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Thursday, 24 September 2020

Book Review - Birds of Malaysia & Singapore - Princeton University Press

 


     In 2013 I had the great pleasure of birding for four days in Singapore and Peninsular Malaysia with Lim Kim Seng, and I can say without hesitation that as a guide he was without equal, in a lifetime of birding all over the world. I did not have the pleasure of meeting his brother Lim Kim Chuah, one of the co-authors of this work, but by all accounts he too is force to be reckoned with.
     My signed copy of Lim Kim Seng's The Avifauna of Singapore with its lovely message is one of my treasured possessions, so it was with an extra sense of pleasurable anticipation that I looked forward to reviewing Birds of Malaysia & Singapore for Princeton University Press.
     It is entirely appropriate that the birds of these two countries should be grouped together since there are many shared species, and birders visiting one country as a principal destination, often combine it with a foray into the other.
     The front cover depicts the enigmatic and highly sought after Rail-Babbler, instantly setting the tone for what it is to follow, a deep and satisfying excursion into the avian wonders of this enchanted part of the world.
     Immediately upon opening the book the visual delights commence, as one is greeted by coloured images of birds grouped by habitat. This quick reference is very effective, and birds are assembled by categories, such as Birds of the Seashore, Garden Birds, Paddyfield Birds and so on. What may be obvious to the local birder may not always be so apparent to a visitor from another continent, and a habitat guide such as this with its attendant species is very helpful. Even within the city centre, whose pulse does not race a little at the prospect of Coppersmith Barbets, Blue-tailed Bee-eaters and Brahminy Kites?
     The Introduction provides an examination of the habitats to be encountered, with excellent illustrations and a succinct summary of each type. There are notes on taxonomy and nomenclature, bird migration, breeding seasonality and bird conservation. The standard diagrammatic representation of bird topography is well done, with a glossary to accompany it.
     One is then launched into the species accounts in the familiar, conventional format of modern field guides - illustrations on the right hand page with ID notes and other pertinent information on the left. The pictures are first rate, designed to facilitate identification of the bird, without the encumbrance of landscape and vegetation. Dana Gardener is a highly respected and well known illustrator of many field guides, who had a long association with the dean of Costa Rican avifauna, the legendary Alexander Skutch. His skill as a bird illustrator is on display in this guide; it will not disappoint.
     I have been poring over this book for hours since it arrived a couple of days ago, and my appreciation for its scholarship, design, clarity and usefulness augments each time I open it. 
     It is clear to me that it benefits from having been put together by three ornithologists resident in the area, who have a lifelong experience of their subjects. 
     I have field guides for every corner of the world, many battered and bearing the marks of extensive use. None are better than this one!

Birds of Malaysia & Singapore
Lim Kim Seng, Yong Ding Li & Lim Kim Chuah
Illustrated by Dana Gardner
Paperback - US$35.00 - £30.00 - ISBN: 9780691209906 - 400 pages - 167 colour plates - 6 in. x 8.25 in.
Publication date: 20 October 2020    
   
      

51 comments:

  1. I guess you must have very many books David. I'm sure the number goes up every month.

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    1. It does, Marit, but I have to be a little more selective these days!

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  2. Hello David

    You have been birding around the world, do you keep a total of all the birds you have seen. This looks like a great field guide, thanks for sharing the review. Take care, enjoy your day!

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    1. My life list is right around 3,400 species, Eileen. It goes up and down a little depending on the changes in taxonomy that occur from time to time.

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  3. I would love to pore through your library - a labour of love which would take me days, weeks, months...

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  4. Lovely illustration by Dana Gardner!
    The visual side of illustrations and pictures is of the utmost importance in any field guide.

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  5. Encore un beau livre sur les oiseaux, la bibliothèque doit être pleine.
    Bonne journée

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    1. Pas encore mais il faut chercher des nouveaux coins dans la maison!

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  6. It is nice to read books with birds from other countries.I do it often!It is like you read, what one likes the best.You never know when a strange bird comes to visit :)))

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    1. And with COVID preventing us from travelling it is even more pleasurable, Anita.

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  7. One more treasure to add to your collection...

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  8. Hi David. I'm sure many wonderful memories were stirred as you reviewed this book. I visited your Singapore and Malaysia Trip Report and am in awe of the spectacular species you and Miriam had the great pleasure of seeing there!

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  9. This looks like it is a gorgeous book with really lovely illustrations. Sadly I don't think I'll ever get to visit Singapore and Malaysia.

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    1. And I doubt that I will ever get a chance to return...but you never know!

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  10. Sadly when we visited Singapore I did not have a particularly good camera, and I was also not as interested in birds and insects as I am now. In those days it was all the larger animal of Africa that my camera could not even take decent photos of!! Keep well and stay safe, Diane

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  11. I shall certainly never go to that part of the world but I'm glad that such books exist as a document of how much some of us care about the natural world and as an inspiration to others. We have a very good bookshop (or two) in Cambridge and I often wander into the Nature section and leaf through some of the wonderful books in there - sometimes I even end up buying one!

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  12. This sounds like a good book and all the more so for you as you have a personal connection to the author. That's a part of the world I have never seen, and probably never will, but it must be fascinating. Have a great day, hugs, Valerie

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  13. Experience has enriched the content of the book.

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  14. Another great review and another addition to your bookcase.

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  15. I can sit for hours looking at books like this too! Such a good book review. I'll never get to visit those countries but I would still enjoy that book!

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  16. I would have loved to visit these countries to se these birds in real life. But I know it will not happen du to circumstances. I am sure I would have brouht this book as a gide.
    Regards,
    Roos

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  17. Otro tesoro más amigo David, como gran profesional que eres y buenos libros bien documentados debes de tener uno más en esa colección siempre será un placer para ti. Debes decidirte un día a confeccionar un libro tuyo querido amigo, con toda esa experiencia acumulada y detalles que conoces, estoy seguro que sería una gran obra de un gran profesor.
    Un fuerte abrazo amigo y compadre David.

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  18. What an amazing and interesting life you lead! Your knowledge is a gift to us all!

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  19. Great review David, thank you.

    All the best Jan

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  20. Even though these aren't books I would be likely to read, I really appreciate your reviews. They're always well written and interesting and I always learn something new.

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    1. Thanks, Jeanie, but I suspect there are a few dedicated birders out there who now have a whole new destination in their minds - if ever COVID permits travel again!

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  21. Good evening, David! thanks for the recommendation of a book full of melodies of birds, i see that everything is clear and very well detailed, and also like the naturalist Skutch. He was the first to make us aware of reducing the suffering of ecosystems, right?
    Have a beautiful fall evening!

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  22. David, I just saw the comment that you left about Jo. Somehow comment moderation was turned on for older posts. I guess by now you know she had a stroke. It was on the seventh of the month. I had contacted ladydog when Jo did not respond to my email on that day. This is now the third facility she has been in. Hoping for a good recovery.

    I should read your blog. While Cooper's hawks are common here, yesterday my grandson and I watched seven of them flying overhead. Have never seen that many together before.

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    1. The Cooper's Hawks (and other raptors) are migrating, Denise.

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  23. As a Malaysian, I really ought to get a copy of this book, David!

    Have a great weekend!

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    1. It would help you a great deal to identify your local birds, Veronica.

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  24. Hi David - it must have been a wonderful trip - two bird-lovers/experts together ... one appreciating all the goodies of new species being seen. You must have had 'a ball' ... an overdose of viewing, discussing and noting.

    I agree with John - I always love looking through books like this ... and if I was nearer a large city I'd spend hours in bookshops wishing and dreaming ... and delighting as I turned the pages - thanks for an excellent review. All the best - Hilary

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  25. The number of different birds you have seen is mind-boggling! This book sounds like it will be destined to become a cherished addition to your library.

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  26. It's so pleasing that you can drool over your book and find out information...happy reading.

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  27. There's only one thing better than reading a comprehensive and beautiful book about an important and interesting topic: reading such a book written by a person you know.
    Happy birding! Take care.

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  28. David, I think you have a large library with books written by someone you know. I love the front cover, I have never seen such a bird and I think it is a fabulous bird. You are lucky to have such friends, and a guide, and a book that he wrote.

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  29. Excellent review - gives a real sense of the book. Do you maintain a life list? Of course you do! I wonder how many species are on it.

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    1. Right around 3,400 species, Dorothy. It changes a little depending on the prevailing taxonomy at any given time.

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  30. Never been to Malaysia and now I probably never will :( to bad, they seem to have lots of fine birds.

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  31. El libro tiene que ser precioso, ya me gustaría tener uno igual. Un abrazo.

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  32. David!
    I hope you will present your library someday.
    I suppose the trip to Singapore and Malaysia was extremely interesting. Another excellent review.
    Hugs and greetings.

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  33. First of all, I am consumed with envy that you have traveled to this region, something I always wanted to do but now will probably not achieve. I grew up in Princeton, NJ, so I feel proud that the press keeps issuing such books.

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    1. In terms of natural history books PUP is a landmark publisher.

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  34. Awesome review David thankyou ,cheers Sheryl

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  35. Halo my friend David,
    a book review is always fun to read, if it interests you ;-) A book about birds is always a welcome "atlas" to consult.
    A big kiss from me, Helma

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