BIRDING HOTSPOTS; The Company for Home Entertainment, Inc. (1998)

Don and Lillian Stokes have released a number of videos based upon their PBS TV series BirdWatch. These videos appear to be collections of segments from their PBS series and, as such, tend to suffer (to varying degrees) from a lack of thematic and developmental  cohesion. Birding Hotspots is approximately 50 minutes long, covers five well known birding locations in three of our southern states (J.N. “Ding” Darling NWR and Corkscrew Sanctuary in Florida, Madera Canyon in Arizona, and Bentson-Rio Grande SP and Santa Ana NWR in Texas), and lists for $19.95. As with all of the Stokes’ videos I have seen to date (including their PBS series), Birding Hotspots is a low key, folksy presentation hosted by Don and Lillian Stokes. As such, it will almost certainly appeal to the newer, modestly interested birder (as virtually all of us were for at least part of our birding lives) more than to the experienced birder. (It is unlikely to appeal to hard-core birders.)

Birding Hotspots is one of the better of the Stokes’ post-production videos since each of its segments share the same general theme: a brief, personal view of a well-known birding location augmented with additional information about the area. However, it is still apparent that Birding Hotspots is a cut-and-paste effort using pre-existing footage and commentary. (I strongly suspect these post-production videos were produced because sales of their BirdWatch series video set were disappointing). 

The J.N. “Ding” Darling footage includes the Little Blue Heron, Pied-billed Grebe, and Blue-winged Teal augmented with basic information concerning the importance of large scale habitat protection.

The Corkscrew footage includes Red-shouldered Hawk, Green, Black-crowned Night, Tri-colored, Little Blue, and Great Blue Herons, Great Egret (including one catching a catfish), Barred Owl, White Ibis, Swallow-tailed Kite, and Wood Storks with by a brief discussion of the last species’ nesting status.

The Madera Canyon segment begins with an explanation of why this area is so birdy. Its footage includes Acorn Woodpeckers, Painted Redstart, Bridled Titmouse, Mexican Jay, Cactus Wren, White-winged Dove, and Anna, Broad-billed, Costa, Black-chinned, and Magnificent Hummingbirds.

The Bentsen-Rio Grande footage includes Great-tailed Grackles, Plain Chachalacas, Altamira Orioles, Inca Dove, Brown-crested Flycatcher (adding a snake skin to its nest), Harris’ Hawk (with a brief explanation of this species’ group hunting behavior), and Green Jay augmented with some good ideas on how to buy bird feeders and water features.

The Santa Ana footage includes Least Grebe, Black-necked Stilt, Black-bellied Whistling Ducks, Neotropic Cormorant, Great Kisskadee, Olive Sparrow, and Buff-bellied hummingbird. It also explains the severe need for water at this refuge.

On a scale of 0 (truly worthless) to 10 (the outer limit of human ability), I rate  Birding Hotspots a 6 ½ and generally recommend it. It presents a reasonably interesting tour of five noteworthy birding locations in three of our southern states as well as some good footage of their birds and related information. It is also reasonably priced at $19.95 (especially given that NJAS/CMBO members can get it at a discount).

Michael R. Hannisian