Current book reviews

The Blue Tit

The Blue Tit

Martyn Stenning
Bloomsbury Publishing 2018
ISBN: 9781472937384

As one of many tireless ringers and nest recorders monitoring the rise and fall of local Blue Tit populations across the county I was really looking forward to the publication of this monograph and certainly wasn't disappointed.

The Wonderful Mr Willughby

The Wonderful Mr Willughby: the First True Ornithologist

Tim Birkhead
Bloomsbury Publishing, London 2018
ISBN: 9781408878484

After enjoying Tim Birkhead’s previous book Bird Sense, I had high expectations for The Wonderful Mr Willughby and I wasn’t disappointed. I enjoyed the exploration into the life of Francis Willughby, born in 1635. I hadn’t heard of him before reading this book, and I am glad that I took the time to learn more about him. His work ethic and thirst for knowledge is inspirational and it reminded me to keep asking questions and to continue to embrace scientific curiosity.

Birds of the Canary Islands

Birds of the Canary Islands

Eduardo García-del-Rey
Christopher Helm, London 2018
ISBN: 9781472941558

The Canary Islands are a well-travelled holiday destination, and it comes somewhat as a surprise that this is the first field guide to the archipelago. This book by local birdwatcher Eduardo Garcia-del-Rey aims to fill that gap. The opening chapters take a look at the history of ornithology in the region, as well as providing an overview of the climate and habitat. There is also a chapter dedicated to the best birdwatching sites on each island.

Pressing On

Pressing On: a Decade of New Linocuts

Robert Gillmor
Mascot Media, Sutton 2018
ISBN: 9781999845711

This book by Robert Gillmor covers his recent work from commissioned prints to original works. With a lot of the prints being inspired by Norfolk, he re-emphasises his love for the county and sets out to give some background to each image’s root and creative process.

Mrs Moreau's Warbler

Mrs Moreau's Warbler: How Birds Got Their Names

Stephen Moss
Faber & Faber 2018
ISBN: 9781783350902

I have read a few bird names explained books and, whilst I have enjoyed them, they are books that I would normally dip in and out of when I had the urge to discover who Cetti was and how the warbler got to be named after him, and I thought that Mrs Moreau’s Warbler was going to be another of these books. How wrong I was.

Scarce and Rare Birds in North Wales

Scarce and Rare Birds in North Wales: Historic Records up to and Including 2016

Robin Sandham
Privately published 2018
ISBN: 9780995742802

I guess I am lucky in that I know Robin very well and it was a pleasure to see this book develop from the initial idea, to having a quick proof read between net rounds whilst on a ringing trip to Catelonia in Spain, to finally receiving my copy hand-delivered over the ringing table.

The Little Book of the Dawn Chorus

The Little Book of the Dawn Chorus

Andrea Pinnington & Caz Buckingham
Fine Feather Press, Farnham 2018
ISBN: 9781908489333

I have reviewed several titles from the "Little Book of..." series and previous reviews have all been very complementary. This is the first in the series that I have been less than entirely impressed by, not on the basis of production (which is of the usual high standard) but on the basis of the concept.

The Ascent of Birds

The Ascent of Birds: How Modern Science is Revealing their Story

John Reilly
Pelagic Publishing, Exeter 2018
ISBN: 9781784271695

If, like me, you are continually perplexed by the seemingly random re-ordering of birds on the British List every year, then this is the book for you.

Birds of Oman

Birds of Oman

Jens Eriksen & Richard Porter
Christopher Helm, London 2017
ISBN: 9781472937537

A recent addition to the Helm Field Guide series, Birds of Oman is an updated abridgement of the second edition of Birds of the Middle East (Porter and Aspinall, 2010). All 528 species recorded in the wild in Oman up to June 2017 are included, making it as comprehensive a field guide as possible for anyone interested in the country’s birdlife. Indeed, considering Oman’s avian diversity, size and location within the Arabian peninsula, this guide would also be more than adequate for birders visiting the UAE, Qatar and Bahrain.

Our Place

Our Place: Can we save Britain’s wildlife before it is too late?

Mark Cocker
Jonathan Cape, London 2018
ISBN: 9780224102292

Our Place explores the origins of UK environmentalism, testing the extent to which it has made a difference to our landscapes and the animals and plants with which we share them. By drawing upon long associations with particular parts of the UK, such as the north Norfolk coastal fringe and the Derbyshire hills of his childhood, Mark Cocker sets out the history of the environmentalism and tells the story of the Wildlife Trust movement, the RSPB, National Trust and others.

The Birder’s Guide to Africa

The Birder’s Guide to Africa

Michael Mills. Photographs by Tasso Leventis
Go-away Birding 2018 (2018)
ISBN: 9780620717250

This is an ambitious book which sets out to present a 'comprehensive and detailed summary of bird watching in the African region.' This is a tall order, but this book really is packed with information.

Henry Dresser and Victorian Ornithology

Henry Dresser and Victorian Ornithology

Henry A. McGhie
Manchester University Press, Manchester 2017
ISBN: 9781784994136

This is the first more or less comprehensive biography of a man who was one of the more important influences on ornithology in the latter half of the 19th century, Henry Dresser. It is based especially on the Dresser archive material and the large collections of skins and eggs accumulated by Dresser which are now in the Manchester Museum where Henry McGhie is Head of Collections and Curator of Zoology.

Behind More Binoculars

Behind More Binoculars : Interviews with Acclaimed Birdwatchers

Keith Betton & Mark Avery
Pelagic Publishing, Exeter 2017
ISBN: 9781784271091

The sequel to Behind the Binoculars is here and yes, it's another series of engaging interviews with a diverse range of birdwatching personalities, but this enjoyable follow-up offers far more.

Keith Betton and Mark Avery, surely worthy of a chapter each, interview notable birders ranging from Frank Gardener -  the BBC's security correspondent - to Royal Society Fellow, author, zoologist and tireless Guillemot researcher, Tim Birkhead, and the BTO's very own head of surveys and atlas co-ordinator Dawn Balmer.

Flight Lines

Flight Lines: Tracking the wonders of bird migration

Mike Toms
NHBS 2017 (2017)
ISBN: 9781908581778

This book, a joint project between BTO and the Society of Wildlife Artists (SWLA), explores Afro-Palaearctic migration in a unique and engaging way. Compiling BTO data and using a series of artworks and photographs to beautifully illustrate, it provides a fascinating insight into all aspects of the journeys of migrant birds from Europe to Africa and back again.

Flying High

Flying High : Discover the Poetry in British Birds

Anneliese Emmans Dean
Brambleby Books, Taunton 2017
ISBN: 9781908241504

BTO's vision is 'a world inspired by birds and informed by science' and with this in mind one could be forgiven for thinking that 'Flying High' was written to support our strategy! It hits a beautifully sweet spot, effortlessly combining very entertaining but informative poetry with lovely photographs and bite-sized but accurate facts. It is a book that adults and children alike will learn from and enjoy, and it lends itself very well to 'dipping in', either just for fun, or as a reference book.