When I was first shown a copy of Richard Crossley's ID Guide to Eastern Birds (that's American birds of course) I was both stunned and speechless. Richard had certainly thought well outside the box in putting that award winning volume together. Nevertheless it was different. For a start the author has used photographs set against a background of the sort of habitat you are likely to see them in and encompassed as many attitudes and poses that he can of any given species. He has also arranged the species in a different order which is a challenge for many of us who are more traditional.
|The Barn Owl plate with Cley windmill in the background|
Well now Englishman Richard has brought his successful format to the British Isles. The book only covers 300 species but concentrates on those you are most likely to see if you go about your birding on this side of the Atlantic. The plates are generally fantastic and the background really stimulating. If you look carefully you may be able to identify some of them. It must be a tricky business taking so many individual images and collating them to make up a meaningful scene. Having said that the plates have been achieved quite well only one or two images look a bit wooden or maybe out of place. One or two look a bit like the magnificent displays one used to see in the better natural history museums. They do the job very well giving the reader an opportunity to look at a species in all its plumage as well as in flight. One plate does amuse me no end. Red-throated Pipit is placed against a background of a village cricket match with a plethora of the birds feeding on the edge. As a keen cricketer until old age took over I would loved to have played on this ground as I have still never seen Red-throated Pipit in the UK.
The introduction deals with using the book and a section on how to be a better birder including the old fashioned but still essential practise of taking field notes when observing birds. Richard and his co-author fellow Englishman Dominic Couzens continue throughout the volume to make life as easy as possible to identify the different species of birds. The various sections are very innovative and include Swimming Waterbirds, Flying Waterbirds, Walking Waterbirds, Upland Gamebirds, Raptors, Miscellaneous Larger Landbirds and Songbirds. A weird decision you might think but it works.
Having said this with the new BTO Atlas just a month away it will not affect the use of this enterprising and barrier breaking book. If you are just starting out birding you will love it and in my opinion if you have been birding for a while you will still find it very useful. At £16.95 this is a snip. I am looking forward to using mine in the field.
The Crossley ID Guide Britain & Ireland
Richard Crossley & Dominic Couzens
304 pages, 310 colour plates and 250 distribution maps