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