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The Birds of Wales (cover)

Publisher: Liverpool University Press

Publication Year: 2021

Binding: Hardback

Page Count: 600

ISBN Number: 9781800859722

Price: £ 45.00

The Birds of Wales/Adar Cymru

This impressive tome from the Welsh Ornithological Society is the third full avifauna for Wales, following 1994’s original Birds in Wales (Lovegrove, Williams & Williams) and a subsequent update volume, Birds in Wales 1992-2000 (Green). The new volume is the first to include data from the 21st century, during which rapid changes in the population status and distributions of many species have occurred, making it a particularly valuable addition to the ornithological literature.

The Birds of Wales was a big team effort: edited by an elite team of five including two BTO Regional Representatives, and with a further 46 authors (including BTO staff and volunteers) contributing species accounts. This is to the clear benefit of the book, authors having had the ability to write about their species of expertise, as well as the time to write well-researched and detailed accounts for every species. It is beautifully illustrated with a scattering of photographs generously donated by a number of photographers: most, but not all, resident breeding and wintering species are represented. Some of the atlases on my shelves compromise on quality in order to include a photograph of every species, but for this volume, the editors appear to have erred on the side of including only high-quality images.

The book itself is a premium hardback publication from Liverpool University Press, leaving nothing to be desired in terms of design, print, or production quality. Carrying it into the field would be brave, but it would be the perfect addition to (or even replacement for!) a coffee table. The text is in English, but speakers of Cymraeg will hopefully appreciate the inclusion of a Welsh name for each species alongside its English and binomial monikers (all summarised and accessible through an additional Welsh-language species index).

Although it largely follows the formula of an atlas, it’s important to realise that this is not an atlas. Whilst the formulaic consistency of presentation from species to species that can be found in atlases is often reassuring (and facilitates between-species comparison), freedom from this approach has allowed the authors and editors of The Birds of Wales the flexibility to pick and choose which graphs are of most interest on a species-by-species basis. For example, we are shown how Spotted Flycatcher (Gwybedog Mannog) counts vary throughout the year, giving a sense of the timing of their migration, but given a map of Pied Flycatcher (Gwybedog Brith) ringing recoveries, illustrating their migration pathways from Welsh breeding populations down to Africa. Even species now absent from Wales except as vagrants are given fair treatment; for example, a fascinating map in the Nightingale (Eos) entry illustrates the distribution of place-names containing “Eos” in Wales - like beavers and cranes, our cultural heritage suggests that this species may once have been more widespread in Wales.

Writing as a relative newcomer to the BTO’s Cymru office, this is already proving to be an invaluable reference for information on species ecology and demography in Wales, with well-thumbed pages on Cormorant (Mulfran), Goosander (Hwyaden Ddanheddog), White-fronted Goose (Gŵydd Dalcenwen), and of course Curlew (Gylfinir) in particular! It will be of use and interest to those based elsewhere in the UK and abroad, but Welsh-based birders and ornithologists should not be without a copy.

Book reviewed by Callum Macgregor

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