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Madeira (cover)

Publisher: Crossbill Guides Foundation, Arnhem

Publication Year: 2019

Binding: Softback

Page Count: 223

ISBN Number: 9789491648175

Price: £ 28.95

Madeira, Portugal

To those familiar with Crossbill Guides, the appealing and accessible layout of the Madeira edition will come as no surprise. It is packed with information that is clearly presented, and complimented with well-chosen and often eye-catching images of the island’s scenery and wildlife. Although it is nearly 20 years since my wife and I visited Madeira on our honeymoon, this guide instantly transported me back to vertiginous levada walks, lush valleys, a seabird-filled ferry crossing to Porto Santo and some memorable observations of the endemic birds.

Following an introduction, the book is divided into four main chapters: landscape, flora and fauna, practical part, and tourist information and observation tips. The ‘Landscape’ section provides an interesting overview of the geology, climate, evolution, habitats and history of the Madeiran archipelago. ‘Flora and Fauna’ contains subsections on flowers, mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians, and insects and other invertebrates. There is certainly plenty of information for the interested visitor, though specialists in any particular group or groups will want additional literature to assist with identification. Each subsection has a useful reference box at the beginning, listing the best routes for finding members of that group, particularly the endemics.

Sixteen routes, fourteen additional sites and six excursions are covered within the ‘Practical Part’. Each route has a summary box-out containing the main habitats, selected species and the time it takes to complete at a gentle pace. There is a numbered map and associated commentary for each route, which seem to strike a good balance between giving directions and providing enough background information about the key features of the route. It was good to see biological recording being referenced in the additional sites under the seawatching hotspot of Porto Moniz, via mention of Trektellen, a Dutch website that hosts counts of passing seabirds.

‘Tourist information and observation tips’ covers many of the logistical elements of planning a trip to Madeira. It was encouraging to find an 11-point ecotourism code of conduct within this section, if somewhat surprising that no mention was made of offsetting the carbon of a flight to Madeira. The observation tips are a nice touch, giving specific advice about exploring the laurel forest, watching seabirds, and swimming and snorkelling.

The Crossbill Guides series enjoys a very strong reputation and the Madeira edition definitely lives up to it, making it a must-have for any naturalist planning a trip to the archipelago.

Book reviewed by Nick Moran

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