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Great Birds of Britain and Europe: 200 Star Species by Joseph Elphick & David Tipling . London : Duncan Baird . 2008 . 425 pages. Hardback. ISBN 978-1844836864 . £22.50 .

The chance to review this handsome large-format eye-catching volume whilst at home snow-bound on a bitter wintery day in the Chiltern Hills has helped agreeably to boost my human ‘feel-good’ factor, look forward to the impending spring, and help formulate plans to find and enjoy Europe's wonderful array of bird-life. The book comprises a diverse collection of 200 ‘star’ species, captured on camera by two of Britain's ‘top’ award-winning wildlife photographers. The collection is in no manner considered complete, rather, as representative in character, spanning most family groups arranged in groups and taxonomic order, from Bewick's Swan and Bean Goose through to Rustic Bunting and Black-headed Bunting. The species depicted span more familiar birds such as Barn Owl, Kingfisher and Wren, through stunning exotic images of those less familiar, including Harlequin Duck, Black-shouldered Kite and Siberian Jay. Simply a coffee table book then? In part just so – but the volume offers more. Each species spans a two-page open format, with a representative image, whether as classic portrait or interesting aspect of bird behaviour, enhanced by a boxed distribution map and allied brief essay, drawing on conservation threats, each a nugget of relevant information. Perhaps this space might have been put to better use by these leading cameramen, having travelled from Iceland and Russia to the Mediterranean islands, in helping explain to lesser mortals who keenly hold a camera just how these exquisite pictures were secured – and some extra tricks of the trade. As such we are able to wallow in a celebration of magnificent images and aspire to do better ourselves.