WATCHING WARBLERS, 2d edition 

Blue Earth Films (2003/2004) www.birdfilms.com

Watching Warblers by Michael Male and Judy Fieth is a second edition of their 1996 work by the same name. It is also the first in, currently, a series of four such works. This edition contains everything in the original plus additional materials, retails for $29.95, and is available at www.birdfilms.com. Watching Warblers continues to be a worthwhile product and I recommend it to everyone with an interest in birds or birding.

It is not surprising that it took six years to complete this work. It also requires little imagination for even the most casual birder to appreciate the effort needed to secure the footage used, and to those of us who have tried (often without success) to get good looks of Cerulean, Mourning, Hooded, or Kentucky Warblers, the video is impressive. Having said that, the video is the same used in the first addition and now, some 15 years later, digital technology has improved to the point that better images can be created.

What is new in this edition is the inclusion of four additional sections: "Movie with Natural Sounds," "Range Map Movies," "Alphabetical index," and "Extra Features."

"Movie with Natural Sounds" is the same footage as the main body ("Movie with Narration") but with the species narrations removed. This is nice for those who want to listen to just the music of the birds. "

"Range Map Movies", on the other hand, is a significant addition. It is introduced and augmented by well known and respected birder/ornithologist Paul Lehman and uses maps and narration to show and explain the breeding and wintering grounds of the species, as well as their migratory pathways.

"Alphabetical Index" provides a means of jumping, via hyperlinks, from the species' names to their video accounts (called scenes in the index) or to their range map movies.

"Extra Features" include "Chorus of Songs", "Fun with Songs," "Colima Quest," and "Previews of Other DVDs."

"Chorus of Songs" is a five minute or so collection of some of the covered birds singing. "Fun with Songs" slows down the songs of various of the covered species to provide a better idea of the complexity of their vocalizations. "Colima Quest" gives a glimpse of the effort needed to capture the footage and song of the Colima Warbler that only nests in one isolated location in the United Sates. "Previews of Other Videos" is a brief ad for other similar works by this talented pair of nature videographers.

As with any substantive work, Watching Warblers must be viewed repeatedly to gain maximum benefit as there is simply too much to absorb in a single sitting. Regardless, those who already know the plumages and songs well will probably want to repeatedly watch it for the pure pleasure it gives. 

The only factual shortcoming I detected is the implication that Orange-crowned Warblers only breed in western Canada. This is a carry over from the first edition, and is corrected in the "Range Map Movies" section where the species is shown to breed in much of the western United States.

On a scale of 0 (truly worthless) to 10 (beyond the outer limit of human ability), I rate Watching Warblers 8½. As such, I recommend Watching Warblers to everyone interested in nature in general and birding in particular.

Michael R. Hannisian

2-23-11