Lively discussion of I.D. techniques
Are you familiar with listservs, the online mailing lists that send e-mails or digests to subscribers? You'll find a wonderful roundup of listservs at Birdingonthe.Net.
When travel and deadlines prompt me to put subscriptions on hold, I can read subscribers' posts on Birdingonthe.Net. One listserv that always educates me is ID Frontiers. You'll find some big names in the birding community discussing the finer points of species identification and helping each other pin down the name of confounding birds.
A recent thread began with a post by Ted Floyd, editor of ABA's Birding, when he initially posted about a Harlan's Hawk on Dec. 30. That post led to another in which Ted brought up the importance of size, shape and proportion in developing our I.D.s and the need to better convey those ideas to the general public.
From there, various birders--including Kenn Kaufman and David Sibley--offered their two cents about "holistic birding" or "impression-based" field I.D., as WildBird Advisory Board member Kevin Karlson calls it. (In fact, you can read Kevin's take on birding by impression on page 54 in the January/February 2006 issue of WildBird.)
The spirited discussion is educational and likely to continue for a while--if not on this listserv, then in other venues. Good stuff, Maynard!