Before reading this book, not one of us who met to discuss it had any idea whatsoever about the very serious and skilful art of salmon fly-tying, especially when taken to the lengths described in this narrative. Fly-tying, yes maybe - ordinary ones for actually catching fish - but not created to the level we get to see here, where flies are made from the most beautiful feathers, coveted and preserved beyond comprehension, never to go near a drop of water and many, it seems, made by men who haven’t got a clue how to catch a fish.
The Feather Thief
Birds of Nunavut (2 volume set)
Many readers, perhaps most, will be unfamiliar with the territory of Nunavut, a sprawling landscape dominated by islands that covers nearly two million square kilometres. Created in 1999 by division of Canada’s Northwest Territories, Nunavut supports a human population of fewer than 40,000 individuals, making it one of the most sparsely populated landscapes on our planet. Readers are more likely to recognise some of its component islands, such as Baffin Island and Ellesmere Island, and may already have clear sense of the bird communities likely to be found here.
Urban Ornithology: 150 Years of Birds in New York City
Any book that starts "It was a dark and very stormy night." has got to be worth investigating. What emerges is a testament to what long-term effort by dedicated observers can achieve. The book details the changing avifauna of a small corner of northern New York City (the western Bronx) over the last 150 years in astonishing detail.
Where to Watch Birds in Somerset, Gloucestershire and Wiltshire
Many readers will be familiar with the Helm “where to watch birds in…” series. This, the latest addition, covers a varied region, with habitats including the extensive woodland of the Forest of Dean, large parts of the Severn Estuary, Salisbury Plain, the Cotswold scarp and the Somerset Levels. It should be welcomed for several reasons. First, it is by Ken Hall, who, with John Govett, wrote the first three editions and is clearly well placed to update the work.
The Birds of Italy, Volume 1: Anatidae – Alcidae
This book covers all species belonging to the families Anatidae to Alcidae that are or have been present in Italy since the early 1800s. For each breeding species, a vast amount of information is provided on its distribution (with good-quality black and white maps), habitat, population estimates, density, trend and breeding details (phenology and breeding success) within Italy. Movements within and outside the country, where applicable, are covered and illustrated with clear maps.
Rocky Shores (British Wildlife Collection 7)
Britain and Ireland are fortunate in having a wide variety of coastlines. The rocky shores are, for birders, the haunt of Rock Pipits and Purple Sandpipers, but this book reveals a far wider range of complex and exciting biodiversity reliant on the ever-changing conditions of this environment. The authors do an excellent job of making the subject accessible without glossing over the detail, with some of the less apparent fauna – such as copepods, sea-squirts and diatoms - dealt with as thoroughly as the better-known crabs and starfish.
Steller's Sea Eagle
In 1740 Georg Steller, a young German doctor and naturalist, accompanied the explorer Vitus Bering on his search for a land bridge between Russia and America. The expedition was shipwrecked amid storms, and despite Steller’s best efforts, Bering and much of the crew died on what became known as Bering Island. Steller survived a harsh winter and returned to St. Petersburg with first descriptions of many animals, among them Steller’s Sea Eagle.
Green and Prosperous Land – a Blueprint for Rescuing the British Countryside
This book arrives at the right time. Irrespective of whether and how we leave the European Union, the central tenet of Dieter Helm’s thesis is fast gaining traction: a healthy environment is fundamental to a healthy economy. The author has good credentials for presenting the arguments: he has nature firmly embedded in his upbringing, and economics filling his mind. Rarely does a book arrive, chiming so perfectly with the policy environment of the day.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. It is well-written and comes as close as any book I have read to explaining why people go birding or twitching. The book also resists the temptation of just listing foreign holidays and the birds seen which can become a little boring to the reader. Instead it documents how John’s birdwatching started, the revelation of the first trip to Minsmere (I can still remember mine 50 years ago), birding in different parts of the UK and world as John’s life changed and his relatively late obsession with foreign birding.
Birds of Vietnam
For me, a good foreign bird guide is one that doesn’t just inform you of the many species you might see on your travels, but also takes the time to introduce you to the area and habitats you will be visiting when in a new country. The Birds of Vietnam by Craik and Minh is one of these, with clear and distinguishable illustrations prefaced by a good introduction to the country and help on how to plan your trip.
Another quality guide from the Helm stable, African Raptors covers all 106 species that are found on the continent. The book follows the Helm Identification Guide format putting the colour plates in the first half of the book followed by the map and text pages in the second half. All of the 52 plates were painted for this guide and are excellent, my only minor gripe being that some of the plates are a little crowded; they do, however, contain a lot of information, the plate for Steppe Eagle showing fourteen different plumage types.
Birds of Japan
Birds of Japan follows a tried and tested field guide format, with an introductory section on the different habitats found across the islands, followed by the species accounts. All 700 species that have occurred in Japan are included, even those that are recorded as being extinct are illustrated.
Climate Change and British Wildlife
This is a must-read for anyone with an interest in British wildlife.
Understanding how flora and fauna are responding to a changing climate, and the potential consequences of these changes, are arguably one of the most important tasks facing ecologists today. Trevor Beebee has managed to present the current information in a way that is good, not just for scientists, but for any interested amateur natural historians.
Bat roosts in trees
The ‘Bat Tree Habitat Key’ is a collaborative project, set up by Henry Andrews to provide a detailed account of how bat species in the UK exploit trees as roost sites. Mainly designed and written for tree-care and ecology professionals, the objective is to provide a practical and systematic framework for finding tree roosts, with defined thresholds for action.
Common & Spotted Sandpipers
Many of us will probably have only a passing familiarity with Common Sandpipers, either encountered as birds on passage in lowland wetlands, or as dispersed breeding birds along upland lochs and rivers. This delightful book brings all aspects of their behaviour and ecology to life with a mix of natural history observation, data and reference to published studies, which enable us to get to know the species much better. Importantly, this is not just a book about Common Sandpipers in the UK.