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Wednesday, 24 November 2021

Book Review - Europe's Birds - WILDGuides - Princeton University Press

 

     One develops an expectation that WILDGuides will produce consistently high quality field guides, and in keeping with that tradition Europe's Birds does not disappoint.
     It used to be, not so long ago in fact, that photographic guides were considered second rate, and it has taken time for them to be accepted on the same level as conventional pictorial guides.
     The single most important factor in this change of attitude is the ubiquity of digital photography and the simple fact that every birder on the planet has a camera with her/him at all times, if only on a phone. The quality of images obtainable from these portable devices seems to grow exponentially with each upgrade to smart phones and the like. More and more birders go into the field armed with a camera, many with lenses that challenge one's capacity to carry them!
     The result is that a publisher has access to a wide range of photographs, literally thousands for some species. Across the range of photographers it is likely that both sexes are covered, nestlings, fledglings, juveniles, seasonal plumages, moult, standing, flying, feeding. The biggest complaint against early photographic guides was that images were often fuzzy, under- or over-exposed, and failed to show the diversity of the species. Pictures were generally provided by a small number of "expert photographers", those specializing in wildlife shots.
     Europe's Birds features the work of no less than 349 photographers and contains a staggering 4,700 images; clear, sharp images too!
     I very carefully checked the photographs of birds that are usually extremely difficult to photograph - swifts for example - and without exception they are superbly illustrated with high quality images, showing different ages and plumage variations, with accompanying notes. Remarkable!
     I just opened the book at random, and it opened at page 393 - Bluethroat. There are eight exceptional pictures showing adults, juveniles and subspecies, males and females. This is really outstanding coverage and this is typical of the treatment of all species throughout the book.
     As a person who loves maps, I wish that the range maps were a little larger, but given the constraints imposed by space, compromise was necessary somewhere. And the maps are perfectly adequate for a field guide.
     I have checked the accounts for about a hundred species across several families and have found not one factual error. The book is an outstanding compendium of pictures and text, for the most part all contained on a single page.
     If you are in the market for a new field guide to the birds of Europe, you could do little better than this important new addition to the literature. It covers 928 species with the kind of precision that will help you not only identify the birds, but become a better birder in the process.
     What could be better than that?

Europe's Birds - An identification guide
Authors: Andy Swash, Rob Hume, Hugh Harrop and Robert Still
Paperback - US$29.95 - ISBN 9780691177656
640 pages - 4,700 colour photographs - 540 maps
5 7/8 x 8 1/4 in. (14.69 x 20.63 cm)
Publication date: 7 December 2021    


42 comments:

  1. This sounds like a good book if the photos are so comprehensive and cover all ages etc. Wow, 4,700 photos - that's a lot. But I must ask you - is Balconia and it's exotic birds represented? Have a great day, hugs, Valerie

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    1. Balconia is missing, Valerie, no doubt due to the secretive nature of the research going on there!

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  2. I am sure it is a very useful book David.
    Warm hugs, Marit

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  3. That sounds like (another) essential guide that I shall be buying before too long. If my local experience is anything to go by I wouldn't worry too much about those range maps; things seem to be changing very rapidly in recent years. And that's another reason I need this book; more and more species from mainland Europe are turning up here these days.

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  4. So many birds, so many books, so little time. It is an ambition worth pursuing to see them all though.

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  5. Hari OM
    Seems a hefty little package of loveliness! YAM xx

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  6. You really do write the best reviews, David. When one reads them, they know what they will be getting!

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  7. Sounds like a fantastic book, David. Thanks for the review.

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  8. This would be good to have if you planned on a European trip. It sounds like a really thorough guide.

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  9. Nice review.
    There are such wonderful digital photos of birds on the internet.

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  10. Good point about photos. High quality photos are pretty common now, so much so that many of us know we cannot compete in that category.

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  11. C'est vrai que maintenant on a tous un appareil photo avec les téléphones et les appareils pro (ou non) font de très belles photos même de loin.
    C'est une bonne nouvelle pour les guides, quoi que les dessins sont souvent très jolis aussi.
    Bonne journée

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  12. Hi David - I see it's already published here ... and I note John's comment about birds moving further north from Europe - and can understand it'd help. Certainly one for me to consider for giving as a gift to friends/family ... thank you - excellent to note your comments. Cheers Hilary

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  13. Thank you for this excellent review, David. As I am relatively sure that I will not be travelling outside UK in the foreseeable future, I was not sure how relevant it might be to my interests. This got me doing a bit of probing around and I find that the same team of authors were responsible for "Britain's Birds" in the WildGuide series, published by Princeton in 2020. As this is almost as hefty (576 pages) as the "Europe's Birds", I think that this will be the one for me. Will be ordering it so the Lindsay can give it to me for Christmas!

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    1. Great choice for you, Richard. I did review "Britain's Birds" and I have no doubt it will serve you well. The publishers should be contacting you for future editions for some excellent photographs.

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  14. Thanks for the review. It's a very interesting book also considering that I live in Europe. Now I am reading the book "Conoscerli, proteggerli. Guida allo stato di conservazione degli uccelli in Italia" (Know them, protect them. Guide to the conservation status of the birds in Italy".

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    1. I am very encouraged to learn that books like the one you are reading are being published in Italy. Perhaps it will help in generating a renewed appreciation of nature.

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  15. Thanks for sharing about the book.
    Happy Thanks giving.

    Much💛love

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  16. Thanks for sharing this review!

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  17. Sounds like a great book for bird lovers

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  18. Excelente reseña amigo mío. Gracias por compartir David.
    Un gran abrazo querido amigo y compadre David.

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  19. Querido amigo solo viendo su portada ya lo quiero, el ruiseñor pechiazul lo hay aquí en mi tierra y me encanta, es un ave preciosa. Como siempre estupenda reseña. Muchas gracias. Abrazos.

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  20. What a great review. To think you have not found a single factual error speaks for the authenticity of this book As always, I love to know the difference between European birds and those found in the states.

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  21. I would like to be able to identify birdsong - I so often hear the most lovelt sounds coming from the woods behind my house (when it's not too muddy out there I rush out to see who'se making the noise and when I spot the bird (it's usually a tiny little thing like a dot in a tree up high somewhere) I then have to scramble home for my very old, tatty (charity shop) bird identification book which relies on me having had a good look at the birds colour, size, beak, plumage, etc :) Your book review is very good, thank you.

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  22. Sounds like a book that birds lovers will want to get hold of. Happy weekend.

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  23. My copy arrived today - it’s a magnificent collection of images with very crisp, accurate text. An absolute steal at US $29.95 !

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  24. Great review David. Sounds like a fantastic field guide and I know Franc would appreciate the maps too. Even if we have to get out the magnifying glass :)

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    1. Hi Carol: If you guys go back to travelling in Europe it would be a great guide for you.

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  25. Buena reseña de un interesante libro.

    Feliz fin de semana.

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  26. Sounds like a birder's delight! The cover picture is fabulous.

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  28. It sounds like a good book, although I confess I still prefer drawings of both plants and birds for identification.
    Sometime when you are testing the book in Europe, I count on your visit.
    Lisbeth in Denmark

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  29. It dous sound like a great book. Thank you for the review David.
    Regards,
    Roos

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  30. Hello David,
    Another great review. Quality bird photos and a great description of the bird is helpful. Now, if only I could manage a trip to Europe to see some of these birds. I can dream. Thank you for linking up and sharing your post. Take care, have a happy weekend! PS, thank you for leaving me a comment!

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  31. Another good review! I've enjoyed these and would love a few more ID books in my collection. Enjoy your weekend!

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  32. I'll not have any need for this book, but as always your review tempts me toward it! I thought your comments about new developments in imaging were on point; when I look at older wildflower identification books (as in, twenty years old or so) and the ones coming out now, the same improvements are obvious.

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  33. Me parece un libro precioso, que me encantaría tener. Abrazos.

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  34. Many thanks for the review.
    It sounds a good book.

    All the best Jan

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