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Thursday, October 13, 2011

Review #8

#8 Illustrated Guide to the Birds of Southern Africa by Ian Sinclair, Phil Hockey and Warwick Tarboton, illustrators: Peter Hayman and Norman Arlott


Seeing that this guide is to Southern Africa I won't be able to find many if any avian errors with it and have not had the opportunity to have used it in the field!

The Good
This is a guide arranged in the classic format with stunning paintings on the right hand page which seemed to be done in gouache and pencil though I am not sure and range maps and detailed descriptions on the left. Its covers hold over 900 bird species and more than 4,000 paintings which means that each species has a whole hoard of illustrations.

One of the greatest feats of this guide is the flight pages, similar in style to that of the Nat Geos guide. The only difference which separates it from the Nat Geos flight pages is the fact that not all the birds shown on these pages are flying. Instead they show many pictures of perched birds as well as those in flight. These pages are in fact more closely compared to a regular field guide spread with no text (other than to give the names of the birds). The texts to the species shown on these flight pages are displayed on separate pages with some more paintings of the same birds. This (though it may sound confusing the way I put it) appears to be very, very useful in the field (if you can carry it out there - see "the bad").

The descriptions are very good. Every single species description gives size, English and scientific names, calls, status, habitats and a description of each bird species field marks. These summaries are surely very useful, I would love to own a North American guide that contained this much information in each species rundown! Most, if not all guides to North American birds do not give half as many calls as these authors do.

I really like that this guide has range maps even for the vagrants! These vagrant maps point out with a dot where ever a bird of this species has been recorded. I have always wished that we North American birders had a guide with this extremely useful trait.

Another nice feature of this book is the introduction which is the same style as the Nat Geos guide. The introduction does not cover as much as the Nat Geos but it has 13 pages worth of family descriptions, which are short but helpful. The introduction discusses EVERYTHING from to the Bastard Wings wing to the Flufftails toes.

The Bad
This book is a chunky, hardcover volume measuring eight inches in length and 6 across. It contains 426 pages and weighs about two pounds. It's a very big guide and not one that would fit easily in an average sized pocket. Its binding also doesn't seem to be very strong as a third of the pages in my volume have fallen out, luckily they fell out while still glued to each other and they now exist as a large chunk.

Not all the paintings are fabulous with the worst being in the Owl and Tern sections.

The Ugly
This guides range maps do not have colors and are all a bland gray, meaning that the time of residents in the area is not instantly knowable. It would much more agreeable with me at least if its range maps were colored.

My final opinion is that this would be an essential companion on any trip to Southern Africa.

I believe that I forgot to mention in the last review that Nat Geo has just come out with a 6th edition which has been massively revised with a swarm of species which have only recently been split from other similar species. Plus it has had the biggest warbler mix-around that you are ever gonna see! I NEED it!!!

Good job to anyone who identified the preening Dunlin in the last photo quiz picture.

Here is your next quiz!
This photo was taken in Petersham, Massachusetts on the nineteenth of September two thousand and eleven.
May the force be with you:)

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