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Where our birds winter

We know that many of the bird species we see during migration/breeding season spend our cold months in warmer places. Costa Rica and Belize are two winter destinations for dozens of the species busy nesting here right now.

That becomes truly evident if you page though field guides for those two Central American countries. Page after page looks torn from a North American guide book.

Princeton University Press has issued new guide books for both countries, text and illustrations by Steve N.G. Howell and Dale Dyer.

The Costa Rica book (456 pages, $29.95) covers over 800 species. The country is intensely populated with birds. With 19,730 square miles total — smaller than West Virginia — the bird math works out to 24 different species per square mile.

For comparison, North America, 192 times the size of Costa Rica, has about 900 regular bird species.

Costa Rica has highly varied habitat, from ocean coastline to volcanic mountains, explaining the large and varied bird population.

Belize, with over 500 bird species covered in the book (304 pages, $35) is smaller, just under 9,000 square miles. The habitat there also is varied.

Minnesota, for comparison, at about 86,000 square miles, has a total species count of 446.

Book IDs bird tracks

Here is a new field guide that will take your eyes off the sky and focus them on the dirt at your feet.

"Bird Tracks" is a footprint identification guide to 55 species of North American birds.

Pocket-size, the ring-bound guide on durable paper folds out to show life-size tracks with text description and a photo of the bird. Tracks are shown by species and by family group.

This is an Adventure Quick guide by Jonathan Poppele from Adventure Publications in Cambridge, Minn. The 32-page book costs $12.95.

Get kids outside

"Nature Explorer – Get Outside, Observe and Discover the Natural World," by Jenny deFouw Geuder, Adventure Publications, hard-bound, 136 pages, illustrated, $15.95.

Kids need nature, and today, goodness knows, nature needs kids. Our future depends on the attitudes toward the natural world being formed in children right now. So, give them this book, then take them outside to see for real all of the wonders Geuder packs into this excellent beginner's guide to almost everything outdoors — from flowers to weeds to trees to toads to birds, butterflies, moss, mice and more. The information here is just enough, supported by wonderful watercolor illustrations. The book would please many adults, too, a broad intro for the recently retired wondering what next to do.

Catalog lists dozens of books about MN

Dozens of books about Minnesota natural history (birds), weather, history, geography, minerals, flowers, trees, cooking, tourism and more are available from publisher AdventureKeen. These include all of the handy guides to Minnesota birds by popular photographer/author Stan Tekiela, a Minnesota resident. Find a downloadable catalog containing them all at

Peterson guide legacy

Asked to name the first grown-up book that had a powerful effect on him as a child, Jim Rogers of St. Paul chose Roger Tory Peterson's "A Field Guide to the Birds." Read his delightful essay about the book and his early experiences as a birder at

Rogers edits "New Hibernia Review" and is director of the Center for Irish Studies at the University of St. Thomas. He is soon to publish a collection of poems by Minnesota authors about herons, titled "Broad Wings, Long Legs: A Rookery of Heron Poems."