There is such a proliferation of field guides these days, and constant revisions to existing field guides, that one could forgive the birder who raises his eyebrows and shrugs his shoulders at the announcement of a new one.
This field guide from Princeton University Press, however, should give reason to applaud its entry into the realm of ornithological works. It is splendidly produced, at 13 cm x 19 cm ideal for carrying in the field, and contains a myriad of high quality photographs.
I must confess that I had no previous acquaintance with Frédéric Jiguet and Aurélien Audevard, a serious omission I might add. This excellent work serves to put all of us on notice that we should take the time to get to know the ornithological luminaries of as many countries as we can.
Photographic guides are generally not my first choice; photographs often freeze a pose that misses some of the critical field marks, and in the case of birds that skulk in dark places are generally less than satisfactory.
This guide turns that notion on its head. The photographs are of a high standard indeed and often give the impression of being illustrations. Flight shots are included for many species and I have not found any instances where I feel that the bird is not well covered.
The text that accompanies the illustrations is pleasingly brief; this is after all a field guide not a monograph, but all the salient characters are covered.
Furthermore, the use of pointers to highlight the distinguishing features of a bird which clinch its identification, is a very welcome artifice that has fallen into disuse in recent years. This technique was popularized by Roger Tory Peterson, of course, and has helped countless thousands, millions even, of novice birders to quickly familiarize themselves with common species, and become confident enough to use these keys to progress to more difficult and less frequently encountered birds.
The book is modestly priced at US$29.95 or £24.95, well within the range of other field guides and affordable for all.
If you are travelling to any of the areas covered I highly recommend this guide as your first choice.