Tis the season to self-publish your books, and I suspect this season won’t end so quickly. After the exciting release of All Yesterdays comes Matt Martyniuk’s Field Guide to Mesozoic Birds. I’m very much hoping both will do very well. I haven’t received my copy of Yesterdays yet, but I’m sure that Matt’s birds are every bit as ‘fresh’ in the way of artistic interpretation – which is fantastic because it’s a heavy science guide, presented for the time-traveling backpacker in the guide format familiar to any bird-watchers out there. We are presented with wonderfully fluffy specimens, occasionally in display pose and text. Lots of text. I’ll be chewing on this for a while, but I can assure you – it assumes a basic familiarity with vocabulary such as ‘remiges’, ‘phylogeny’, ‘tibia’ and ‘tarsus’ – only the last two of which make it into the glossary, but whereas Yesterdays seems primarily focused on the process and perception of artistic reconstruction, this guide is squarely focused on birds. Mesozoic birds.
One minor disappointment is the quality of formatting and presentational graphics. The phylogenetic trees and associated timelines could be presented in more inviting ways, or more graphically, such as each specimen’s time range, geographic location and habitat. (ie. was the Smokey Hill Chalk Member a woodland in the Cretaceous?)
Minor critique aside, this is the book for the dedicated dinosaur / bird aficionado – perfect to test that little know-it-all pipsqueak in every family, to see if he / she bites through this material.