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Book Reviews

Browse the archive of BTO Book Reviews, which originally appear in each issue of BTO News - the BTO membership magazine. Join BTO today to get BTO News, and new book reviews, first.

Provence and Camargue (cover)

Provence and Camargue – France

Author: Dirk Hilbers, Constant Swinkels & Albert Vliegenthart

Publisher: Crossbill Guides Foundation, Arnhem

Publication Year: 2020

ISBN: 9789491648168

Binding: Softback

Page Count: 256pp

Price: £26.95

Global circumstance has made international travel too tricky to contemplate in 2020. So could a Crossbill Guide – guidebooks for the discerning naturalist to some of Europe’s most exciting regions – be a good read in such a year? Thankfully, yes. Within a few pages, I was yearning to return to Provence and the Camargue, a region I’ve only once explored. But I happily spent the rest of the book doing some armchair travel, thanks to the usual holistic mixture of well researched descriptions of... read more

Teresa Frost

Avifaunas Atlases & Authors (cover)

Avifaunas, Atlases & Authors: a Personal View of Local Ornithology in the United Kingdom, from the Earliest Times to 2019

Author: David Ballance

Publisher: Calluna Books, Wareham

Publication Year: 2020

ISBN: 9780993347757

Binding: Softback

Page Count: 346pp

Price: £25.00

As the title of this book suggests, it is a meta-book; a book about other books. Its main purpose is to inform the reader about works that deal, in various ways, with the element of place in ornithology. These can largely be separated into books describing where different birds occur within a country or region (atlases), and those describing the occurrence and status of birds in one or more localities (avifaunas). It is a follow-up to a previous book (and three large supplements expanding on... read more

Mark Wilson

Acoustic Ecology of European Bats 2nd edition (cover)

Acoustic Ecology of European Bats: Species Identification, Study of their Habitats and Foraging Behaviour

Author: Michel Barataud (author), Yves Tupinier, Herman J.G.A. Limpens (contributors), Anya Cockle-Betian (translator)

Publisher: BIOTOPE, Paris

Publication Year: 2020

ISBN: 9782366622447

Binding: Hardback

Page Count: 352pp

Price: €49.00

With developments in bat detectors, particularly passive detectors which are left outside to automatically trigger and record any bats that fly past, there is the potential to provide representative acoustic monitoring of bat species distribution and activity as a measure of relative abundance. Whilst software for semi-automating the analysis of sound files is available and can save considerable time in helping to assign recordings to species as a first analyses, acoustic identification... read more

Stuart Newson

Gulls (cover)


Author: John C. Coulson

Publisher: William Colliins, London

Publication Year: 2019

ISBN: 9780008201432

Binding: Softback

Page Count: 496pp

Price: £35.00

Gulls is a weighty addition to the New Naturalist series, with almost 500 densely-worded pages (including appendices and indices). This is not entirely surprising, given the lengthy research career of the author, whose peer-reviewed publications on gulls span seven decades. But what of the information therein?

Gulls focuses on species found in Britain and Ireland. There is an overview chapter, setting the scene in 42 pages, which is followed by nine chapters on... read more

Viola Ross-Smith

Birds of the UK Overseas Territories (cover)

Birds of the UK Overseas Territories

Author: Roger Riddington (ed.)

Publisher: Poyser, London

Publication Year: 2020

ISBN: 9781472977267

Binding: Softback

Page Count: 336pp

Price: £35.00

Readers of British Birds will most likely be familiar with much of the content of this new publication from Poyser, which brings together 13 papers published over the past 12 years, each describing the birds of the various far-flung remnants of Britain’s colonial history. Each of these papers now forms a chapter that gives a detailed introduction to the ornithological interest of the United Kingdom Overseas Territories (UKOTs). The addition of the paper on the British Virgin Islands... read more

Anthony Wetherhill

Rostherne Mere Aspects of a Wetland Nature Reserve

Rostherne Mere: Aspects of a Wetland Nature Reserve: Wildlife, Science and People Through Time

Author: Tom Wall and Gisèle Wall (eds.)

Publisher: Privately published

Publication Year: 2019

ISBN: 9781916043619

Binding: Softback

Page Count: 384pp

Price: £25.00

In 1912, the grandly-named Society for the Promotion of Nature Reserves for Britain and the Empire, fore-runner of The Wildlife Trusts, started to compile a list of 284 potential reserves in the British Isles. Rostherne Mere was included, although the benevolent ownership by the Egerton family meant that there was not seen to be any urgency in securing its conservation by other organisations and the site, especially its birds, was well-recorded. But eventually its vulnerability was... read more

David Norman

Rostherne Mere Birds of Mere and Margin (cover)

Rostherne Mere: Birds of Mere and Margin: One Hundred and Thirty Years of Observations

Author: Steve Barber, Bill Bellamy and Tom Wall; with Ray Scally (illus.)

Publisher: Privately published

Publication Year: 2019

ISBN: 9781916043602

Binding: Softback

Page Count: 250pp

Price: £20.00

This book is a nice local avifauna of the famous Rostherne Mere National Nature Reserve in north Cheshire. But if the word ‘avifauna’ makes readers think of their standard format – a dry catalogue of species, with interrogation of old records to see if they meet modern identification criteria – they will be in for a surprise; in my opinion, a pleasant one. The authors have adopted a charming style, enlivened by copious anecdotes and plenty of photographs and illustrations (by Ray Scally),... read more

David Norman

Birds of the West Indies (cover)

Birds of the West Indies

Author: Herbert A. Raffaele, James W. Wiley, Orlando H. Garrido, Allan R. Keith & Janis Raffaele

Publisher: Helm, London

Publication Year: 2020

ISBN: 9781472979506

Binding: Softback

Page Count: 272pp

Price: £25.00

Having observed last year when reviewing the excellent new Lynx Edicions Birds of the West Indies following a recent trip to the region, that all the available bird guides at that time appeared to be reprints of older books, it’s good to see one of those books has now been given a much needed update.

For many years, the Helm Birds of the West Indies has been the go-to guide for the... read more

Hugh Hanmer

Pelagic Dictionary of Natural History (cover)

The Pelagic Dictionary of Natural History of the British Isles

Author: Peter J. Jarvis

Publisher: Pelagic Press, Exeter

Publication Year: 2020

ISBN: 9781784271947

Binding: Hardback

Page Count: 537pp

Price: £35.00

This impressive compendium sits somewhere between dictionary and encyclopedia, providing information for 10,000 species of animals, plants, fungi and algae of the British Isles. Detailed descriptions are given, not only about identification and taxonomy, but also distribution, population trends, and even origins of the species name. Did you know, for example, that the species name for Chaffinch means ‘unmarried finch’, because Linnaeus, who named it, only ever saw males? The Crab Hacker... read more

Henrietta Pringle

Birds of Nottinghamshire (cover)

The Birds of Nottinghamshire

Author: Jason Reece, Nick Crouch, David Parkin, Chris du Feu & Bernie Ellis

Publisher: Liverpool University Press, Liverpool

Publication Year: 2019

ISBN: 9781789620092

Binding: Hardback

Page Count: 606pp

Price: £45.00

It is 44 years since the last review of the county’s birds and much has changed since then.  I’m not sure back then anyone would have predicted Little Egret breeding in the county.

The book follows a tried and tested format, I thoroughly enjoyed reading the introduction to the birds of Nottinghamshire; I grew up in the county and cut my birding teeth at Attenborough and thought that I had a reasonable handle on the history of the birds and birdwatchers in the county, but there is... read more

Paul Stancliffe

Britain's Birds (cover)

Britain's Birds: an Identification Guide to the Birds of Great Britain and Ireland

Author: Rob Hume, Robert Still, Andy Swash, Hugh Harrop & David Tipling

Publisher: Princeton University Press, Princeton (NJ) & Oxford

Publication Year: 2020

ISBN: 9780691199795

Binding: Softback

Page Count: 576pp

Price: £20.00

This bird ID guide covers 631 species and includes birds recorded in Britain and Ireland. It is incredibly comprehensive and has a plentiful amount of glossy, detailed photographs which show all the plumages you are likely to see for both common and rare birds. The layout is practical and user-friendly which makes it easy to use and compare species.

It has Species Accounts for each species described which includes English and scientific names, measurements, overview and description,... read more

Gillian Birtles

Emma Turner (cover)

Emma Turner : a life looking at birds

Author: James Parry & Jeremy Greenwood

Publisher: Norfolk & Norwich Naturalists' Society, Norwich

Publication Year: 2020

ISBN: 9781916253711

Binding: Softback

Page Count: 88pp

Price: £9.50

Emma Turner was a pioneer: one of the early bird ringers; one of the early bird photographers; one of the first 15 woman fellows of the Linnean Society (January 1905) and one of the first four female members of the British Ornithologists’ Union (May 1910). All this when women were considered very much to be second class citizens. It is noted in this book however that there is no indication that Emma Turner played any significant part, indeed any part, in the campaign for women’s rights which... read more

Peter Lack

Atlas of the Mammals of Great Britain and Norther Irelend (cover)

Atlas of the Mammals of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

Author: Derek Crawley, Frazer Coomber, Laura Kubasiewicz, Colin Harrower, Peter Evans, James Waggitt, Bethany Smith & Fiona Matthews

Publisher: Pelagic Publishing, Exeter

Publication Year: 2020

ISBN: 9781784272043

Binding: Hardback

Page Count: 197pp

Price: £35.00

This is the first national Mammal Atlas to be published since 1993 (Atlas of Mammals in Britain by Henry Arnold) and documents changes in recorded distribution between 1960 and 2016. It is aimed as an essential reference for ecological consultants wishing to know which species of protected mammals could potentially be affected by a development in a particular area.

It is a culmination of many years’ worth of work in compiling data from records made in a variety of ways; from... read more

Gillian Birtles

Moult and Ageing of European Passerines 2nd edition (cover)

Moult and Ageing of European Passerines

Author: Lukas Jenni & Raffael Winkler

Publisher: Helm, London

Publication Year: 2020

ISBN: 9781472941510

Binding: Hardback

Page Count: 323pp

Price: £95.00

Moult is a pivotal stage in the annual cycle of all birds and understanding the effect of moult strategy on plumage is an essential tool for ageing birds in the field for birdwatchers and ringers alike.

The first edition of Moult and Ageing of European Passerines was published in 1994 after 16 years of collecting data from 140,000 birds captured at ringing stations in Switzerland and elsewhere in Europe, as well as specimens held at several European natural history museums.... read more

Justin Walker

Is That A Bat (cover)

Is That a Bat? A Guide to Non-Bat Sounds Encountered during Bat Surveys

Author: Neil Middleton

Publisher: Pelagic Press, Exeter

Publication Year: 2020

ISBN: 9781784271978

Binding: Softback

Page Count: 288pp

Price: £35.00

There has been some ground-breaking development in bat detector technology in recent years, such as the Audiomoth and Echometer Touch, reviewed in BTO News, Spring 2018, which have enabled a much wider audience of non-bat specialists to become interested in bat sound identification. Newcomers to this are supported by a Facebook page ‘Bat Call Sound Analysis Workshop’ which was set up by Rich Flight for anyone to be able to receive comments from the wider bat community on sound... read more

Stuart Newson

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