Rich Ditch's Photography Blog

May 12, 2011

The Birds of New Jersey review

Filed under: Birds, New Jersey, reviews — richditch @ 10:41 am
Birds of NJ - Boyle

Birds of NJ - Boyle

I was seduced by birds when I moved to New Jersey from Pennsylvania in 1970, and I learned my birds and developed my skills as a birder in the woods and on the coastal plane there. One of my prized resources at the time was a wonderful little 60 page booklet from the Summit Nature Club titled New Jersey Field Trip Guide, edited by William J. Boyle, Jr. That was replaced in my collection of “must have along” references in 1986 by the publication of A Guide to Bird Finding in New Jersey by William J. Boyle, Jr. At just over 500 pages Boyle was able to greatly expand the coverage of the little Summit Guide with more locations, more maps, and more information. This guide included an Annotated Checklist to the birds that was helpful for understanding migration and nesting times. A bonus: the cover and interior artwork are B&W drawings by David Sibley.

So it was a pleasure to find a copy of The Birds of New Jersey Status and Distribution by William J. Boyle, Jr. in yesterday’s mail. This is a new publication for 2011 from the Princeton University Press. The 300+ pages cover all the birds (over 450 species) that have been recorded in NJ, presenting the information on each species in a clean layout that includes distribution maps and often a photo. There’s also a special 14 page section of quality photos of an assortment of species at larger scale than those used with the species accounts. All Bill’s experience with the birds and locations over all the seasons and years is distilled here for easy access by the reader.

It was good to get re-acquainted with the birds of NJ last night, reminiscing about all the time I spent chasing and observing them, the places and habitat they used, and the people I spent time with while doing this. I felt good about the rarities I saw (like the only Rock Wren ever seen in NJ in a photo by Richard Crossley), and all the rarities that have occurred since I moved away in 1994.

A big part of the enjoyment of this book is the collection of quality photos. Most of these are the work of Kevin Karlson, who served as Photo Editor for the book. Every active birder in NJ since the 70’s knows Kevin’s work. The number of shots of rarities that Kevin has managed to capture are impressive and show his dedication to chase after so many fleeting opportunities, and his ability to get shots in very difficult conditions at times.

But even with Kevin’s drive there are some species where he must not have been able to get to the bird in time as we see other photographers credited sprinkled throughout. As a photographer I always pay attention to these names, and I see a number of old friends represented in the book. I wish there was a single page that listed these other photo contributors where anyone could tell quickly whose work is included.

There are two other minor issues with this book. The first is that I find the colors used for status on the maps are a bit garish. The other issue is that I’d like to see bar graphs showing seasonal occurrence for each species. I find these graphs very informative and useful in the site guides for other locations.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in the birds of New Jersey. If I still lived in NJ I’d have two copies – one for reference on the shelf at home and one that was always available in the car.



  1. After yesterday’s outting at Great Swamp I think I’ll have to get this guide Rich. Hopefully I’ll have my new copy before my next visit.

    Thanks for this informative review.

    Comment by Chuck Gangas — May 12, 2011 @ 11:05 am

  2. Argh, no bar graphs? No excuse for any state monograph not to have them.
    Looking forward to seeing the book myself–and to using it once we’re re-installed in the Garden State this fall.

    Comment by Rick Wright — June 8, 2011 @ 12:49 pm

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