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I agree with getting out there and practicing....but not on your own. Go with experienced birders and learn their tips.
 
For guides, I use the The Shorebird Guide by O'Brien, Crossley & Karlson. Excellent photographs and has quizzes. Dennis Paulson of Washington also has an excellent one but a different style that might appeal to you.
 
Jeff Cohen
Saint Joseph, MO
 
> Date: Wed, 15 Jun 2011 08:55:10 -0500
> From: [log in to unmask]
> Subject: Learning Shorebirds/Field Guides
> To: [log in to unmask]
>
> To those new to shorebird ID,
>
> Well, going to say something rather unpopular.......
> if you really want to learn the shorebirds, try identifying them on your
> own.
> May not give that instant ID but it will make the identification process
> stick for future encounters.
>
> List of field guides at amazon.com (or purchase them at ABA I am sure)
>
> http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=shorebirds&x=10&y=18
> <http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=shorebirds&x=10&y=18>
>
> The first two (by O'Brien and Chandler) are very good and of the new
> school (photographic) guides
>
> The 3rd listing by Merchant et al is old school (drawings) but still
> rather good. Still a stand by for us
> because of the multiple drawings, text on each bird and the overall
> basics of shorebird ID (feather pattern, etc.).
>
> After all that study time, field work is essential.
> If in the St. Louis area, taking Bill Rowe's birding classes (through
> the MO Bot. Gardens yes?) gives one a hands on experience.
> If not, attend birdwalks in your area during the shorebird seasons.
>
> Just my 1.5 cents.....hope it helps.
>
> Back to work for me.
>
> Good summer birding,
> Charlene Malone
> St. Louis co.
>
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The Audubon Society of Missouri's Wild Bird Discussion Forum
> ASM Website: http://mobirds.org/
------------------------------------------------------------
The Audubon Society of Missouri's Wild Bird Discussion Forum
ASM Website: http://mobirds.org/