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With this outstanding pocket guide to British birds, the much-respected team from WILDGuides have exceeded all expectations and carried the standard field guide to an entirely new level. Although like many birders I was never previously an enthusiast of photographic guides, Britain’s Birds: An Identification Guide to the Birds of Britain and Ireland published in 2016 established a new high standard for this type of presentation, employing as it did more than 3,200 stunning colour photographs, brilliantly presented on the page with a highly readable and very informative text. This Pocket Guide now builds on these solid foundations and in so doing goes much further in enhancing the appeal of this style of presentation. Needless to say, the photographs are absolutely superb in terms of quality and, equally important, their selection reflects an unerring judgement as to their ability to convey precisely the identification points most needed in the field. Indeed, it is not an exaggeration to say that the presentation of so much information on so many different photographs in such a small volume is a remarkable triumph for those responsible and they deserve to be warmly congratulated for their achievement. Although the text is relatively brief it is well written, comprehensive and systematic in content on the basis of what I suspect was a carefully composed format document to which the text writers adhered closely. Moreover, much of this abridgment is the result of careful editing, which has deleted much detail about obvious identification features that can be easily absorbed with a cursory glance at the photograph – a trick which too many field guides still fail to achieve with the result that the reader often ends up ploughing through over-lengthy and frankly unnecessary descriptions without gaining much new understanding. Certainly the combination of the text and photographs gives an extremely clear insight into those key identification features and distribution details that one does not always find in competitive efforts. At a practical level, this volume also has the great merit of fitting into most coat pockets – again, a feature not shared by all identification guides that purport to be easily portable in the field. In part this has been achieved by reducing the number of species covered with a focus on the 248 most likely to be seen in Britain and Ireland, although it illustrates a handful of ‘escapes’ that may be encountered free flying and 45 rarer species which turn up each year in small numbers. But in truth, this narrower species focus is not a weakness. As David Lindo notes in the Foreword, for many new to birding the inclusion of every possible confusion species can lead to much heartache and frustration, not to mention some wildly implausible records on the early life list. As he himself admits, ‘as a kid I was forever on the lookout for a Azure Tits, the eastern counterpart of the far more familiar Blue Tit, because they were featured and compared on the same page.’ But the size and coverage of the book should in no way lead us to the erroneous conclusion this is for beginners or casual bird walkers. Certainly we should not assume that because all of this is packed into a concise 272 pages it is not brimming with useful factual information which will be of interest and value to many experienced birders as well to the inexperienced novice. Comparison between the Pocket Guide and its WILDGuides predecessor also reveals some interesting innovations and improvements. One of the most obvious features of this book is that rather than simply abridging the original volume and using the previous plates, an extremely large number of new and highly attractive page layouts have been introduced. Above all, it is impossible not to be impressed by the vast number of new and better photographs of a large proportion of the species illustrated. The overview plates, providing direct comparison between the different species within a group are all extremely useful – for example, ‘Auks compared in-flight’ (pp.74-75) is just one of many comparative presentations of flight identification of major families and groups, and they are universally excellent in both style and content. At the beginning of each family section there is also an overview which gives general identification features and prioritises the key elements to be observed in the field. As one would expect, the introductory section on how to use the book, bird physiology, the systematic analysis of types of bird and habitats all provide information of value to the more experienced birder as well as a complete novice. Overall, therefore, I would strongly recommend this new volume to all those interested in birds from the casual garden observer through to far more experienced birders. For the novice and the less experienced birder and those just ‘interested in birds’ I would say that the decision to buy is a no-brainer. For those perhaps more experienced birders who object that they already own the much larger (and heavier) Britain’s Birds which does literally cover every species recorded in Britain up until 2016 I would argue that this new volume is lightweight, capable of easily being carried in a pocket, it covers all the birds likely to be seen in Britain and Ireland, and on top of all of that a retail price of £9.95 would appear to be outrageously good value for money for what is being delivered - if only for the new photographs and the innovative enhancements of the text. Conversely, if you don’t own the predecessor volume you really should add it to your library for the additional coverage it offers across the full British list and the sheer quality of what it contains. Professor Bob Self
I already had the larger WILDGuide British Birds handbook, but whilst it has proved a valuable asset back at 'base' (home, car, etc), it's far too cumbersome to carry around whilst actually birdwatching. Most of the time, I use the Collins app, which has proved invaluable (especially the songs and calls!), but I couldn't resist adding this to the collection. I'm glad I did - in many ways it's more convenient and easier to use than the app, in particular when trying to compare species or choose from a selection - flicking backwards and forwards between pages, or through the way the authors have laid comparative pages out. A huge amount of thought has gone into what is most useful in the field. The two together are now my standard combination, with the app mainly used for sound and rarer species and the book for visual info.
This book has been widely, and deservedly, praised, but I'd just like to put in a word for the Kindle version. Books with illustrations are often a severe disappointment on a Kindle, with very low resolution photographs, graphs etc, but this (and other titles I have seen in the WILDguides series) is an exact replica of the printed book. I'm not sure how it's done, and why it isn't done for other illustrated books, but the result is stunningly good on my iPad Pro. It also makes a brilliant field guide on my phone, and if need be the pages can be expanded without any loss of quality. Highly recommended, and kudos to the publishers!
This is a very useful guide to birdlife in the UK. There are different sections for different types of birds; seabirds, garden birds, water birds and so on, all beautifully illustrated to show you the markings at different ages of maturity, as well as in flight.
I have developed an interest in birds and bird photography during lockdown, and this book is the perfect way for me to learn and to be able to identify the birds that I am watching and photographing
Having loved the 'big version's I was made up when I saw this pocket sized version as the only drawback of the larger format was that you just couldn't carry it with you. There are some other useful additions for in the field e.g. comparisons and habitat groupings. Given that its major advantage is its portable size it's perhaps a bit fussy to say but a recent experience of looking for Yellow-browed Warbler in the field was slightly disappointed with the picture being a little small. This is trying to find fault really of something which is a really fantastic book.
Great little book for a beginner bird watcher and it does fit in a pocket! I can see that the hinge/spine of the book may get damage through use, but if I am careful, it will last several years. I got this as I saw it advertised and recommended in an old RSPB magazine.
This book for me is perfect, very good images and enough information to identify every bird you see, but for me it is the size, a perfect fit for a pocket, because a lot of the guides are too big for any pocket, this book goes everywhere with me.
This book is excellent for identifying British garden birds. It is very well illustrated and that is why it is a lot easier to use then some more basic books. I have downloaded this book to my ipad which allows me to blow up the pictures.