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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.

Birds of East Africa (cover)

Birds of East Africa: Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi

Author: Terry Stevenson & John Fanshawe; Brian E Small & John Gale (Illustrators)

Publisher: Helm, London

Publication Year: 2020

ISBN: 9781408157367

Binding: Softback

Page Count: 640pp

Price: £35.00

This is a second edition of a field guide which appeared in 2002. Superficially it looks like many other second editions but a closer look shows that this is a major revamp and updating. It covers all of Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi and at least mentions all the species which have occurred in these countries with almost all of them illustrated. The guide covers 1,448 species which is an increase of 60 on the first edition and they are covered on 289 plates (286 previously). A... read more

Peter Lack

Flight Identification of European Passerines (cover)

Flight Identification of European Passerines and Select Landbirds: an Illustrated and Photographic Guide

Author: Tomasz Cofta, photographs by Michal Skakuj

Publisher: Princeton University Press, Princeton & Oxford

Publication Year: 2021

ISBN: 9780691177571

Binding: Softback

Page Count: 496pp

Price: £38.00

Vis-migging, the art of watching, identifying and recording all of the birds seen flying through and over a particular watchpoint is better known as recording visible migration. The ability to accurately identify what often amount to little more than smallish dots is something that can only be gained by spending time vis-migging – lots and lots of time, learning the different flight patterns of the different families and the individual species. There is a short-cut to gaining the huge amount... read more

Paul Stancliffe

All the Birds of the World (cover)

All the Birds of the World

Author: Josep del Hoyo (editor)

Publisher: Lynx Edicions, Barcelona

Publication Year: 2020

ISBN: 9788416728374

Binding: Hardback

Page Count: 968pp

Price: £85.00

Lynx have had a long-term project to produce an exhaustive guide to the birds of the world. It started out with the 17 volumes of the Handbook of the Birds of the World (1992-2013) which has family and species accounts for all birds. This was followed by the two volumes of the Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World (2014-16). They have now published the third and final stage of this avian odyssey with this current book.

The publishers state that the book’s... read more

Steve Hunter

Fragile: Birds Eggs and Habitats (cover)

Fragile: Birds, Eggs and Habitats

Author: Colin Prior

Publisher: Merrell Publishers, London

Publication Year: 2020

ISBN: 9781858946887

Binding: Hardback

Page Count: 240pp

Price: £40.00

The acclaimed Scottish photographer Colin Prior is more usually associated with stunningly evocative panoramic landscapes of his homeland and further afield, but for his latest project the artist has returned to one of his first loves, birds; a passion nurtured while growing up on the edge of a Glasgow suburb. Like many however, Colin is acutely aware of the staggering decline of many species and the loss of the habitats they depend upon. Fragile is both inspired by and acts as a metaphor... read more

Justin Walker

My Birding Life (cover)

My Birding Life

Author: Moss Taylor

Publisher: Wren Publishing, Sheringham

Publication Year: 2020

ISBN: 9780954254582

Binding: Softback

Page Count: 189pp

Price: £20.00

Ask any birder or naturalist that lives in Norfolk if they know the name Moss Taylor and invariably, they will say "yes", and I suspect the majority will have met him too, and of these many know him as a friend. He is a man, on first meeting, you are unlikely to forget!

Moss has been a keen birder since 1953 and a Norfolk resident from 1969 to the present day. He has also been a qualified ringer for over 50 years, only recently surrendering his permit after some of the most... read more

Jeff Baker

Lincolnshire Bird Atlas (cover)

Lincolnshire Bird Atlas 1980-1999

Author: Lincolnshire Bird Club

Publisher: Lincolnshire Bird Club

Publication Year: 2020

ISBN: 9781716802638

Binding: Hardback

Page Count: 180pp

Price: £30.00

Published soon after the series of local atlases that coincided with Bird Atlas 2007–11, you might think the Lincolnshire Bird Atlas would span a similar period. You might expect a lavishly illustrated atlas with up to date distribution maps. You’d be wrong on both counts because this is a very different atlas, one from a different era. An atlas that nearly never was.

There’s a temptation with any atlas to jump straight to the maps but I always recommend readers... read more

Simon Gillings

Rebirding (cover)

Rebirding: Restoring Britain's Birds

Author: Benedict Macdonald

Publisher: Pelagic Publishing, Exeter

Publication Year: 2019

ISBN: 9781784272197

Binding: Softback

Page Count: 287pp

Price: £9.99

One of the few personal joys of these recent challenging months is that I’ve had the time to read many nature books. Some of which have been thrilling reads, and today I thought I would share my thoughts on one of the most revolutionary nature publications in recent times, Rebirding.

Rebirding  explores how humans have shaped British ecosystems since the end of the last ice age, and how recent farming methods have led to impoverished ecosystems and serious declines... read more

Gethin Jenkins-Jones

Britain's Habitats 2 (cover)

Britain's Habitats: a Field Guide to the Wildlife Habitats of Great Britain and Ireland

Author: Sophie Lake, Durwyn Liley, Robert Still & Andy Swash

Publisher: Princeton University Press, Princeton & Oxford

Publication Year: 2020

ISBN: 9780691203591

Binding: Softback

Page Count: 416pp

Price: £25.00

To understand the distribution of our birds it very much helps if we know the preferred habitats of each species. For example, Knot winter on mudflats, Dartford Warblers live on lowland heaths and Dotterel nest on mountain tops. But habitats are messy things. We all have an idea of what we mean by a woodland, but how many types of woodland are there, and how do they differ? This book will help you get at the details, and details can prove to be important.

This authoritative guide... read more

Andy Musgrove

A Bird A Day (cover)

A Bird a Day

Author: Dominic Couzens

Publisher: Batsford, London

Publication Year: 2020

ISBN: 9781849945868

Binding: Hardback

Page Count: 368pp

Price: £20.00

This is a beautifully illustrated and very enjoyable book by well-known author and naturalist Dominic Couzens. The title says it all - the book goes through a calendar year showcasing 366 (it accounts for a Leap Year) species of birds from all across the world representing a dazzling array of birds from a similar range of habitats.

Birds are featured at a relevant time of year - Snowy Owls are discussed in the depths of January, perhaps more familiar species like Great-crested Grebes... read more

Steve Willis

Farming With Nature (cover)

Farming with Nature: Promoting Biodiversity Across Europe Through Partridge Conservation

Author: Jen Brewin, Francis Buner & Julie Ewald

Publisher: Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust, Fordingbridge

Publication Year: 2020

ISBN: 9781901369380

Binding: Softback

Page Count: 99pp

Price: £12.00

This book sets out an approach for successfully combining a viable farming business with increasing biodiversity and other public goods. It draws on scientific research and demonstration projects from across Europe and outlines habitat measures designed to benefit the Grey Partridge.

The reason the Grey Partridge is the focus of this book is because it is an indicator species for a healthy farmed habitat. As such, there are several sections about other species that will benefit from... read more

Gillian Birtles

Raptor Prey Remains (cover)

Raptor Prey Remains: A Guide to Identifying What’s Been Eaten by a Bird of Prey

Author: Ed Drewitt

Publisher: Pelagic Publishing, Exeter

Publication Year: 2020

ISBN: 9781784272074

Binding: Softback

Page Count: 256pp

Price: £24.99

Upon receiving this book, I showed it to my non-birding partner, who saw the front cover and described it as “traumatic”. This is not a book for the squeamish, as the graphic front cover featuring the final moments of a Starling’s life makes abundantly clear. Rather, this is a book that may appeal to raptor workers or other ecologists as a reference tool in the exciting whodunnit mysteries that prey remains present to those of us with a fascination for such things.

Much of this book... read more

Anthony Wetherhill

Hats: A Very UNnatural History (cover)

Hats: a Very UNnatural History

Author: Malcolm Smith

Publisher: Michigan State University Press, Michigan

Publication Year: 2020

ISBN: 9781611863475

Binding: Hardback

Page Count: 171pp

Price: £39.99

The vivid plumage used on the hat on the cover of this book is a reminder of the main reason birds are featured in a book on hats. Covering the history of hats from their earliest evidence at the end of the Stone Age through the peak of the fur and feather trade to modern hat styles, this book cleverly introduces us to the consequences of extravagant tastes in materials and fashions. I picked up this book intrigued as to what facts I might glean from its pages and found myself both... read more

Katharine Bowgen

Birds: An Anthology (cover)

Birds: An Anthology

Author: Jaqueline Mitchell

Publisher: Bodleian Library Publishing, Oxford

Publication Year: 2020

ISBN: 9781851245291

Binding: Hardback

Page Count: 272pp

Price: £16.99

Judging the selection of material for an anthology is pointless - each is as individual as a Nightingale's song, shaped by the taste and experience of the compiler. However, any anthology should aspire to serendipity and digestibility, to inform and inspire, and be attractive enough to make you want to dip in. The material selected for this book draws on the Bodleian's extensive archives and ranges from Ovid to Helen Macdonald and Simon Barnes, though most comes from the 16th to early 20th... read more

Rob Robinson

The Ring Ouzel (cover)

The Ring Ouzel: a View from the North York Moors

Author: Vic Fairbrother & Ken Hutchinson; Jonathan Pomroy (Illustrator), Chris Rollie (Fwd)

Publisher: Whittles Publishing, Dunbeath

Publication Year: 2020

ISBN: 9781849954587

Binding: Softback

Page Count: 288pp

Price: £21.95

In my career as a field ornithologist, I would rate one of the best projects I ever worked on as the season I spent assisting on the long-running Ring Ouzel (Turdus torquatus) monitoring project at Glen Clunie in Aberdeenshire. That project initiated my passion for the mountain blackbird and having the opportunity to spend hours among the heather and crags peering into the intricacies of Ring Ouzel life taught me so much about interpreting the behaviour of individual birds. From... read more

Anthony Wetherhill

Woodland Flowers (cover)

Woodland Flowers: Colourful Past, Uncertain Future

Author: Keith Kirby

Publisher: Bloomsbury, London

Publication Year: 2020

ISBN: 9781472949073

Binding: Hardback

Page Count: 400pp

Price: £35.00

This is a book for anyone curious about the lives of our woodland plants, and the processes and pressures that affect them. Keith Kirby’s career as a woodland ecologist gave him vast experience of woods and their conservation throughout Britain. This is the eighth title in the British Wildlife Collection series that already has a reputation for finely produced, informative, readable books. Keith Kirby’s book is a thought provoking, personal and richly illustrated contribution to it.

... read more

Rob Fuller

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