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Monday, October 17, 2011

Review #7

#6 Shorebirds an Identification Guide by Peter Hayman, John Marchant and Tony Prater
This superb guide is filled with hundreds and hundreds (and more hundreds; in all there are over 1,600 paintings) of amazing paintings showing birds in every pose imaginable.

The guide starts off with a short and simple species table of contents giving page numbers to all 214 species illustrated in the guide. It makes it much more simple to find a bird than with the index in the back.

Flipping forward a few more pages you come to a foreword by the great master himself, Roger Tory Peterson!

The introduction is a detailed set of pages discussing the different shorebird families, shorebird topography and a page on measuring dead birds. Plus there is a page or two on studying and IDing birds.

You continue turning the pages and leaving behind the sketches of dead shorebirds being measured you come across the first paintings. This plate shows in detail African, Madagascar and Lesser Jacanas, big footed, colorful shorebirds inhabiting the wetlands of Africa. Each bird is shown in adult and juvenile plumages as well as in flight. No other guide I have found shows birds in so many positions and plumages! This is an incredibly useful resource.

These paintings are placed, as in most guides, on the right hand page (if, as I am, you're looking at the book the right way up). Turning your attention to the opposite page you will find English and scientific names and below these are the species descriptions of different plumages.

Each painting of a bird, instead of being given a name is instead given a number which matches up to the number placed next to the birds name in the text. Next to each number is a letter which matches up to a plumage description. And yes this is almost as confusing as it sounds! But it does help in species comparisons. Let me note that the species are not always numbered in order. Ruddy Turnstones are #154, Black Turnstones are #155 and, strangely, Surfbirds are #186 and they are all grouped on the same page.

The range maps are detailed affairs as even birds with the smallest of ranges have there own maps. I do wish though that they would point out more clearly where the birds with such small ranges dwell - it took me ages to find the little yellow dot on an island in the Chatham archipelago which is the home of the endangered Shore Plover. Its dot was practically invisible in my 1986 edition. This plover now lives on a few more islands in the archipelago as its range has recently grown.

These identification pages continue on for another 275 pages all filled with succulent range maps and delicious close ups of feathers, tails and bills. This is a great section and one which I cannot stop thumbing through.

After the identification section comes the more detailed species descriptions. They discuss in great detail EVERYTHING you would possibly need too know to identify any of the 214 species illustrated in guide (except for breeding habits). Also to be found in this section are a bunch of black and white paintings (generally close ups and silhouettes) of many of the species.

Just before the index is the last great work of this guide. A set of charts discussing in the greatest of detail the hardest shorebird IDs (such as the American Dowitchers). For example: in the dowitcher ID chart they mention, voice, shape, plumages which are visible all year long, breeding plumage, non-breeding plumage and juvenile plumage. These pages are incredibly, amazingly, marvelously useful.

Don't worry I am not going to delve into the arrangement of the index that, my readers, is for the next post......I was just kidding about the index description being in the post next in line.

This guide I would recommend to anyone interested in shorebirds as I am.

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