Current book reviews

Farming and Birds

Farming and Birds

Ian Newton
William Collins, London 2017
ISBN: 9780008147891
Hardback

Land-use in rural Britain has experienced many changes over the centuries but since 1950 it has undergone an astonishingly rapid and virtually universal transformation. The management of arable crops and grassland is utterly different to 80 years ago and yields have massively increased. Key drivers of this ‘agricultural revolution’ include supremely efficient mechanisation and huge reliance on agrochemicals. Over this period, populations of birds and other wildlife on farmland have fallen dramatically – a familiar story to many readers of BTO News.

Australian Bird Guide

Australian Bird Guide

Peter Menkhorst et al
Christopher Helm, London 2017
ISBN: 9781472912350
Softback

I was fortunate recently to visit Australia with my family. When a Brisbane-based friend heard we were coming over he advised me to wait before buying a new field guide, as this one was due to be published. This was excellent advice as the new ABG – nine years in the making - is a first-rate field guide, one of the best I’ve seen.

Curlew Calling

Curlew Calling: an Anthology of Poetry, Nature Writing and Images in Celebration of Curlew

Karen Lloyd
Numenius Press 2017
ISBN: 9781999714505
Softback

Mark Cocker points out in his foreword to this thought-provoking anthology the significance of biodiversity loss for our cultural heritage.

Bowland Beth: the Life of an English Hen Harrier

Bowland Beth: the Life of an English Hen Harrier

David Cobham
William Collins, London 2017
ISBN: 9780008251895
Hardback

Bowland Beth manages to rise above the dark and contentious issues it covers to deliver an engaging read that transports the reader into the mind of one of the UK’s most controversial birds of prey.

Solitary Bees

Solitary Bees

Tim Benton
Pelagic Publishing, Exeter 2017
ISBN: 9781784270889
Softback

The recent surge in interest in pollinators, partially driven by worries over threats from habitat loss to neonicotinoids and a strong narrative reminding people of their importance to many crops, has undoubtedly helped increase resources for people studying these groups. This helps create a virtuous circle: the more people start getting interested in a taxonomic group, the greater the demand for books and other information.

Analyzing the Role of Citizen Science in Modern Research

Analyzing the Role of Citizen Science in Modern Research

Luigi Ceccaroni & Jaume Piera
IGI Global, Hershey (PA) 2016
ISBN: 9781522509622
Hardback

This book provides a detailed discussion of the manner in which citizen science can and has been used to inform and engage the general public in science. The starting point is an investigation of the current understanding of the term “citizen science” and how different organisations collect, organise and analyze the data collected by citizen scientists.

Statistics for Ecologists Using R and Excel

Statistics for Ecologists Using R and Excel

Mark Gardener
Pelagic Publishing, Exeter 2017 (2017)
ISBN: 9781784271398
Softback

"Citizen Science" is a recently coined term that is everywhere now, but which describes an activity BTO volunteers have been doing for decades - going out and collecting data on birds, whether that be counting (BBS, GBW, WeBS), ringing or recording nests.

A Naturalist’s Guide to the Birds of Costa Rica

A Naturalist’s Guide to the Birds of Costa Rica

Steve Bird
John Beaufoy Publishing, Oxford 2016
ISBN: 9781909612648
Softback

This guide covers one of the most biodiverse countries in Central America, and which is a perennial favourite to experience a broad range of neotropical birds thanks to its many national parks and well developed eco-tourism infrastructure.

In the introductory section, the author introduces the country, as well as listing the main birdwatching spots in Costa Rica. The latter are relatively brief, listing the stand-out species, best times to visit and some general advice.

Birds of Europe, North Africa and the Middle East: an Annotated Checklist

Birds of Europe, North Africa and the Middle East: an Annotated Checklist

Dominic Mitchell
Lynx Edicions, Barcelona 2017
ISBN: 9788494189296
Hardback

Any serious birder that explores the Western Palearctic (WP) will know how complex this region is: from its bird diversity to its different cultures, languages and socio-political contexts. It thus becomes easier to understand how a simple updated checklist of the birds occurring within this region hasn’t been published in more than two decades when the game-changing series Birds of the Western Palearctic was last published.

Songs of Love and War: the Dark Heart of Bird Behaviour

Songs of Love and War: the Dark Heart of Bird Behaviour

Dominic Couzens
Bloomsbury Publishing, London 2017
ISBN: 9781472909916
Hardback

The latest book from Dominic Couzens promises to enthrall the reader with tales of the ‘dark heart’ underlying the every-day behaviours performed by birds. In the most part it did not disappoint, providing insight into activities such as the dawn chorus, migration, and sexual selection.

Birds of the Indonesian Archipelago: Greater Sundas and Wallacea

Birds of the Indonesian Archipelago: Greater Sundas and Wallacea

James A Eaton, Bas van Balen, Nick W Brickle & Frank E Rheindt
Lynx Edicions, Barcelona 2016
ISBN: 9788494189265
Hardback

I visited Sumatra last year, armed with a fairly dated “A field guide to the birds of Borneo, Sumatra, Java and Bali” by MacKinnon and Phillipps, and although I did get by with this guide, I felt an improvement was urgently needed.

Birds of Spain

Birds of Spain

Eduardo de Juana & Juan M Varela Simó English translation by Ernest Garcia
Lynx Edicions, Barcelona 2017
ISBN: 9788416728022
Hardback

The 3rd edition of the guide of Birds of Spain by Eduardo de Juana and Juan M. Varela is the first to be translated into English (by Ernest García). It is a compact, easy to use field guide, covering the avifauna of Spain (including the North African cities of Ceuta, Melilla, the Canaries and Balearic Islands).

A Lizard Bird Diary

A Lizard Bird Diary: a Study of the Birds of the South Lizard Peninsula, Cornwall: 1970-2015

Brian Cave
Privately published 2016
ISBN: 9781527200401
Softback

Living in south east Cornwall I'm probably much closer to the Lizard than many of you reading this. However, it's still almost two hours drive away and consequently not an area that I regularly visit, so I was looking foreword to finding out more about this famed location.

The author has been recording his bird observations on the Lizard since 1970 so was seemingly well placed to give an authoritative account, and on the whole I was not disappointed.

Best Birdwatching Sites: Yorkshire

Best Birdwatching Sites: Yorkshire

Neil Glenn & John Miles; John Davis (illus.)
Buckingham Press, Peterborough 2017
ISBN: 9780956987679
Softback

This is a very nicely produced book covering almost 100 of the best sites in Yorkshire to go birding. It covers a wide range of locations, from the famous coastal hotspots of Spurn and Flamborough, to inland wetlands such as Old Moor and Fairburn Ings, to extensive upland areas in the Pennines and North York Moors.

Wildlife on Your Doorstep

Wildlife on Your Doorstep

Mark Ward
Reed New Holland, London 2017
ISBN: 9781921517747
Softback

This lovely book came to me at just the right time, as the arrival of spring allowed me to read most of it while sitting in my garden, watching the wildlife on my own doorstep. I’d gladly buy this book for adults or older children living in rural or suburban neighbourhoods as Mark Ward’s enthusiasm is truly infectious. Mark provides helpful guidance on how to define your ‘patch’ for observing wildlife in different habitats in and around your garden, plus seasonal tips you might find useful for your own part of the UK. This could very well set you on pa