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The Observer paper 11/21/14

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LG man co-authors bird book for beginners

 Compact in size, the 422-page book is 6 by 4.5 inches.
Compact in size, the 422-page book is 6 by 4.5 inches.
Looking for a western screech owl?

Follow the bouncing ball.

The reason is lyrical: western screech owls are known for their characteristic “bouncing ball’’ song.

Such “Did you know?’’ factoids are abundant in a new book co-authored by Dave Trochlell of La Grande. The book, “Birds of the Inland Northwest and Northern Rockies,” is filled with fun and fundamental information for beginning birders.

“We want to make it easy for people who are just starting out to enjoy birding,’’ said Bob Morse of Olympia, Wash., whose firm, the R.W. Morse Co., published Birds of the Inland Northwest and Northern Rockies.

Morse understands many of the pitfalls beginning birders face and made sure they were addressed in the new book with the help of Trochlell and co-authors Mike Denny of the Walla Walla area and Harry Nehls of Portland.

One way in which the book is tailored toward beginners is that it is illustrated solely with color photos, all in sharp focus. This is different from many bird identification guides, which use drawings. Beginning birders can better identify species via photographs rather than drawings.

“Sharp pictures make it easier to see the field marks of birds,’’ Morse said.

More than one photo of each bird species is often shown. These photos reveal the different appearances members of the same bird species have because of differences in gender and age. Readers will note that females often have more muted colors. This helps them avoid being seen by predators when nesting.

The new 422-page book is 6 by 4.5 inches, a size designed to make it easy to carry in a small pack, Morse said.

A page of text is devoted to each bird species in the book. The text provides a description, lists similar species, where the bird can be found, information about its behavior and an interesting miscellaneous fact under the: Did you know? heading earlier mentioned.

Readers of the “Did you know?” portion learn about not only the bouncing ball call of the western screech owl but also that loons can only take flight from water; that merganser “teeth’’ are simply projections on the horny covering of their bill and not teeth, plus many more fun facts.

Keeping the text concise was the most challenging part of writing the book for Trochlell.

“My greatest difficulty during the production phase of the book was maintaining a strict word-length limit for the written material. This was a special challenge in this book project, because it involved the collaboration and synthesis of submissions from three authors,’’ Trochlell said.

The La Grande author believes the book will make it much easier for people in this area to identify birds because they will not have to wade through a clutter of information on birds outside the area.

“One of the features of the book many people appreciate is that it only includes the birds of our area, making it much easier to identify our local birds without having to search through pages of similar-looking birds that don't occur in our region.’’

Trochlell has lived in La Grande since 2004 and has an extensive birding background. He has been the Idaho and Western Montana regional editor for North American Birds since 1997, is a member of the Idaho Bird Records Committee and is the former editor of Idaho Christmas Bird Counts.

Trochlell, who earlier lived in Montana and Idaho, describes Northeast Oregon as a tremendous place to observe birds.

“Among birders, Northeast Oregon is renowned for its great diversity of bird habitats, from the bird-rich wetlands of Ladd Marsh to the steep, rocky cirques in the high Wallowa Mountains. These habitats support an amazing variety of birds,’’ Trochlell said.

The book Trochlell co-authored includes chapters on identifying birds, how to attract birds to your backyard and bird habitats of the inland Northwest and Northern Rockies.

These chapters precede a four-page section that Morse believes will be especially helpful to beginning birders. The section has 39 photos of “common local birds’’ ranging from house wrens to black-billed magpies.

“These represent 80 percent of the birds you will see in your backyard,’’ Morse said.

Morse and Tochlell have been involved in bird watching for many decades.

“Watching birds is a great way to escape the worrying issues of the human realm and focus on the wonder of nature. I’ve always been fascinated with all aspects of the natural world, but have been especially been drawn to the creatures that have the ability to fly,’’ Trochlell said.

The beautiful thing about bird watching for Morse is that it is hobby one can enjoy at all locations.

“You can find birds anywhere,’’ Morse said.

He said that people need to take greater advantage of the opportunity to observe birds.

“We need to take time to enjoy nature,’’ Morse said.

“Birds of the Inland Northwest and Northern Rockies” is the fifth of a series of bird watching books Morse has published in the past five years. The others cover the Puget Sound, Willamette Valley, Los Angeles and Southwestern British Columbia regions. All have a format like that of Birds of the Inland Northwest and Northern Rockies.

Morse’s books about birds of the Puget Sound area sold 50,000 copies. It was the top selling book in the western United States in 2004, 2005 and 2006.

“Birds of the Inland Northwest and Northern Rockies” is available in

La Grande at the Bobolink.



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