Fans flock to meet famous bird guide

Posted: Sunday, May 11, 2003

ANCHORAGE (AP) Hundreds of local bird lovers flocked around premier bird artist and best-selling bird guide author David Allen Sibley when he blew into Anchorage for less than 24 hours.

Sibley is one of the best-known birders in the nation, and for many local bird enthusiasts, listening to him speak Thursday at local books store sparked as much excitement as spotting a rare accidental bird species like, say, a Eurasian dotterel.

That particular shorebird is one of just eight species in The Sibley Guide to Birds'' that even Sibley hasn't seen.

Sibley is a god of birding,'' explained Sondra Dexter, an avid Anchorage birder who leads expeditions for Bird Watching Tours of Anchorage.

Dexter was one of 25 lucky birders chosen by lottery to participate in a bird-watching tour led by Sibley along the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail. Later that night, Dexter signed guidebooks and talked about the process of putting his books together.

Sibley published his first guidebook three years ago and has since become a household name among birdwatchers. Many birders say they prefer Sibley's guides because he combines detailed observations with illustrations that show birds in a variety of plumages and in both flight and sitting positions.

According to Don Glaser, who drove in from Wasilla for Sibley's talk, Sibley's books helped him become a better birdwatcher.

He's made it a whole lot easier,'' Glaser said. He's raised awareness of birds and worked for better conservation of habitat too.''

The Massachusetts-based author talked about how putting together the bird guides has been a singular preoccupation for him since childhood. He grew up the son of an ornithologist and started drawing birds at age 5. At age 12, he started thinking about writing the perfect field guide. He later quit college and lived in a camper van as he drove around the country for years watching birds.

That first guide took 12 years to finish, but he has written more than a guide book a year since. Much of the information for his other books was gathered when he wrote the first guide, Sibley said.

Sibley is touring to promote his two newest guides, The Sibley Guide to Birds of Western North America'' and The Sibley Guide to Birds of Eastern North America.''

Both are pocket-guide versions of the first guide, which many birders complained was too large to carry into the field.

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