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Where to Watch Birds in Somerset, Gloucestershire & Wiltshire (cover)

Publisher: Christopher Helm, London

Publication Year: 2019

Binding: Softback

Page Count: 320

ISBN Number: 9781472912381

Price: £ 25.00

Where to Watch Birds in Somerset, Gloucestershire and Wiltshire

Many readers will be familiar with the Helm “where to watch birds in…” series. This, the latest addition, covers a varied region, with habitats including the extensive woodland of the Forest of Dean, large parts of the Severn Estuary, Salisbury Plain, the Cotswold scarp and the Somerset Levels. It should be welcomed for several reasons. First, it is by Ken Hall, who, with John Govett, wrote the first three editions and is clearly well placed to update the work. Second, there have been significant habitat changes (for the better!) in some localities, notably the creation of much more bird-rich habitat on the Somerset Levels and the massive changes at Steart Marshes and Bridgwater Bay. Finally, each of the three counties in the book’s title has published a major new county atlas/avifauna since the third edition, so the reference material available to the author was up to date and comprehensive.

Ken Hall has made the most of these opportunities and the result is an excellent book. The information about which species to expect at each site is extensive and current and the author manages the reader’s expectations well; at a site well known to the reviewer he writes “...this area continues to hold one or two pairs of Nightingales… although one wonders how long this isolated population can survive.” Sure enough, this year (2019) they seem to be no longer present. The numerous maps show all the important detail and the sections on “access” are outstanding and (as far as this reviewer can judge) entirely accurate; this is one of the best reasons for owning these local guides. The list of organisations in the appendix could be more complete; for example there is no mention of the Cheltenham Bird Club nor of the local Naturalists’ Societies.

This much-updated edition will be invaluable to birders visiting the area, and indeed to locals too.

Book reviewed by Gordon Kirk

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