Bird Watching (UK) - - Gear -

Rob Hume, Robert Still, Andy Swash, Hugh Har­rop and David Ti­pling Wildguides/prince­ton, SB, £19.95, BW Book­shop £16.95 (quote BW-096)

It’s not of­ten a field guide comes along that can ac­cu­rately be de­scribed as a game-changer, but this might just be one. It cov­ers all the birds of Bri­tain and Ire­land – the va­grants and rar­i­ties as well as the com­moner species, with more than 3,200 pho­tos used to present the main ID fea­tures of each. In many cases, this uses the same sort of mon­tage tech­nique seen in the Cross­ley guides, but it’s done very ef­fec­tively and with con­sid­er­able subtlety. It’s as­ton­ish­ingly com­pre­hen­sive, with all the plumages that you’re likely to see shown clearly. If, for ex­am­ple, you’ve pre­vi­ously shied away from try­ing to work out the in­tri­ca­cies of gull moults, then this is a book that leaves you no more ex­cuses. The lay­out’s also gen­er­ally ex­cel­lent, al­low­ing you to eas­ily com­pare sim­i­lar-look­ing species, and as well as the in­di­vid­ual species ac­counts, there are thor­ough in­tro­duc­tions to each bird fam­ily, plus spreads fo­cus­ing on, for ex­am­ple, flight shots. The species ac­counts are very con­cise but con­tain ev­ery­thing you need, with con­ser­va­tion sta­tus and map/dis­tri­bu­tion sta­tus clearly shown. The maps them­selves are large enough to be use­ful, and are very up to date.

One small gripe is that just oc­ca­sion­ally, the pages get a bit too busy and clut­tered for their own good, and you strug­gle to find ex­actly what you need, but that’s rare, and any­way, prob­a­bly only the re­sult of pack­ing so much in­for­ma­tion into a pack­age that could still be com­fort­ably stuffed into a coat pocket. With that in mind, it has a sturdy wipe-clean cover, so should stand up to some rough treat­ment. Some bird­ers might still pre­fer to have a guide us­ing art­work to hand, but even if that’s you, this com­ple­ments it su­perbly, of­fer­ing un­ri­valled cov­er­age of Bri­tish birds. It’s an ab­so­lute must. Matt Mer­ritt

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