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Thursday, 3 October 2019

Book Review - Birds of Mongolia - Princeton University Press

     This field guide follows in the long tradition of Princeton Field Guides and is classic in its format, design and scope. It will be instantly familiar to any birder and will evoke warm feelings of successful outings past, spent in the company of an old friend.
     


     Mongolia is relatively new as a destination for the peripatetic ornithophile and the Preface gives a succinct introduction to the history of ornithology in Mongolia, bringing one up to speed quickly. As it says in the Introduction which follows, "Mongolia has been called the Last Wilderness Nation." 
     Sections follow covering Mongolia and its birdlife, including many glorious photographs of the varied terrain of this vast landlocked country.


     With topography as varied as desert steppe to luxuriant wetland, Mongolia contains habitat for a wide range of different families of birds.
     A section is devoted to bird migration in Mongolia, a topic of high importance for any visitor anxious to see species only present during certain times of the year. An interesting note is made as to "Mongolia as a Centre of Species Origin." No doubt, much of this information can be found elsewhere in the literature, but to have it all condensed and included at the front of a field guide covering a region of the world still shrouded in mystery to many, is particularly useful.
     I found it irresistible while reading these sections to flip ahead to the sections covering species that piqued my interest.



     A substantial section is devoted to Bird Conservation in Mongolia with a comprehensive list of Conservation Organisations and Government Agencies; very helpful information indeed, especially for a first-time visitor to the country.
     Six pages are then allocated to Birdwatching in Mongolia, with practical tips on every aspect of a birding adventure in this vast land.
     Finally the standard "How to use this book" remarks are made, together with a conventional yet always helpful, pictorial illustration of bird topography.
     What follows, of course is the meat of a field guide - the pictures of the birds, a map of their distribution and seasonal status, and keys to identifying the species.



     The pictures are done extremely well, and present the birds in typical posture, colours precisely outlined and faithful in rendition, with accompanying flight profile for many species.


     The description of each species is opposite its position on the plate with a distribution map, colour-coded for seasonal status.
     At the end of the species accounts there is coverage of vagrants and hypothetical records, a useful list of references and an index of common and scientific names.
     In short, this volume has everything you could want in a field guide. As far as I know, this is the first volume dedicated exclusively to Mongolia and it is, as stated on the back cover, "An indispensable guide for birders, adventurers, and all those interested in this central Asian nation."

Birds of Mongolia
Gombobaatar Sundev and Christopher W. Leahy
Paperback - $35.00 - 9780691138824 - 224 pages - 112 colour plates - 5 1/4" x 8 1/2"
Publication date: 8 October 2019


55 comments:

  1. The birds of prey are magnificent.

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  2. This sounds like a wonderful book. Mongolia must be well worth a visit, but I've only seen it courtesy of books and GEO films. Thanks for the review! All the best, Valerie

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  3. Muchas gracias David por mostrarnos libros tan interesantes y para mi que soy persona que adora las aves y que distingo bastante mal estos libros son de gran ayuda. Un fuerte abrazo querido amigo.

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  4. Fascinating. How many of us really think of Mongolia as a place they'd like to visit, but it's always interested me.

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  5. Mongolia (and its raptors) has always fascinated me. Are you planning a trip there?

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    1. I would love to go there, Sue, but I doubt that I will ever make it. It would be a fascinating experience to be sure,

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  6. Looks like a wonderful field guide. It motivates me to seek out guidebooks for birds of Joshua Tree (probably too specific) or perhaps birds of the Mojave Desert. Hi from Lilly!

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  7. Like Sue, Mongolia is fascinating. It is like an undiscovered country for us over on this part of the hemisphere. Beautiful work.

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  8. Kanske luftar jag enbart mina fördomar men tänker att Mongoliet borde vara ett av världens sista paradis för naturälskare och fågelskådare med en natur som ännu inte exploaterats i varje liten vrå. Ju mer utvecklade länderna är desto mer intrång har människan gjort i naturen.

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    1. I have no doubt that you can find sympathy for this point of view, Gunilla.

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  9. Hello David,
    You have as usual found another beautiful book to your collection. I know everything about collecting things, so I say no more :)
    Beautiful drawings, and the eagles fascinates me.

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  10. Lovely book, I would love see them.

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  11. Buenos días amigo David, al parecer se ve una guía muy bien documentada, no cabe duda será de gran ayuda para muchos observadores de aves.
    Gracias por presentarla y dar a conocer.
    Buen fin de semana y un fuerte abrazo querido amigo y compadre David.

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  12. Hari Om
    Having seen some travelogues from Mongolia of late, it certainly seems to be opening up as a destination. A book like this would be a great companion! YAM xx

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  13. Hello David, I wish I was some years younger and with less problems that come when one gets older. This is a country that has always intrigued me. Its people, landscape and those fabulous birds of pray. Seen documentries of the wildlife their and I was facinated. So to see your review of this book of the birds their is wonderful. Thank you.
    Regards,
    Roos

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  14. I never thought I'd say this, David, but I feel very tempted to buy this book, even though it concerns a place that I'm never likely to visit - possibly because I know next-to-nothing about the region that it covers.

    I'm amazed that, with all the books you read and review, you find time to get out into the field!

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    1. I have many field guides for regions I will probably never visit, Richard, but it is fascinating to look through them. In times past, of course, most people had little opportunity to travel far beyond their home, and derived great pleasure I am sure from books depicting foreign lands and their wildlife.

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  15. Hi David - Princeton Ornithology publishers have got their ideas in the right place - they've obviously worked out what's absolutely necessary for ease of identification. So interesting to know it's believed to be the Centre of Species Origin ... we still have so much to learn.

    I'd love to know more about its geological past and how it became the area it now is ...

    I did see the film "The Eagle Huntress" - which was superb ... and love seeing these sorts of films about areas I'm unlikely to get to ... yet seeing how revered nature is amongst the local peoples ... and "The Story of the Weeping Camel" - both based in Mongolia ... just remind us of 'older and other lives' ... both so in tune with their surroundings.

    I'd love to see the book ... - it's unlikely I suspect, as we have very good reference style books here - I'm sure if I asked in London at one of the libraries I could find it - or Oxford, or Cambridge ... while getting to Mongolia - is even more unlikely to happen!

    Thanks for the review - cheers Hilary

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  16. Hi David, beautiful interesting book. I love such books. Greetings Caroline

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  17. WOW! Thanks for sharing. Looks like a fantastic book.

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  18. Looks like an interesting guide book to have with lots of info and photos.

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  19. This guide is a MUST for us avid birders. Exceptional review of its page and excellent narrative. I will be sure to shop for it.

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    1. Again, thanks so much for sharing this post/guide with us birders, this weekend, at I'd Rather B Birdin'

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  20. A very special destination for birding! Taking this perfect field guide along of course 😀

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  21. I used to review books for PUP and I can attest to the quality of their field guides and the usefulness of their format and size, as well as the illustrations. I finally had to opt out because I was getting so overrun with their books. I still have a couple of shelves of their field guides in my library. This one sounds like another that fits in the tradition of their publishing.

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    1. Any you want to get rid of I will give you my address!

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  22. Hello David, I am up early visiting some blogs, my son's wedding is not until later in the day. This looks like a great field guide for Mongolia's birds, a nice book for the birder. I doubt if I will ever be visiting Mongolia, the birding does look wonderful. Thanks for sharing your review. Thank you for linking up and sharing your post. Happy Saturday, enjoy your weekend! PS, thank you for the visit and comment.

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  23. Wow!!Very interesting!!I should like to have that book!

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  24. Interesting guide of a country that still has wild areas. Now you must prepare a trip to these lands!
    There is a blog that I follow and could be of interest:
    http://birdsmongolia.blogspot.com/

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  25. Do you have a trip planned? Earlier in the year I thought I was off to Mongolia - but I ended up in Indonesia!

    hope all is well. Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

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    1. Unfortunately, I have no trip planned, Stewart. I would love to be going to Mongolia to do some birding, and perhaps you still will.

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  26. Hell David!
    A very beautifully illustrated book.
    Mongolia is a very intriguing, interesting country, I don't plan to travel there.
    Have a nice week.

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  27. Son todos preciosos y el libro muy bueno. Si quieres ver rapaces.... ven a Extremadura, tienes una guía segura. Besitos.

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  28. Hi David, looked for your email to reply to the comment you left me but need to come here. I can't fix my no reply. Anyway, paper plates are one of the contributors surely David, but the botanic garden is committed to helping and those plates are made of biodegradable corn we were told, I'm not certain but that's what I remember
    Leeanna

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    1. Thanks for taking the time to comment. My email address is theospreynest@sympatico.ca.

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  29. a place I never considered visiting. But I recognice birds anyway from other countries. :)

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  30. David, these books that facilitate the knowledge of singular species and more of lands that are distant to us like the case of Mongolia are appreciated.
    A hug.

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  31. Mongolian wildlife must me wonderful!☺

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  32. It seems that the interest of bird watching in Mongolia is growing. I probably would visit Mongolia for other reasons in the first place, but nevertheless it would be wonderful to be familiar with the world of birds there. I always appreciate guides that show the male and female birds as well as the juvenile ones. My very first bird guide I ever had showed photos of the male only which really wasn't always helpful.

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  33. That book would be interesting reading for cold winter days when I prefer to be inside!
    Have a wonderful week!

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  34. I found the page showing the eagles very interesting...well, they all are. But those amazed me.

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  35. I've traveled to Mongolia twelve times since 2005. As an artist my main interest is mammals, but I love the birds there also. The lack of a good field guide has been felt by many of us for years. I have two old ones, a spiralbound Mongolian language-only "Photo Guide to Mongolian Birds" with 125 species by Sh. Boldbaatar from 2008, the first one that I know of. Then he came out with a greatly expanded version with 175 species and 525 photos in 2013, which was a big deal since the text was in both Mongolian and English. There's also one just for Hustai National Park, published by them.
    I believe this guide is the one by Gombobaatar that we'd all been hearing about for years, with many delays. I provided a photo of a houbara bustard for it. But heard there were serious editing problems and then...crickets. I think it's great that, if it's the same one, it's part of an excellent well-known series of bird guides rather than a standalone.
    I can personally vouch for Mongolia as an amazing birding destination. It is not uncommon to see demoiselle cranes and eurasian black vultures right by the road. Even a lammergeier once, just outside of a town. Since there are no trees in the steppe ecosystem part of the country, the raptors stand on the ground by the road waiting for small mammals to appear from their burrows or to get run over. I've seen golden eagles, steppe eagles, upland buzzards and long-legged buzzards that way, just driving by. There are hoopoes at a nature reserve I go to every trip, also endangered lesser kestrels. Saw bar-headed geese at a lake, Boon Tsagaan Nuur, in the Gobi, also lots of gulls, terns and shorebirds. There are many bird species at and around the lakes in Khar Us Nuur National Park out in the west. Anyway, if you go you won't be disappointed.
    FWIW- I make my in-country travel arrangments through Nomadic Journeys. They have some of their own sustainable, seasonal ger camps that can be booked as an individual, no need to be with a group. You choose how many days you'll stay, they get you there and back to Ulaanbaatar. The also offer good group tours.

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    1. Thank you very much for this detailed reply, based on your personal experience of the country. Great information. I am sure that may potential visitors to Mongolia will find it very helpful.

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  36. what a great review...it looks like a beautiful book with very nice illustrations!!

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  37. Probably a book I will never, ever need but boy, the illustrations are beautiful. It has to be fun for you to have this collection of books from birds around the world.

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  38. An outstanding review of an important field guide!

    Princeton Field Guides have always been quite impressive. This appears to be no exception.

    Mongolia seems to be making efforts to encourage visitors and my son is whispering about an Asian adventure for us in the future. I reminded him of my "advanced" age and that he'd better expedite any plans in that regard.

    Thank you again for a thorough review.

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  39. A very good review, the illustrations look very good indeed.

    All the best Jan

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  40. Hi David,
    A couple of years ago I visited Mongolia. An amazing country in more than one aspect. I also enjoyed the wildlife. I can imagine that this book is useful for every birder who is going to visit this magnificent country.
    Greetings, Kees

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  41. Interesante libro David. En sus ilustraciones se ven estupendos detalles.
    Buen miércoles.
    Un abrazo.

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  42. Hi!I enjoyed your photos. I have never been Mongolia. I want to go there in a future.

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  43. Mongolia has always appeared to be a most interesting destination. The book sounds and looks great.

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  44. Hello my friend David,
    this is another wonderful and educational reference work. If I see the images of the birds in it like that, it can only be a nice touch for many birdwatchers.

    Dear greetings, Helma

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