[dc]M[/dc]y first impression on skimming through Judy Liddell and Barbara Hussey’s ‘Birding Hot Spots of Central New Mexico” was of a very modern book to birding the area. While many regional guides focus heavily on habitat descriptions and broader generalizations, this guide focuses much more on getting you to a good spot for birding and telling you what to look for. This makes it infinitely more valuable to birders who visit the area infrequently or maybe for the first time.
The book logically arranges the hot spots by geographic regions- Rio Grande, Sandia foothills, Sandia Mountains, Manzanita and Manzano Mountains, Petroglyph National Monument and finally South of Albequerque.
Each hotspot description begins with a description of where to bird in the site and what to expect. The descriptions are very thorough but readable, including details such as stop numbers, distances, open hours and more. At the bottom of the description they list the county, and my favorite feature, the eBird hotspot(s) to use.
Target birds account for a large amount of text in the description but I am unsure how exactly the were selected. Being unfamiliar with New Mexico birdlife, I can’t tell if all the target birds are rarer species, specialties in the southwest, or just simply what you would most expect to see there. Nonetheless, each of the target species is accompanied by text noting their status in the area, where, when and how you should try looking for them. Accompanying the target birds is a paragraph of other birds to look for, but again I am unsure how they were selected.
The last part of the hot spot description is very useful information, regarding the logistics of birding that area. Directions, access, parking areas and fees are all very useful to know ahead of time. Also nice are the Special Considerations and Hazards which warns you about the various ways you may manage to maim or kill yourself. Options at Embudo Canyon include rattlesnakes, poison ivy and harvester ants, while on the Sandia Crest you should look out for the ice and altitude sickness. Also included is detailed info on the availability of restrooms, water, picnic tables and how accessible the area is for wheelchairs.
The last part of the description lists nearby food, gas and lodging which would come in handy for a traveling birder. I think the local recommendations are great, especially if you have no smart phone or are in an area with limited cell service.
Some other things that make this an excellent birding guide are the clean and simple maps show access points, trails and points of interest and the good number of excellent photographs highlight habitat and species of interest. They didn’t include so many photographs as to make it a thick book, but enough to break up the text and keep the book visually interesting. The text is in a font that is crisp and easy to read, as well as being well spaced to keep it easy on the eyes.
Overall, I think that this is an excellent guide to the area, particularly for visitors to the area. Having a list of the best places to bird makes researching an area easier and allows you to spend more time studying the birds.
Get it at Barnes & Noble – Birding Hot Spots of Central New Mexico
Disclaimer: I received a review copy of this guide from Texas A&M University Press.