Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Book review - "Crossley ID Guide: Britain and Ireland" by Danni Gilroy

Next Generation Birders has recently formed a partnership with PrincetonWILDGuides, which included a generous donation of 5 Crossley ID Guides. Members were invited to write a short application for the books and the committee then voted on who we thought would benefit most from them. One of the winners, Danni Gilroy, has written this review.

If you would like to order a copy of the Crossley ID Guide, then you can buy it directly from Princeton University Press by clinking this link . Next Generation Birders members can claim a 35% discount on this and all other books in the PrincetonWILDGuides catalogue by using the discount code.

The Crossley ID Guide- Review for NGB

Recently, I was one of a lucky five chosen by the Next Generation Birders (NGB) committee on Facebook, to receive a free copy of the latest Crossley publication- the ID Guide to Britain and Ireland. However, out of those five I was the one asked to write a review on the guide, and having never done this before...I was nervous...but here we go!

I have been a birder for just over two years now, and would no longer class myself as a beginner but at an intermediate level- so apparently I am the perfect target audience for this book. I have only ever used the Collins Bird Guide, so initially the first thing I had to get used to was the use of photographs! This instantly appealed to me in that I could relate to them better for the ID process than a drawing or painting- the photographs seemed to capture not only the morphological variation but behavioural too! I found the guide very useful for passerines and waders and the different angles of the many photos arranged in a montage on each page. Some could argue the photo arrangements are somewhat chaotic, but I really like the variety of photos used for each species to enable a relatively new birder to appreciate the ID process to a wider capacity. As a relatively new birder, I would like to see for birds of prey, ways of distinguishing outlines in the sky as it is rare we get to see the detail portrayed in the fantastic photos used in this book.

It was also nice to recognise some familiar birding sites in Norfolk used as backgrounds for the bird images! Although I didn’t quite get why humans, cattle and even a cheeky badger was necessary on already visually-busy pages. Perhaps the authors were simply trying to set the scene!

I like Couzen's text written below the images on each page to give a short introduction to each species and to summarise the key features one would use when making an identification of a bird. I recognised the use of the British Trust of Ornithology (BTO) shorthand codes for each species name and I think this is great for birders who intend to volunteer or work for the BTO and need to learn/use these codes when carrying out surveys. Most birders have a ‘patch’ (I am yet to do this!) and I think it is a good idea to try and use these shorthand codes now so that we can get used to doing it and it becomes a universal language in the birding world. It is convenient when in the field when you don’t have much time to record your observations down.

Overall, I think this a user-friendly guide and is unique in its use of photo-montages of life-scenes: varying the angles and distance of the birds to resemble the situation when birding in the real world. It really emphasises the importance of shape, behaviour, size and even habitat that the bird is in which birders really need to grasp to progress in their identification skills. Whilst my personal preference would be to have less going on visually on each page, you can’t question the appeal of this sort of guide to beginner and intermediate birders. I would have liked to have seen more vagrant species of Britain and Ireland to have been included in this book, but with 330 different species covered, it most definitely serves its purpose as a teaching tool and field guide for the basic birds to be encountered and how to correctly ID them.

-Danni Gilroy
Danni is a PhD student at the University of East Anglia, researching in evolutionary and conservation genetics on the Seychelles Warbler. She has worked with Birdlife and Nature Seychelles to actively conserve and study this bird species and started birding as a hobby when she moved to Norfolk just over two years ago.