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Friday, 20 September 2019

Book Review - British Birds, A Pocket Guide - Princeton University Press

      It seems at times that as new field guides are produced they get larger and heavier - somewhat counter productive for a work that is designed to be carried around in the field. This one bucks the trend. It is indeed a pocket guide and can easily be slipped into a standard jacket pocket, or into a birder's vest or gilet, and it is lightweight too.



    This does not mean, however, that it is not packed with information, and a dazzling array of photographs.  It is designed with the novice birder in mind, introducing him/her to the 246 birds most likely to be encountered in Great Britain and Ireland. Experienced birders will also benefit from this work and it merits serious study by newcomer and veteran alike.
     As everyone who has ever watched birds knows very well, often one is confronted with little more than a silhouette, and familiarity with the gestalt of the bird enables one to at the very least narrow the identification down to the family level, and sometimes even to the species. This is perhaps especially true for birds in flight, as depicted below.


         A good grasp of the overall shape and flight pattern of a bird can materially affect one's ability to identify it. This ability is enhanced when one combines visual clues with a knowledge of the habitat, time of year and likelihood of a species being present.
       Habitat does not receive short shrift and the reader is directed to birds which may be located in a specific environment - coniferous woodland, for example.


     Ducks in flight present particular challenges, especially for a neophyte, and the following array will help a great deal in sorting out the various ducks that might be seen overhead. Of course, not all species will be present at once in the same environment  and time spent becoming familiar with seasonal abundance and migration routes at the appropriate time of year will be well rewarded with increased accuracy of identification.


     Northern Gannet (Morus bassanus) is shown in its various plumages, from juvenile to adult,  but as may be clearly noted the outline of the bird in flight is identical regardless of age.


     It is knowledge like this that enables one to feel confident about identifying a species. Of course when this species is encountered it is generally near or at the coast, adding another clue to help to clinch the ID.
     Gulls can be frustratingly difficult to identify, especially in subadult plumage and even experienced gull watchers approach this task with some trepidation. Plates such as the one below help to tease apart the differences, sometimes quite subtle, between different species of large gulls, and show the progression from first year birds through full adults.


        Raptors are covered in great detail; this is another instance where often a flight silhouette is all that one gets.
  


     All species accounts feature a small map showing the area in which the bird is expected to be found.
    This is a very useful book, dedicated exclusively to field identification, and well worthy of being taken into the field as a vital tool in honing one's avian identification skills.

British Birds: A Pocket Guide
Rob Hume, Robert Still, Andy Swash, Hugh Harrop and David Tipling
Paperback - $12.99 - 9780691181677 - 272 pages - 1,600 colour illustrations - 248 maps - 259 silhouettes - 4 1/2" x 7"
Publication date: 20 August 2019

64 comments:

  1. It does sound excellent. Some guides I find difficult to use, and have to rely on semi-educated guesses and luck.

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  2. It's nice that you have theese book reviews, David. I'm sure they are useful for other birdwatchers. I have seen sparrowhawk tree times in my yard, and it's a beautiful bird. It hunts "my" little birds, and I don't like it. But that's the way nature are. Happy weekend, David.

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  3. I think it's great for those who want quick details.

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  4. That looks like a really useful guide book and I really like the idea of silhouettes being included. I've been using one of Rob Hume's earlier (and even smaller!) pocket guides for many years, partly because of its contents but, if I'm honest, mostly because it fits so handily in the pocket.

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  5. Hola David, parece un libro muy completo e interesante, gracias por la valiosa información. Un fuerte abrazo.

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  6. Great review of this book David.
    Regards,
    Roos

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  7. Hello, this looks like a great guide for the British Birds. Great review. I wish I was a birder during my trip to London and England in the 1980's. Thank you for linking up and sharing your post. Happy Saturday, enjoy your day. Wishing you a great weekend! PS, thank for leaving a comment and for the id help on my blog.

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  8. Pocket guides on any subject are very useful. The one you've reviewed in this post sounds like a perfect little guide packed with all the features.
    To me, a complete newcomer to birds, it looks very appealing.

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  9. The layout looks useful. I especially liked the lineup of gulls; they are so hard to distinguish one from another. The books I have include silhouettes, but they're separated out, and it's not easy to compare the photo of the bird with its silhousette. This is a nice way of doing it.

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  10. this looks like a nice pocket guide. i get tripped up with the juvinelle, vs breeding plumage vs hybrids. i find it easier to take a picture and review it with my books when i get home!!

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  11. That really does look good. I love ID books and buy them at book sales no matter what part of the world they represent. Always something to learn! Enjoy your weekend!

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  12. Den bokens innehåll är förmodligen mera välbekant för mig än utomeuropeiska böckers innehåll. Crested Tit känner jag väl igen, den finns här vid fågelmatningen varje vinter. Likaså sparvhöken, en formidabel jägare. Jag bevittnade nyligen när jag satt och tittade på trastarna som åt av körsbären en supersnabb attack av sparvhöken. Jag hann knappt se den och den dök rakt in i trädet och tog en björktrast som skrek förfärligt. Att äta eller ätas är naturens villkor.

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  13. Interesantísima esa obra cómoda de bolsillo amigo David. Además de reunir toda una muy buena información tanto escrita como visual. No cabe duda que es un gran acierto.
    La imagen tuya de portada es magnífica, me encanta ese pájaro.
    Un fuerte abrazo mi querido amigo y compadre. Os desea una feliz semana, vuestro amigo Juan.

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  14. Sounds like the perfect go to book and handy to have something that will fit in your pocket and lightweight. As a novice I need some help to identify the wide range of birds that live on this beautiful Island that I live.

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  15. Good to know that someone is still producing field guides that can comfortably be taken into the field. I still hang on to my raggedy old Peterson and take one with me if I need a "field guide". The Sibleys and the Crossleys and the Stokes and all the other door-stop sized guides remain safely in my library for later reference.

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  16. Manejable y con estupendas ilustraciones.
    Buen fin de semana.
    Un abrazo

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  17. Hi David,
    It appears as a most useful tool for us all, especially for me with the Gull section, it would be a god send.
    All the best,
    John

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  18. You always give the excellent reviews to the wonderful books, David!
    I am in love with your new header, it's incredibly beautiful!

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  19. Es un libro que me encantaría tener, es muy interesante. Un abrazo.

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  20. David this book looks wonderful! I'm wondering if there is one equivalent for here in Northeast US...:)jp

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    1. i don't believe there is a similar guide for the Northeastern US but people at Princeton will see your comment and perhaps they will start to work on one.


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  21. I wish we had a bird guide like this for my area! I especially love the pages with the silhouettes and then the "real" deal. So helpful. For me, the best guide is still my trusty Sibley which I have consulted so many times. I'm not a specialist on birds, I just enjoy watching them.

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    1. Sibley is a fine field guide, Carola. i use it all the time. His artwork does a fine job of representing the bird well.

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  22. wpw I really enjoyed this book posting, it is very informative and I think I could learn a lot from it.

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  23. The British birds all in the pages, pretty little birds.

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  24. I saw a mock falconry last autumn. Falcon's catching technique was amazing.

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  25. The title picture of your book is pretty - I love a goldfinch. I agree with you David - a good pocket guide is a wonderful thing. I prefer a pocket book for gardeners with many illustrations of plants.

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  26. Ohh dear is it your book????My ohh myh you are good!!Do you sell or where can i buy
    ??I have big problems seeing the differet gulls and it would be nice to have your book

    I think we have almost the same birds as in England

    Nice header again!♥️

    Greetings Anita

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    1. Hello Anita. I suspect you are right, that this book would cover many of the species you would find in The Netherlands.i am not the author of the book. I suspect you could probably find this on line from your favourite online seller.

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    2. i meant Norway, not The Netherlands!

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  27. Fantastic review David,looks like a great guide.
    John.

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  28. I’d love to go back to GB and/or Europe for a nature tour.... but I loved the “culture”-centered trips we did get to do. . . That is the trouble with starting to travel rather late in life ... so many places, so little time. But grateful beyond words for what we’ve been able to do.

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  29. Hi David,
    There is an enormous variety of books on the market. Of course it is very practical when there are good books you can take with you during walks in the fields. Recognizing of the right kind of birds is sometimes a hell of a job.
    Greetings, Kees

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  30. I love this kind of books. Thanks for sharing.

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  31. Beautiful book for people with passion, in Europe there is a lot of wonderful birds ☺

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  32. This one I already have on my to buy list, the birds in flight sections will be a big help I feel!

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  33. What a wonderful book, so much to see, enjoy and earn there. Today I saw a bird down by the Rhine that I have never seen before, some sort of Hawk, so must start researching it. It flew off before I could get a pic! Thanks for your visits on my blog. Have a great week, Valerie

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  34. Hi David - so pleased to know about this new bird book - which includes silhouettes, which must make life easier. I shall add it to my present list for others ... but looks a great find. Princeton do produce outstanding reference books - cheers Hilary

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  35. THis looks like a good one, David. You're right about the size of guide books. At some point they're too big to lug around!

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    1. Essential reading for your next visit to Blighty, Jeanie!

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  36. A very interesting and practical book that is pocket to carry. You are right that the seagulls are difficult to identify, I have photos of some that I would not know what they are, maybe enlarging your photo can take note of their names, so thank you very much.
    Hugs and kisses!

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  37. That looks like a great field guide. I've never actually had a field guide that I took out with me, but this one looks great. Thank you for stopping by The New Dharma Bums and leaving a comment. It is much appreciated.

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  38. Looks like a good book - I think I have just bought the Europe wide version. The UK really does have a huge number of guides. And if the truth be told, Australia is very well served too!

    Cheers - Stewart M - Darwin, NT, Australia

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    1. I think you are referring to the Collins Guide, which I have too. Fine work. I think that this guide is geared more to beginners rather than experienced birders such as yourself. And as you point out Australia is blessed with good guides also.

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  39. Hi David,
    Birds in flight are often difficult! And the seagulls determination is often a chore! I struggle with most of the times. But I like the research as well. Great review of this book David. Thank you for sharing.
    Regsards, Maria

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  40. sounds and looks like a good one. Would be useful in Sweden as well.

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  41. Good book, David. Thanks for the review.

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  42. Sin duda un libro extraordinario, gracias por compartir David, lo tendré en cuenta. Un abrazo desde España.

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  43. Birds in flight are really difficult to identify, so including their silhouettes is a good idea. This book will encourage bird lovers to learn more something about wild birds seen in Britain.

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  44. Nice to have such a field guide with you David.
    That way you can look everything up nicely.
    Greetings Tinie

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  45. This is a good book where you can look up all bird species.
    Really handy David.
    Best regards, Irma

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  46. Many thanks for the review here David. This really does sound excellent, thank you.

    All the best Jan

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  47. Hello David,
    it's nice that now there is a lightweight pocketbook for the birdwatchers.
    The larger ones are difficult to take with them. I have several but always have them at home. maybe there will also be such a small pocket book in dutch. You have written a nice reference
    Dear greetings, Helma xx

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  48. A very useful reference book for bird watchers. That is a beautiful bird in your blog header.

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  49. Well I learned about Gulls today. We have SO MANY around the lake where I live and it never occurred to me that the odd coloured ones were young ones.

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  50. Thanks for this review, at present I use the small RSPB book to carry around but will certainly look at this one.

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  51. A wonderful review and a great book.
    Have a nice week:)

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