How fitting in A'level results week a book comes to the fore that all students of birdwatching will want to advance their own education.
The Advanced Bird ID Guide is the kind of work that every teacher of every subject wished existed for their own particular disciplines.
So groundbreaking is it in both concept and also ease of use that it is bound to become one of the classic works in birdwatching literature, literature being the operative word.
Surprisingly, for a book stretching to 304 sumptious, fact-filled pages, there are only four photographs and ten line drawings! A bird book without illustrations, what use is that, I can hear people mumbling?
Dutch author Nils Van Duivendijk's iconoclastic approach to the art - or should that be the science of birding - has given birth to a guide that is bound to take up pocket room or fill a backpack on countless future birding adventures.
Rather than use illustrations to pick out a bird's field marks - those discernible clues that help a birdwatcher make a positive identification - the author has spelt out the key features of every European species in easy to absorb and understand bullet points.
In fact, Nils has produced more bullet points than an SAS operation. In total, he has covered all 1,300 species and subspecies found in the Western Palearctic, the wildlife region that covers Britain, Europe, North Africa and the Middle East.
Let me explain how it works. We all think we know what a blue tit looks like, but Nils breaks down this easily identified common garden bird into its core components:
Ã?Â· Well-patterned head with blue crown, long-eyestripe, long supercilium and white ear-coverts and cheeks;
Ã?Â· One wing bar; pale tips to tertials;
Ã?Â· Blue tail without white sides;
Ã?Â· Dull yellow underparts...
And so on... There are plenty more facts to help identify young birds and points to help separate the sexes. What's more, there are details of five other forms of blue tit found in the remote parts of the Canary Islands archipelago, where the species is in a state of evolutionary flux.
And that's just the blue tit. Nils's treatment of difficult to identify species such as some of the larger gulls reads like a medical manual. That said, it's written in such clear, precise languatge that separating yellow-legged, Caspian and North American herring gulls looks positively fun.
For those that like birding minutiae and also building their lists, this work is essential reading. It also has important role in conservation, too.
Appreciating the significances of small, say a British willow tit from the European form, will hopefully encouraged more concerted efforts to preserve these threatened creatures in an age when numbers of so many species and subspecies are crashing.
Thankfully, Nils has provided a priceless tool in helping us point out the subtleties between plumage types. It is for birders everywhere to use to enjoy their birds and then come together for their conservation.
...Sunday Express, August, 2010.
If you're serious about your birding...then this is going to be pretty essential
...Bird watching magazine, August, 2010.
it covers some 1,300 species and sub-species, and it's hard to imagine more detail and data squeezed into such a well-organised,compact space....a one-stop shop for bullet points ID features from essential to quirky. it's a must-have....British Birds magazine, November, 2010
Book of The Month: This innovitive guide is an essential purchase for any serious birder. with no plates or illustrations, its unique selling point is that it accuratly describes every key character of every key plumage of all 1,000 species that have occured in the Western Palearctic. The level of detail is unprecedented for a book its size, and it is thus an essential guide for all birders, enabeling them to take this information into the field...Birdwatch magazine, February, 2011.
Birdwatch Book of the Year, 2010: Winner Advanced Bird ID Guide: the western Palearctic. It's hard to concive that an identification guide without illustrations would draw so many plaudits, but the Advanced Bird ID Guide: the Western pelearctic has done just that. It is an essential companion for everyone who wants to advance their ability to identify birds to the next level - which is surely the great majority of birders. congratulations to the author Nils van Duivendijk, for compiling such a useful manual, and to the UP publisher New Holland for bringing it to an English-speaking audience. .....Birdwatch magazine, February, 2011show more
by mat archer