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Texas Reader: Bird Basics

A no-nonsense guide for novice birders.

By E. Dan Klepper

"The diversity of Texas can accommodate the full range of birding experience, from casual neighborhood observations to remote expeditions," explains author Mark W. Lockwood in his introduction to Basic Texas Birds ~ A Field Guide (University of Texas Press, 2007). "Many people first become interested in birds simply by looking at the species that are attracted to their backyard. This often leads to exploring the parks or natural areas close to where they live. For some, their interest develops into a lifelong obsession."

Lockwood should know. A longtime conservation biologist for TPWD, he happens to be one of the obsessed. And now, through his latest book, he can share this enthusiasm for birding with the rest of us. Lockwood, one of Texas' most hardworking and devoted ornithologists, has created a field guide that offers a leg up for both the novice and the experienced birder. The palm-sized volume provides quick and easy access to descriptions for identifying over 180 species of common and specialty birds that can be found across the state. Included are 200 full-color photographs of the birds in their natural habitat, range maps and a glossary. Best of all, Lockwood provides an up-to-date account of habitat, status and distribution for each species.

The field guide relies on Lockwood's no-nonsense, just-the-facts writing style to relay key information about background and identifying characteristics of each species. But his personal appreciation for the state's astonishing birdlife always manages to shine through.

"One of the most striking ducks found in Texas," he writes of the black-bellied whistling duck. "Very gregarious, they can sometimes be found in flocks of more than 1,000 birds." It is indeed an astounding event to witness, made possible in part by habitat protection and restoration by advocates like Lockwood who have devoted their lives to maintaining the richness of the state's natural environs. Perhaps by drawing more Texans into the birder's world through his new field guide, Lockwood may also help to preserve that event for future generations to see.

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