Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Favourite Bird Books

I had a brilliant day's birding today along the coast at Musselburgh. I saw loads of birds including four lifers: snow buntings, velvet scoters, a purple sandpiper and a gadwall.

I write about birds a lot on this blog and I write about books a lot, but so far I've never written about bird identification guides! So here are my favourites:

1) Collins Wild Guide Birds - this is a basic, pocket sized guide to British birds. Each species has a page to itself with a photo and a couple of drawings, a brief description and some important facts, such as size and flight pattern. There is a little grid showing which months the bird is in the UK and a distribution map. This is the book I carry with me when I'm out birding or leading a birdwatching class.

2) Birds of Europe by Lars Jonsson, published by Helm. This is a big thick book that covers the birds of Europe. It's beautifully illustrated and contains a good amount of information on each species. There's a good introduction about topics such as feathers, behaviour and migration. It's a great reference book but can be quite confusing (or envy inspiring) as there are many birds here that never (or only very rarely) come to the UK.

3) Identifying Birds by Behaviour by Dominic Couzens published by Collins. This is a fascinating book covering interesting behaviour in British and European birds, giving detailed comparisons between similar species. It is beautifully illustrated and very interesting. Some of the descriptions are delightful, such as the common gull walking with 'dainty, free moving footsteps'.

4) The MacMillan Field Guide to Bird Identification by Alan Harris, Laurel Tucker and Keith Vinicombe. This is similar to 3 above except there is more text and fewer illustrations. It goes into a lot of detail, which can be overwhelming but is very useful and interesting!

Do you have a favourite bird guide?

This post doesn't really quality as a book review! But you can read my latest review for Brighton Blogger's Reading Challenge 2012 over on Over Forty Shades here.

I'm delighted to have a guest post about Vegetarian Food in Scotland here.

As ever, text in red contains hyperlinks that take you to other webpages where you can find out more.


Lucy said...

Oh this is a subject very dear to me! The first serious bird book I ever had, probably at about 12, was the Tory-Peterson/Mountfort/Hollom Collins Field Guide and for me there has never really been any other. I quite recently got the latest edition of the Lars Svensson Collins Bird Guide and though it's beautiful and the information is great and extensive, the format of the Field Guide, with plates in the middle, text (including translations into all the European languages, so I have fairly often been able to silence French acquaintances with the fact that it is NOT and epervier but a faucon crecerelle, for example...) on either side, and maps at the back, though it might seem counter-intuitive, is now the only way I can really look up birds! I'm on my second copy now.

Oddly, a book I found very interesting from about the same time was a big old hardback of 'Thorburn's Birds', with text by James Fisher. The paintings were beautiful and romantic, but also very accurate, and the information, with breeding orders etc, is now out of date but was very interesting.

Tom's son some years ago gave us a book with CDs of bird songs and calls, Collins again, which is helpful.

I like the sound of your 'Birds by Behaviour' very much.

Fabulous post, brings out my (barely) inner anorak! Hope you get a good response, I'll be interested to see what other people say...

eileeninmd said...

It sounds like you had a great birding day. Congrats on all your new lifers. I would love to see the Snow Buntings up close, my only sighting of them was flying by me. I need to see what a velvet scoter looks like, sounds pretty. I have seen the purple sandpipers and the gadwalls. I usually use National Wildlife Federation guide to North American birds. It is my favorite because it includes actual photos, which I think helps a lot with ids. Great post!

RG said...

The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Birds - Western edition. Dog-eared and all!

I think a birding guide is like a seed catalogue in late January!

bunnits said...

I'm with RG on that one for us folks here in the US.

EG CameraGirl said...

I use several bird guides because I often find one is not enough to pin the name of the bird down exactly: Birds of North America, Ontario Birds, Wetland Birds and Petersen's Eastern Birds.

James said...

I love Sibley's guides to North American birds. Here in central Texas the western and eastern regions overlap slightly so I often lug around the full version rather than just the eastern version.

It's interesting how some species can be so common in one place and exotic in another. The little pond a block from my house must have 70 gadwall of it right now. I didn't know they werent just a NA species.