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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.

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

The Biology of Moult in Birds (cover)

The Biology of Moult in Birds

Author: Lukas Jenni & Raffael Winkler

Publisher: Helm, London

Publication Year: 2020

ISBN: 9781472977229

Binding: Hardback

Page Count: 320pp

Price: £55.00

Moult is a fascinating basic life history event in birds which, despite its major impact on their life cycle, is relatively poorly understood and even neglected. This is a companion to the excellent Moult and Ageing of European Passerines (secodnd edition, 2020) by the same authors, previously reviewed in BTO News 335. It started life as a revision of the short summary in the introductory chapters of the Moult and Ageing of European Passerines (first edition, 1994... read more

Hugh Hanmer

Uplands and Birds (cover)

Uplands and Birds

Author: Ian Newton

Publisher: William Collins, London

Publication Year: 2020

ISBN: 9780008298524

Binding: Softback

Page Count: 606pp

Price: £35.00

Once again, Ian Newton has produced another brilliant book. As always, it is packed with facts and ideas presented in a clear and easy style that both grips one’s interest and deepens one’s understanding.

The uplands are often thought of as more natural or unspoilt than the lowland landscapes of Britain, their state determined largely by their topography, geology and climate. But Newton shows how today’s upland landscapes have been created by human activities over thousands of years... read more

Jeremy Greenwood

Pembrokeshire (cover)


Author: Jonathan Mullard

Publisher: William Collins, London

Publication Year: 2020

ISBN: 9780008112820

Binding: Softback

Page Count: 528pp

Price: £35.00

Like the author, I too spent many a childhood holiday in Pembrokeshire. In those days the five hour drive from the mountains of Snowdonia to the Mediterranean-like coast of Pembrokeshire was well worth it, especially the boat trips to Caldey to see my first Grey Seals. Now in later life I visit Pembrokeshire again mainly to the coast and Islands for the bird life - little realising what other treasures the county has to offer. I am fortunate in having a number of friends in the area who... read more

Kelvin Jones

The Kestrel (cover)

The Kestrel: Ecology, Behaviour and Conservation of an Open-land Predator

Author: David Costantini & Giacomo Dell'Omo

Publisher: Cambridge University Press, Cambridge

Publication Year: 2020

ISBN: 9781108470629

Binding: Hardback

Page Count: 224pp

Price: £49.99

The Kestrel is probably not a book for those with a passing interest in kestrels, but would be a useful addition to the library of anyone who has a keen research interest in this widespread but declining falcon. The book, published by Cambridge University Press, looks at some of the not-inconsiderable volume of research that has been published on kestrels over the past 30 years in particular, since the publication of the Poyser monograph of the same title by Andrew Village in 1990.... read more

Peadar O’Connell

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

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