Tweet When I was just starting out birding, I steered clear of photographic guides. Most of the guides at this time had poor quality photos and only one photo per species/sex. Most also did not include photos of immatures whatsoever. However, with the arrival of digital photography, this has all changed.
The "Crossley ID Guide" emphasizes the use of "Jizz" for ID rather than focusing on field marks, a term that many birders aren't familiar with. For a definition of what "Jizz" refers to in birding, here is the Wikipedia entry for it.
Since birds are always moving and the observer doesn't always get to see birds in ideal conditions, this is a difficult task to accomplish. That being said, in my opinion, Richard Crossley does an excellent job portraying the jizz of the species being studied. He does this by including many photos of each species in their preferred habitats, much like one would see in the field. The plates are very busy, with both close and far away photos as well as different angles and lighting situations.
The use of text is very short and limited when describing a species, instead focusing more on creating a mental image of the bird using actual photographs. Crossley also includes a text description before each group of birds.
This guide is huge, much too large to take into the field in my opinion. Rather, this is a book that I would keep in the car or on my desk to refer to later (I rarely take any field guides with me in the field while birding).
The Crossley relies heavily on the use of the alpha codes for birds. I know many birders who absolutely despise the use of them. I use them quite often myself and see them being utilized more and more all the time. With the use of cell phone technology (which I know nothing about), it is a good bet that the four letter codes aren't going anywhere soon. You can find all the birds and their four letter codes in the front of the book, a feature I find handy.
I have heard it said that this guide cannot be used for identification. I disagree. I have always suggested that a beginning birder acquire as many field guides as they can. "The Crossely ID Guide" is definitely one that both beginning and seasoned birders will want to add to their library, as it goes beyond the typical field guide in that it actively invokes the birder to hone in their observational skills.
Disclosure: I had received this book free of charge from the publisher for the purpose of reviewing. The opinions expressed are solely my own.