Current book reviews

Bird Photographer of the Year 3

Bird Photographer of the Year 3

Bird Photographer of the Year Ltd
William Collins, London 2018
ISBN: 9780008293628
Hardback

This book, which contains a selection of the winning, commended and shortlisted photographs from the Bird Photographer of The Year’s third annual competition is an absolute delight. It is a work of art both in its production and its content. Working your way through from the brilliantly original abstract shot of a Razorbill to the close-up shot of a Water Rail at the very end of the book you cannot help but be astonished and impressed with the sheer technical skill, imagination and artistic vision of the photographers.

Handbook of Western Palearctic Birds: Passerines

Handbook of Western Palearctic Birds: Passerines

Hadoram Shirihai & Lars Svensson
Christopher Helm, London 2018
ISBN: 9780713645712
Hardback

Many ornithologists already have the multi-volume Birds of the Western Palearctic or the Concise BWP on their shelves. This new work covers almost the same ground geographically, though adding Iran and all of Arabia and following national boundaries across Africa, but it differs in concentrating on specific and racial identification, ageing and sexing. It is a massive step forward in these areas from the days of BWP, as would be expected from two of the foremost experts in these fields.

Wings over Weybourne

Wings over Weybourne: an account of the history and birdlife of Weybourne Camp

Moss Taylor
Wren Publishing, Sheringham 2018
ISBN: 9780954254568
Softback

The phrase 'patch recording' was probably first coined by the doyen of British birders, Ian Wallace, who, for most weeks over the past 60 years, has religiously recorded the birds seen in one defined area (patch) close to his home. This type of recording is regarded by many to be the ‘purest’ kind of birding there is because the activity engenders a greater understanding of the daily, monthly and seasonal rhythms of life.

A Shadow Above

A Shadow Above: the Fall and Rise of the Raven

Joe Shute
Bloomsbury Publishing, London 2018
ISBN: 9781472940285
Hardback

This book is less about Ravens than it is about the variety of shadows that Ravens have cast on human society over the ages, and up to the present day.

Curlew Moon

Curlew Moon

Mary Colwell
William Collins, London 2018
ISBN: 9780008241056
Hardback

What do Curlews need? Given that the Britain and Ireland breeding population has declined by 50% in the last 20 years, and we hold a significant proportion of the Eurasian wintering population, they need an advocate who understands evidence and communication. Mary Colwell, and her book Curlew Moon, fits the bill perfectly. What this story also tells us is that for the diversity of locations where Curlews live in summer and in winter in our islands, there are people whose soul is stirred by Curlews, and who are now working to look after these precious birds.

Ecology and Conservation of Forest Birds

Ecology and Conservation of Forest Birds

Grzegorz Mikusiński, Jean-Michel Roberge & Robert Fuller (Editors)
Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 2018
ISBN: 9781107072138
Hardback

There is a growing realisation that all is not well with populations of forest birds. In this volume Grzegorz Mikusinski, Jean-Michel Roberge and Rob Fuller have edited contributions from 28 leading authorities on forest birds (of course including themselves) covering the factors determining bird communities of forests, the drivers of population trends and conservation issues.

Far From Land

Far From Land

Michael Brooke & Bruce Pearson
Princeton University Press, Woodstock 2018
ISBN: 9780691174181
Hardback

Michael Brooke’s Far From Land; the Mysterious Lives of Seabirds takes the reader on a magical tour of every ocean and some of the remotest locations on the planet through the lives of seabirds. Michael Brooke’s passion for seabirds shines through from every page of this book. As a seabird biologist, he has spent his career studying this enigmatic group of birds.

The Blue Tit

The Blue Tit

Martyn Stenning
Bloomsbury Publishing 2018
ISBN: 9781472937384
Hardback

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
Hardback

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
Softback

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
Hardback

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
Hardback

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
Softback

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
Hardback

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
Hardback

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.