Current book reviews

Wings over Weybourne

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

Moss Taylor
Wren Publishing, Sheringham 2018
ISBN: 9780954254568

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

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

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

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

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

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.