BRITAIN’S BIRDS: AN IDENTIFICATION GUIDE TO THE BIRDS OF BRITAIN AND IRELAND
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