First of all, this covers 631 species accepted into the British & Irish lists by the end of 2019. It is a monumental book of 576 pages, so it would be a little weighty to carry around in the field- hopefully the e book will follow like the other excellent WILDguides.
I did not buy the first edition but having seen previews of this one, I decided to splash out as I am a fan of photoguides if they are done right. Perhaps "splashing out" is not the right expression, as for £20, this is a steal, especially if you can get it cheaper like I did. The modern preference for photo montages are very educational, but can suffer from images that are too small. There is no artwork here just incredible photographs that show off all of the species identification features in a positive way.
However, do we really need another ID guide for Britain's birds as there are so many terrific guides and apps available? Personally, I don't think so but this book takes ID to another level with a bewildering array of photographs taken from every angle, almost every conceivable plumage that are brilliantly laid out on the page so most species are given the ultimate treatment within the confines of the page so it's easy to digest in conjunction with the accompanying text and pointer boxes- a very important consideration that a lot of guides simply do not address.
I spent about an hour when the book arrived, just casually browsing through, so this review is not hugely extensive. Each common or scarce species is given amp!e coverage, even extreme rarities like Green Warbler and Masked Shrike have images. The distribution maps are better than most guides, but still a little ambiguous -you simply can't accurately map every bird within a 3 x 1 inch space. 10 pages devoted to gulls before you get to the actual species accounts is wonderfully generic, a whole page of flying larks: three pages of skuas in flight and one page of wren races are my favourites so far. A little stingy on the Bean geese though. Just one page? Well, in spite of my minor gribbles, this is a fantastic book for amateur and experienced birders alike and even though I have been birding for almost 50 years, I'm glad I bought it as, like most birders, I'm sure that I will learn from it. Besides, it's fabulous to look at!
However, I wouldn't like to have this book as my first reference if I were just starting birding today. There is just too much info here that would confuse the novice. This is really not a book for beginners, the simpler RSPB or BTO books are excellent and this book should be one to gravitate within the identification process. However, this book is a landmark in British Bird literature as much as the Collins guide and is I cannot recommend it to every birder highly enough.
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