Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Gulls of the World, A Photographic Guide, Klaus Malling Olsen, Princeton University Press

     When one sees the name of Klaus Malling Olsen as the author of a book one immediately has high expectations, and one looks for quality of the highest order. This book does not disappoint.




     For many years ornithological works containing only photographs were not viewed as favourably as those featuring drawings and illustrations. This viewpoint has changed dramatically in recent years, no doubt due to the advent of digital photography, improved equipment and the sheer number of people taking pictures around the world. Everyone has a camera, if only as part of a smart phone, and the quality of images from those devices increases exponentially with each new release. Birders with expensive telephoto lenses and high end camera bodies can often achieve astounding results. The dedicated amateur can now achieve the same results as the seasoned professional.
     The book begins with all the customary sections and even these headings are supported by excellent photographs. The only non-photographic illustration in the book is the two pages on topography, and pleasingly it is geared specifically to gulls, highlighting characters such as "new moon," mirror" and "window" - terms used almost exclusively when referring to larid plumage. Examine this section and you will have taken a major step towards describing and identifying gulls.



     All of the gulls of the world have detailed coverage with a pleasing array of images to support each species and range maps to accompany the text showing breeding and post breeding areas, with arrows to indicate dispersal. Sub adult plumages, always a source of consternation for many, are illustrated in their various stages.
     The assignment of species status is quite liberal. The IOC World Bird Names, Version 8.1 and Clements 6th edition (updated 2012) both regard Mew Gull (Larus canus) as a single species, with Kamchatka Gull and Common Gull considered sub species. Olsen assigns full species status to all three forms.





       Of course, in the ever fluctuating world of taxonomy, these decisions may be subjected to review and revision at any time.
     Similarly Thayer's Gull, long considered a valid species, although always controversial, was recently reassigned as a subspecies of Iceland Gull (Larus glaucoides). Again Olsen considers them as unique species.




      It is a testament to the long reach of Klaus Malling Olsen, that one of the rarest gulls in the world, Saunders's Gull, with an estimated population of less than 15,000 is supported by a fabulous array of images, mainly by John and Jemi Holmes, those dedicated gull watchers in Hong Kong, where a good many of the birds spend the winter. We are treated to a selection of sterling images of adult and juvenile birds, perched and in flight. It is remarkable that this level of coverage, (and superlative coverage at that), is available for a bird so rare. And these are images of real birds, not an artist's impression of what they look like.




     This book has already become my go-to reference for gulls, nudging out, or probably more correctly complementing Gulls of Europe, Asia and North America, by that same Klaus Malling Olsen. One can never get enough of a good thing!

Gulls of the World: A Photographic Guide, Klaus Malling Olsen
Hardcover, $45.00, 488 pages
Publication date: 11 April 2018

34 comments:

  1. Hari OM
    Right, that's my birthday present to me sorted!!! YAM xx

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  2. How wonderful to find a useful reference book. I will freely admit that I am bad on gulls. I don't call them the generic (and incorrect) seagulls, but cannot discriminate between them.

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    1. This is a wonderful book for you then. The commonest Gull in the Canberra area is the beautiful Silver Gull.

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  3. Beautiful book, was piblished a few days ago, I plan to buy it. From that editorial and with a similar design I have the following books: woodpeckers of the world and owl of the world

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    1. I too have the same books you mention, Hernán. Wonderful resources.

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  4. Hi David ... this would have 'delighted' my mother ... she would at least been able to understand the gulls behaviour - she wasn't a fan - as they nested on roofs around Newlyn in Penzance where she had her business .. and always pointed them out to me - yet in Sussex - I had friends in South Africa .. say please let me hear the gulls!! I live/d in Eastbourne .. They are loved and 'hated' ... cheers Hilary

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    1. People do seem to have a bit of a love/hate relationship with gulls, but the numeros species are greatly different from each other in many ways, and once you get to know them they merit your admiration.

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  5. Looks an excellent book and well illustrated.

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  6. Hej David!

    Jag förstår att du presenterar något värdefullt, en bok som handlar om världens måsfåglar. För att åstadkomma något sådant har författaren ägnat större delen av sitt liv till just denna fågel gissar jag.

    Det finns människor som viger sitt liv till studier av en enda fågelart eller växt och är så generösa att de delar med sig av denna djupkunskap till resten av världen. Det är sådana trädgårdsböcker jag köper.

    Dessa hänförda entusiaster är värda all respekt och när de talar, då bör man lyssna.

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  7. I have his other book: a hefty tome if there ever was one!

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  8. I am often amazed at what passion must go into writing something as comprehensive as this. I think writing a book of this nature must be like a marathon for the brain. You must have a lot of endurance.

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  9. Hello David,

    It looks like a wonderful book. I guess you have a huge bookshelf.

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  10. Glömde berätta min historia när det handlar om måsfåglar.

    Jag växte upp vid kusten där det alltid fanns rikligt med mås, olika arter. Min pappa lärde mig mycket om naturen i allmänhet och fåglar i synnerhet. Vi åkte båt ut till de klippiga skären där fåglarna häckade och jag lärde mig hur de olika äggen såg ut.

    Men måsfåglar var aldrig något speciellt för mig på den tiden, de hade ju alltid funnits där. Men så läste jag den skönlitterära boken om Jonathan Livingstone Seagull och den berörde mig på djupet kan jag säga. Sedan dess har jag aldrig betraktat måsfåglar som en skränande flock av likadana fåglar, de fick för alltid en plats i mitt hjärta.

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    1. Thanks for telling me this story, Gunilla. I am glad that you came to like gulls.

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  11. Nice book. We only have three gulls here regularly so it's easy to keep them sorted, with or without a guide. It would make nice "wishful reading" though.

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  12. This is already on my to buy list, good to see such a fantastic review, i'm looking forward to getting it!

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  13. I live in landlocked Oklahoma, so not likely to see too many gulls except on vacation. If I ever move to the coast I will keep this book in mind. Great review.

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  14. Awesome I would love to increase my knowledge of gulls they are like sparrows to me...so difficult to see the slight difference at first glance.

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  15. What a superb book and a great review. It will definitely be added to "my wish book list"!!

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  16. As you know, David, gulls are not something that I take great interest in, although there might be a swing in my feelings after my recent Scillies visit! I suspect, however, that as wonderful as this book sounds from your review, it will be too learned for the level of interest in the subject that I might achieve before I pop my clogs!

    My love to you both - - - Richard

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    1. Hey! Quit this talk of cocking your clogs! I figure there are a few photographs in the old bugger Yet!

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  17. Oh dear. I shall be going to a shop tomorrow that's very well-stocked with all kinds of birdwatching paraphernalia, will I be able to resist? I'm very shaky on immature gulls so I probably need a book like this.

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  18. That looks like it's great book to read.

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  19. Hello David!
    Very interesting book and a great review!
    I love gulls and enjoy taking pictures of them!
    Thank you for sharing! Enjoy your weekend!
    Dimi...

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  20. Hello, looks like a great guide book for the gulls. I love the gulls too, but some I find very hard to id. Happy Thursday, enjoy your day and weekend!

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    1. Would be a great acquisition for you, Eileen.

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  21. living at the jersey shore...this would be a good one for me!!

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  22. What a lovely book. We don't see many gulls where I live

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  23. I seldom ever see seagulls but if I did I would want this as the few I see I struggle to work out what they are!! Take care Diane

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  24. I know not everyone likes Gulls ...
    This book looks and sounds excellent, thanks for the review.

    All the best Jan

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  25. This is interesting. AT our lake house we only see one kind of gull (it appears to me -- they look the same) but I noticed different ones when we traveled to New England last year. I don't know all their names so that's pretty cool (I suppose a good bird book could tell me to!) I love seeing them flying around our lake so this post made me smile and reminded me of summer!

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  26. Fantastic!!! Wonderful book..
    many thanks for your comment..

    Cheers

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  27. Looks like a great book David.
    Regards,
    Roos

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