WATCHING WADERS, 2d edition

Blue Earth Films (2007) www.birdfilms.com

This second edition of Watching Waders by Michael Male and Judy Fieth retails for $29.95, is available at www.birdfilms.com, covers all 20 regularly occurring waders including both of our cranes, and I recommend it to everyone with an interest in birds or birding. It is also the second in, currently, a series of four such works. Watching Waders is an excellent vehicle to introduce the neophyte to this group of generally easy to observe birds. It is hard to imagine anyone who would not enjoy this product strictly for its esthetics. As with Watching Warblers, it requires little for even the most casual birder to appreciate the effort needed to secure the footage used.

Much of the footage involves intimate looks of birds courting, mating, nesting, and raising young treating us to many beautiful views of some gorgeous birds (Wood Storks and most young excluded). The only thing missing (fortunately!) is the smell of the heronries. I also suspect that many people, birders included, may not appreciate how striking some of these birds are in breeding plumage. Granted, it is relatively easy to see the “Lime-sherbert” lores of a breeding plumaged Great Egret; but how many of us have seen the brilliant red lores and toes of a breeding Snowy Egret? Likewise, the footage of the Glossy and White-faced Ibises show the differences between these easily confused species in a manner no field guide can duplicate. The vocalizations are also notable. Granted, waders are not songbirds, but they can make some interesting noises. While many birders know the calls of the American Bittern and Limpkin, how many of us know the nesting call of the Snowy Egret?

Among the more noteworthy segments of Watching Waders are the close-ups of Roseate Spoonbill showing its gular (throat) pouch, showing how closely ibis chicks resemble rail chicks, the blue iris of breeding White Ibis, slow-motion footage of parents of many species feeding their young, the beautiful iridescence of Glossy Ibis, the pink toes of breeding Wood Storks and their use of artificial nest platforms at Harris Neck NWR, the problems Great-blue Herons have mating because of their long legs, how Snowy Egrets use Black Skimmers to help them hunt, the “pied” plumage of second year Little-blue Herons, and the “drunken sailor” feeding behavior of Reddish Egrets.

This is not to say that the outstanding video is all there is to Watching Waders. The text is also quite good. For example, in the Snowy Egret segment, Mr. Male and Ms Fieth explain that one of their subjects is acting atypically and compares this to more typical behavior, and why some species hatch more young than they are likely to be able to raise.

All of the above refers to the 84 minutes of the main track. In addition, there are four other tracks: "Movie with Just Birds," "Alphabetical Index," "Taxonomic Index," and "Extra Features." 

"Movie with Just Birds" is the same as the main track (which is entitled "Movie with Narration") but without the narration. "Alphabetical Index" is an alphabetical list of the covered species providing hyperlinks to them. "Taxonomic Index" is a taxonomic list of the covered species providing hyperlinks to them. "Extra Features" includes close up looks at a few of the covered species and habitats with brief explanations by local experts. It also includes a brief ad for other offerings in this line of products.

On a scale of 0 (truly worthless) to 10 (beyond the limit of human ability), I rate Watching Waders 9, and recommend it to everyone with even a marginal interest in birds or natural history.

Michael R. Hannisian

2-24-11