, detailed maps and engaging text.
“It's really easy to look at something and say, 'that's a gull,' ” Kaufman said. “Telling which kind it is can sometimes be a major challenge. You take something around here like common herring gulls and practically no two individuals look exactly the same. They're like snowflakes. There might be something in there like a California gull or something else lurking in there among the gulls. Different types of gulls look similar to each other.”
Kaufman said “Kaufman Field Guide to Advanced Birding” came to fruition based on the feedback he received from conducting birding workshops over the last 20 years.
“I was teaching these workshops on how to identify different kinds of birds in the U.S. and Canada, and a lot of birders signed up,” he said. “I put the book together to teach people how to recognize all the different types of birds. If you go out with someone who has a lot of experience, it can be amazing to see how they can recognize some bird flying past you a half mile away. Or, they just hear some little sound off in the distance and know what kind of bird it is or what it's doing.
“There are quite a few birders around here who could do that. This new book sort of breaks it down and gives lessons on how you learn to recognize birds that way. It's not just a book for experts. It's for anyone who is really interested in birding – if you want to get better at recognizing what you're seeing or hearing. The book is like a series of lessons on how to do that.”
Kaufman, 57, said he focused on the new book “pretty heavily” for the past two years. The 448-page book costs $21 and can be purchased at local bookstores and nature centers where birding books are sold.
Kaufman said he has honed his birding techniques with the help of the Black Swamp Bird Observatory near Oak Harbor. His wife, Kim Kaufman, is the BSBO's executive director.
“I have benefited a lot from working with Black Swamp Bird Observatory,” Kenn said. “I've been associated with them since I moved to Ohio about six years ago. Working with my wife and other people at the observatory, I was able to do the background research on the birds around here. Some people have the idea that birding is a boring idea, but it's kept me excited for 50 years. It becomes a lot more enjoyable when you recognize the different kinds of birds you're seeing.”