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Die Stimmen der Vögel Europas . 672 pages, colour photographs of all 474 species, 914 calls and songs on 2,200 sonagrams. DVD with WAV- and MP3-files of selected calls and songs of most species . Wiebelsheim, Germany : AULA-Verlag GmbH , 2008 . Hardback, €39.95 , ISBN 978-3-89104-710-1 . Website: http://www.verlagsgemeinschaft.com . , &
The first edition of this book (Bergmann & Helb: Stimmen der Vögel Europas) was published in 1982. In this new edition, the sonagrams are still of paramount importance, but the accompanying DVD adds greatly to the guide’s value. An additional 256 pages means more space for the species texts, and these have been augmented by a photograph and by pictograms, showing the main habitats. Background colours have been added to the sonagrams, signifying whether they illustrate songs, calls or instrumental sounds.
The first 30 pages are a most readable introduction, both to the relationship between sonagrams and sounds and to bird vocalizations in general. In a short ‘Lernprogramm’, which can also be listened to on the DVD, the authors make great efforts to teach the reader how different kinds of sounds are depicted in sonagrams. The species texts include sections on field characters, distribution and habitat, and descriptions of the sound repertoire (which means more examples than those shown on the sonagrams and presented on the DVD). Finally, ‘confusion species’ with very similar voices are mentioned.
Examples of the sound repertoire are shown for each species, mostly in two or three lines of sonagrams (each being 3.5 s). In most cases, two of the depicted sounds are found as recordings on the DVD and documented by date, locality and name of the recordist. A coding system indicates which part of the recording is shown on the sonagram, enabling the reader to compare the sound with the sonagram.
The aim of the book is to be a guide to identification of birds by their vocalizations. The authors believe that, by comparing the sonagrams with the sounds on the DVD, readers will, with time and practice, be able to ‘read’ sonagrams. They also mention that the high resolution of the sonagrams may reveal important characteristics which can subsequently be used by the field ornithologist.
The compilation of the sounds and sonagrams in this book has been an enormous project. Nevertheless, I think that many readers will miss recordings of the sounds which are shown only as sonagrams. Of course, you may get an idea of the sounds from the sonagrams, but it is impossible to be sure that a ‘mystery sound’, heard on a bird trip, corresponds to a certain sonagram in the book. I speak from experience, having worked with sonagrams for more than 40 years!
The sounds on the DVD are supplied both as WAV- and MP3-files. The latter, somewhat compressed files allow the loading to a small MP3-player, which might become part of your field equipment. Although the uncompressed WAV-files are of higher quality, it is almost impossible to hear the difference, so that the space devoted to them might instead have been used to include on the DVD the vocalizations presented only in sonagrams. Even more space could have been created by shortening a number of recordings which contain the same call in identical repetition for about half a minute. Many of the recordings shown only as sonagrams have probably been omitted because of their low quality. Their inclusion would, nevertheless, have meant a major improvement, but also a good deal of preparatory work.
Nowadays, ornithologists can circumvent the problem of trying to match a sound heard but not identified to what is depicted in sonagrams by using a cheap, pocket-sized high-quality recorder in the field and, at home, converting their recordings of ‘mystery sounds’ into sonagrams on a computer, using freeware sonagram programs, such as the excellent one available at http://www.avisoft.com. A comparison with the sonagrams in the book might then result in an identification.
Impressive in its content and layout and packed with information, Die Stimmen der Vögel Europas is a unique overview of the variety of vocalizations of nearly all European bird species. As with the first edition, it will be an invaluable and often-used handbook on my bookshelf. Therefore, I can recommend it to all with an interest in bird voices, but a translation into English, including, of course, the transcriptions of sounds in the text and on the sonagrams, is surely essential if the guide is to be accessible, and is to appeal, to a much wider readership with no or only very limited knowledge of German.
Der Flug des Archaeopteryx – Auf der Suche nach dem Ursprung der Vögel . 272 pages, 123 colour illustrations and photographs . Wiebelsheim, Germany : Quelle & Meyer Verlag ( edition Goldschneck ), 2008 . Hardback, €24.95 , ISBN 978-3-494-01421-0 . Website: http://www.verlagsgemeinschaft.com .
‘The flight of Archaeopteryx– searching for the origin of birds’ is the straightforward title of this new German book aimed at interested laypeople. When I read that the author, Ludger Bollen, was a graphic artist who was working for a major magazine (Der Spiegel), and that all the non-photographic illustrations were his own work, I must confess I felt a bit sceptical about the book’s scientific value, but I was proven wrong once again. This is an absolutely exemplary book on how to introduce all kinds of readers, and by no means only non-biologists, to the problems surrounding the evolution of flight in general and feathered dinosaurs in particular. There are close to 100 titles in the literature list and 34 endnotes.
I should point out straightaway that I am no palaeontologist; many of those with knowledge in this area might have objections to the imagined Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous scenes depicted here in evocative paintings, but we are assured that every one is based on careful consideration of the fossil evidence. The author/artist discusses many of the problems concerned in such reconstructions, and the only fantasy involved is restricted to the imaginative colorations of reptiles and birds, though colours they undoubtedly had.
Among the subjects considered are the evolution and development of feathers (why did earthbound dinosaurs have protofeathers?); the evolution of active flight in insects, pterosaurs, bats (Chiroptera) and birds, and of gliding in modern mammals, reptiles and fish; aspects of Archaeopteryx itself, based on a close examination of all 10 existing fossils (why is it not the ancestor of all birds, how well could it fly, what was its lifestyle?); and the past landscapes of the fossil sites themselves (Solnhofen and Eichstätt in Germany, Liaoning in north-east China, sites in Mongolia and Kyrgyzstan). Bollen takes the currently accepted line that birds are almost certainly descended from coelurosaurian dinosaurs, but the contrary views of those around Alan Feduccia (who hold that birds evolved from a much earlier archosaurian common ancestor) are fairly presented. Bollen’s Archaeopteryx displays an almost vertical (‘hyperextendible’) second toe, revealed only in the most recent ‘Thermopolis’ fossil specimen, and a character shared with the dromaeosaurid dinosaur genera Deinonychus and Velociraptor with their famous ‘switch-blade’ claw. All of these chapters contain beautifully clear explanatory diagrams and illustrations, particularly those comparing shared anatomical traits or skeletal homologies involved in flight.
I have not had the opportunity of seeing some of the most recent books in English on the same subject (Feathered Dinosaurs is reviewed in this issue of Ibis: Eds). Given the ongoing sensational finds in Central Asia, there seems to be a veritable flood of publications on feathered dinosaurs and avian ancestry, but I feel that this work, in translation, would easily hold its own in the marketplace. It is remarkably well written and, as I’ve already made clear, the illustrations are both scientifically and aesthetically satisfying. Apart from a few careless typos (Isle of Wright), I found the book to be virtually faultless.
Birds of Pakistan. (Helm Field Guides.) 256 pages, numerous colour plates and maps . London: Christopher Helm and Newhaven, CT : Yale University Press , 2008 . Paperback, £24.99, $40.00 , ISBN 978-0-7136-8800-9 (Christopher Helm) and 978-0-300-15249-4 (Yale U.P.) . Websites: http://www.acblack.com/naturalhistory and http://www.yale.edu/yup/ , &
This guide is a condensation, for Pakistan only, of Birds of the Indian Subcontinent (Grimmett, R. et al. (1998); reviewed in Ibis141: 693–694). The bulk of the book comprises 93 colour plates, with facing maps and text for the species illustrated. Species accounts are necessarily brief, giving comments on salient identification points and outlining habitat and range. The maps, colour-coded for winter, summer and migration ranges, and dealing with the area west of the ‘line of control’ in Kashmir, are much easier to appreciate than the maps in the original. They were prepared by WWF Pakistan, have clearly been revised and updated and show more details than those presented in the original volume. Even so, it is a little difficult to credit the level of detail in some maps, especially those involving Baluchistan, a region that is not easily reached by outsiders. There is no indication in the text whether such detail is based on atlas work, on extrapolations from habitat, or on some other criteria.
The plates use the same artwork as the original book, selected and rearranged and sometimes left–right transposed and placed on white backgrounds, instead of the tinted backgrounds used in the original volume. I felt that the colours had a greyish cast, compared to the originals, and the reds seem very subdued – the Orange Bullfinch Pyrrhula aurantiaca is a much more striking bird than illustrated – but they are nevertheless nice illustrations.
Introductory material, which takes up 47 pages, includes notes on the climate and ecology of Pakistan, on local endemics, on migration and on good birdwatching sites, including lists of likely species to be found in each. A few pages at the end of the book are devoted to vagrant and extirpated species and to detailed identification notes for Phylloscopus, Acrocephalus and Hippolais warblers and nightjars (Caprimulgidae). This will be useful for Western birdwatchers who like the challenge of ‘little brown jobs’, but I suspect that, for resident birdwatchers, similar notes for terns and gulls (Laridae) and ‘peeps’ (small calidrid waders or shorebirds) would have been more useful.
The book has been nicely printed, in China, on glossy paper, and the binding feels as though it will stand rough treatment. It is small enough to stuff in a large jacket pocket and therefore handy for the field. This is a must for any birdwatcher in Pakistan, whether resident or visiting. An Urdu version is being prepared with the help of the Ornithological Society of Pakistan, its production subsidized by the World Bank–Netherlands Partnership and BirdLife International. Such an excellent guide will surely give an impetus to birdwatching and bird conservation in Pakistan.
Iankov, P. ( ed .) Atlas na Gnezdyashtite Ptitsi v B?lgariya. Atlas of Breeding Birds in Bulgaria (Conservation Series, Book 10.) ( in Bulgarian and English ). 679 pages, many (mainly) black-and-white figures (mostly maps and line drawings), 8 appendices . Sofia, Bulgaria : Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds (BSPB) , 2007 . Hardback, £29.99 from NHBS Environment Bookstore, http://www.nhbs.com , ISBN 978-954-91421-7-4 . BSPB website and email contact: http://www.bspb.org and firstname.lastname@example.org
The layout of this A4-sized hardcover book places the Bulgarian Cyrillic text in the left column and the English text (an excellent, if slightly idiosyncratic translation by Petar Iankov) in the right. The Introductory material is wide-ranging, thorough and in line with the general format and methodology that forms the backbone of European atlas work. This atlas is also directly linked with previous bird survey work and projects in Bulgaria, and now forms the baseline for all future atlas work in the country. Perhaps most important, it will help integrate bird monitoring work within the country and internationally with Bulgaria’s neighbours. The next decade should see good data on habitat quality and trends from the monitoring of indicator species.
As for all modern bird atlases, the preparation, divided into fieldwork and data analysis, has taken years, both components requiring careful planning and strict application of criteria. The contribution of volunteers is inestimable, but no matter how successful data collection might be, the management of the project has to be good; even so, funding underpins any achievement, and here the support of BirdLife/Vogelbescherming Nederland and the Dutch Nationale Postcode Loterij was vital.
Each species account follows a standard and well-planned structure over two pages, the text facing a pair of maps that shows distribution and numbers, respectively. An explanation of the data presented is somewhat hidden in two paragraphs 13 pages before the first species account, and a brief résumé of this explanation immediately before the accounts would have been helpful. Most account texts extend on to the second page, below the maps, and some have additional small historical maps, which, for example, well show the decline and recovery of the Black Stork Ciconia nigra; the map of data from the early 20th century can be related easily to the latest map. On the other hand, the Ruddy Shelduck Tadorna ferruginea clearly has suffered a decline since the 1990s. A small team of artists has provided generally excellent monochrome vignettes of all the species.
The derived maps tend to concentrate on threatened species, whether nationally, in Europe, or globally. Although it would have been useful if derived maps for common species-groups, such as in woodland or farmland, had shown current concentrations, the data on which this atlas is based will allow the trends in such species-groups to be tracked.
Atlas of Breeding Birds in Bulgaria is a formidable achievement. Given the historical context emphasized in the texts, one gets a clear sense of what is happening to birds in Bulgaria, where anthropogenic changes and developments, as elsewhere, impact upon bird populations, usually to their detriment. There is now the chance that this kind of knowledge in ornithology and in other biological disciplines can be integrated into Bulgarian long-term political decisions, where the monitoring of changing conditions is given due weight. It will be a struggle, but the appearance of this atlas indicates already that there is momentum.
The Inner Bird: Anatomy and Evolution . xiv + 386 pages, numerous black-and-white figures, 2 appendices and glossary . Vancouver, Canada : University of British Columbia Press , 2007 . Hardback, CA$85.00, £79.50, ISBN 978-0-7748-1343-3. Paperback, CA$34.95, £34.50 , ISBN 978-0-7748-1344-0 . Website: http://www.ubcpress.ca .
During 2007–2008, over 300 scientific visitors came to the bird collections of the Natural History Museum, Tring; only 17% of them used the anatomical collections, while 75% of them headed for the skin collection. This simple statistic in part reflects the relative lack of interest in avian anatomy in current research, so Kaiser’s mission to inspire readers to look further than a bird’s wrapper is an admirable aim. In particular, he focuses on the avian skeleton, exploring the structure of modern birds in relation to their lifestyles and their evolution. Along the way, he also reviews classification, including developments in molecular research, considers the relationships between birds and dinosaurs, examines the development of flight, incorporating many of the key fossil-bird discoveries from Archaeopteryx onwards, and discusses aerodynamics, with a notable section on marine birds. In short, it’s a packed book. In attempting to cover so much, the book cannot be comprehensive about any single area, but the approach does provide considerable potential for encouraging further investigations. To facilitate this, Kaiser provides a selection of suggested reading at the end of each chapter, in addition to the main bibliography. I certainly found the book gave me many fresh insights into avian form and function, especially in terms of new perspectives on skeletal engineering.
Unfortunately, the book is not without its drawbacks. Its structure often leaves connected information on the same subject spread across several disparate chapters. In several instances, the same example is given to demonstrate identical points in different chapters, creating the impression of a fragmented text, rather than a continuous thread. There are also inconsistencies in the use of scientific names for modern birds and anatomical terminology. For the most part, scientific names are not used for modern taxa, but a few random ones occur. Anatomical description is inevitably jargon-heavy, but Kaiser is quite careful about trying to make it accessible and for the most part avoids the use of formal Latin terminology – except in a couple of instances where an obscure muscle name suddenly sneaks in. Again, the impression is of a text composed in fragments, but not unified by comprehensive editing. The book needs to be read carefully, and Kaiser admits in his Acknowledgements there may be some errors present. I was concerned by the definition presented for wing aspect ratio, defined here as the area of a circle whose circumference is the wingspan divided by wing area; all the references I checked define aspect ratio as wingspan squared divided by wing area.
However, my greatest concern lies with the illustrations. Verbal description of complex anatomy is like trying to explain to someone else how to assemble a jigsaw without showing them the picture. Helpfully, I have ready access to a comprehensive bird skeleton collection when I need to check descriptions. Most people don’t have this luxury, so good illustrations are an essential part of anatomical description. The book does include a reasonable number of line figures of isolated and articulated skeletal parts, most of which appear to have been computer-drawn over photographs. I personally found the images disappointing, as they are very simplified and at times misleading. The best anatomical illustrations here by far are the annotated photographs of parrot (Psittacidae) skulls; I would have liked this technique used for many more of the figures, as a more accurate reflection of what’s really beneath the skin.
Nevertheless, despite its shortcomings, The Inner Bird contains much to appreciate and I’d recommend it to ornithologists keen to enhance their understanding of how birds function, and to those looking to discover more about their long and complex history.
Vinkenbaan Castricum 1960–2006 – een Halve Eeuw Vogels Ringen. [Castricum Ringing Station – a Half-Century of Bird Ringing.] 256 pages, many colour photographs and other illustrations . Castricum, The Netherlands : VRS Castricum , 2008 . Hardback, €30.00 (including p. & p.) from Vogelwerkgroep Castricum, Stuartstraat 105, NL-1815 BR Alkmaar, The Netherlands, postbanknr 4380680, IBAN-code: NL 03INGB 0004380680, BIC-code: INGBNL2A , ISBN 978-90-9023466-3 . Website: http://www.vwgmidden-kennemerland.nl &
Publishing the results of their ringing activities is not the strongest point of bird ringers, but this Dutch-language book is a fine example of how it can be done. It summarizes and analyses the ringing results achieved at the ringing station ‘Vinkenbaan Castricum’, which is owned by the Vogelwerkgroep Midden-Kennemerland, and where a total of 85 amateur ornithologists have been ringing birds near the city of Castricum (Noord-Holland) since 1960. The station is located in sand-dunes 1 km from the North Sea coast, and is in an ideal place, especially in autumn, as scores of birds follow the coast to reach their winter quarters to the south.
Several chapters provide information about the history of the station and the catching methods. The tradition of a ‘vinkenbaan’ is several centuries old. Wealthy families had their own vinkenbaan, where birds were caught for human consumption, using clapnets and live decoys, Common Chaffinches Fringilla coelebs (vinken) and other small seedeaters being regarded as a delicacy. However, it is now illegal to catch birds for food by this traditional method. The vinkenbaan Castricum started in the original way with several big clapnets suitable for catching finches (Fringillidae), buntings (Emberizidae), larks (Alaudidae) and Common Starlings Sturnus vulgaris. Vinkenbanen have special permits to use live decoys and the station at Castricum still uses decoys for several species that are difficult to catch without them. Nevertheless, the numbers used have diminished considerably as sound playback is a good alternative.
In 1962, the first mist-nets were in use, but it was not until 1977 that the station invested more in these and 280 m have since been installed. This changed the composition of the catches considerably, as insectivorous birds could now be obtained in larger numbers.
Another big stimulus was the discovery that sound playback was a very helpful tool to attract birds, especially passerines. Members of the vinkenbaan team have been very innovative and have experimented on a large scale with great success. From 1976, they tried out sound playback for waders when such birds were heard or seen, but from 1993, continuous playback of the calls of waders was very successful even when no birds were seen in the surroundings. During migration, species such as Common Ringed Plover Charadrius hiaticula, Bar-tailed Godwit Limosa lapponica and others could be lured down to land near the nets in a landscape where they normally would not land at all. Experiments with sound playback during the night (since 1990) have shown that species such as Water Rail Rallus aquaticus (366 on a single October night in 2005), Spotted Crake Porzana porzana and Common Quail Coturnix coturnix (since 1996) can be caught in big numbers during certain nights with favourable weather conditions.
The main part of the book contains detailed data collected on the 350 000 birds of 213 different species caught in the period under review. Each species, of which 20 or more individuals were captured, is discussed in full with tables and graphs, while entries on rare species are brief and only raw data are presented. The book describes the patterns as observed at the ringing station, without speculating about possible causes. Tables and graphs contain a wealth of biometrical information (sex, wing-length, weight, moult, fat, etc.) specified for different months. Data on numbers caught per ‘mist-net day’, median catching dates, and first and latest dates are used to show the phenology of migration. Recoveries are presented on maps and a table provides information on the percentage recovered, the longest distance covered, the fastest recovery and the oldest age. Tables with the annual catches presented for each species should not be seen as representing certain population trends. The effect of changes in the vegetation in the landscape around the ringing station, the introduction of sound playback, and other innovations in trapping methods have had a big impact on these trends.
Chapter 7 is dedicated to the autumn phenology of songbird migration. The authors present the findings of the 50 years of experience at Castricum in the light of climate changes observed in Western Europe. One conclusion is that many birds wintering in Africa leave our country on earlier dates than before, the hypothesis being that an early arrival in the Sahel can be advantageous, as the birds can then profit from the food abundance of the summer rains. Later, the area becomes drier and food less abundant. Species that winter less far south, in the Mediterranean, did not show earlier departure dates.
The species mentioned in the book are all illustrated with a portrait at the beginning of the species account, and the abundance of maps, graphs, tables and information boxes supports and enlivens the text. In Chapters 4 and 5, foreign readers will find reading instructions and a glossary in which the contents of the tables and graphs are translated and explained in English.
It is hoped that other ringing groups in Europe will be encouraged to produce similar reports. Vinkenbaan Castricum 1960–2006 is an excellent book for bird ringers, who will be able to compare their findings with the enormous amount of material it presents.
Fred J. Koning
Feathered Dinosaurs: the Origin of Birds . 193 pages, 80 full-colour illustrations, several additional figures . Oxford : Oxford University Press , 2008 . Hardback, £20.00 , ISBN 978-0-19-537266-3 . &
Although T. H. Huxley suggested a relationship between dinosaurs and birds in 1869 based on numerous points of skeletal similarity, the idea did not achieve wide currency in the scientific community until more recent fossil discoveries that began in the 1970s with John Ostrom’s work on Deinonychus (Jurassic Park’s ‘Velociraptor’). Foremost among these discoveries have been numerous ‘feathered dinosaurs’ recovered from the Lower Cretaceous formations of China over the past decade. The remarkable preservation of integumentary structures such as quill-like feathers and hair-like ‘protofeathers’ has done much to bring the dino–bird relationships into the public imagination and elevated scientific support for the idea to the status of consensus.
John Long and Peter Schouten represent a palaeontologist-artist team. Their book aims to illustrate the coelurosaurs, that group of dinosaurs that includes birds, and bring them to life in all their feathered glory. This aim is achieved admirably; the pages are filled with beautiful, naturalistic, large-sized illustrations based on state-of-the-art palaeontological knowledge and artistic flair. The dinosaurs and earliest birds are shown in living habitats, engaged in behaviours spanning the gamut from ‘traditional dinosaurian’ for the tyrannosaurs to distinctly avian for Avimimus, engaged in a display reminiscent of a peacock Pavo spp. or bird-of-paradise (Paradisaeidae). Though this may seem fanciful, there is evidence for bird-like behaviours in advanced, bird-like dinosaurs. The small troodontid Mei was preserved in exquisite sleeping posture and oviraptorosaurs have been preserved brooding nests, both in avian postural style. Both of these are illustrated in the book.
Feathered Dinosaurs is structured and written in a fashion that is easily comprehensible to a non-palaeontologically savvy audience. A brief discussion of the history of dinosaur research is given, followed by brief introductions to the major coelurosaur groups. The illustrations that follow are accompanied by short guides, giving facts about the animals, and by artist’s notes on the reconstructions. Although the information is not factually flawless, it is very good to a high level. However, this is not the point of the book. The point is that the illustrations are glorious.
As a basic introduction to the ideas surrounding recognition of dinosaurs as the ancestors of birds with near avian-like biology, Feathered Dinosaurs fills a void in the popular market: as a general-interest text, it is accessible at any level. Although it is not a textbook, this work would serve to fire the imagination of even the most recalcitrant of students. This book would not be out of place in the front room of any home.
Roger B. J. Benson
The Birds of Borneo: an Annotated Checklist. BOU Checklist No. 23 . 440 pages, 2 figures, 3 tables, 68 colour photographs . Peterborough, UK : British Ornithologists’ Union and British Ornithologists’ Club , 2008 . Hardback, £50.00 from BOU, P.O. Box 417, Peterborough PE7 3FX, UK or online at http://www.bou.org.uk/store1.htm , ISBN 978-0-907446-28-6 .
South-east Asia has been well served by the BOU Checklist series, with volumes on Wallacea (No. 7, 1986), Sumatra (No. 10, 1988) and the Philippines (No. 12, 1991). Java, promised as long ago as 1982, has not appeared, but Clive Mann has now covered Borneo, the central, biggest, and climatically least-seasonal landmass in the region.
The format of the Checklist series allows subheadings appropriate to the territory they cover. Here, there is a brief statement of each bird’s world range; a long section on distribution within Borneo, beginning with a summary of status and threats and proceeding to detailed site records grouped helpfully according to political division (just a few are misplaced); a statement of habitat; notes on breeding records for resident species only; and taxonomic notes for some.
Species continue to be added to the Borneo list at about one per year, but the scarcity of birdwatchers has meant that most recent additions to the list are the result of taxonomic splits – here, particularly evident amongst the migrant cuckoos (Cuculidae), which account for four of the 10 most recent additions. However, there is now a small but growing contingent of local birdwatchers, particularly in Sabah and Sarawak, and a birdwatching and photography club has recently been formed in Sandakan. Three branches of the Malaysian Nature Society (MNS), in Kuching, Miri and Kota Kinabalu, act as conduits for bird records, and, as of 2008, sightings are contributed via the MNS Records Committee to the World Birdwatch website. In October 2009, a bird fair will be held in Sabah, along the lines of the British Bird Fair. With steadily improving collation of records, these developments are well set for local support to take off from the point reached by Mann’s Checklist.
For me, these Checklists fulfil three main functions. They provide, as their name indicates, a complete list of all species ever recorded in the area covered. Secondly, for each of these species they compile all records of interest, in such a way that any further sighting can be evaluated to see whether it fits the established pattern. Thirdly, they describe and analyse the avifauna, including particulars of the climate, geography, historical investigation of the birds, their habitats and ecology, breeding and migration. On these three functions, how does Mann’s Checklist perform? It completely fulfils expectations of a species list. Secondly, it provides an excellent, thorough compilation of distributional records, fully supported by a bibliography of 740 references. There are many fine colour plates of habitats and birds (26 species, eight endemic).
With regard to the third function, I shall include a thought for future editors and authors in the series. The analysis of the avifauna in this volume covers 20 pages, which is just 4.5% of the total. Out of interest, I compared this with the previous 22 Checklists where the equivalent totals range from 12 to 84 pages (6.0–35.8%). Four of the last seven Checklists (Nos. 17, 18, 20 and 23) are the only ones to have < 7% of their content in the form of this analytical material. Cost is clearly an issue where extra pages of analysis might put pressure on the quality of the Checklist. To be fair, Nos. 16, 19, 21 and 22 have been well up there, each with 22–26% analytical material, but I think there is a certain minimum below which usefulness might be curtailed. To be even fairer, Mann’s analysis of the Bornean avifauna is packed with information, so the 20 pages are well employed and full of thought-provoking content.
The BOU Checklists are increasingly reliant on the grey literature. Mann’s bibliography lists 18 trip reports downloaded from websites (from the 1990s to the present), and about 23 ‘unpublished’ trip or site reports (mainly from the 1980s and early 1990s). My own box-files contain 32 downloaded trip reports (including some but not all of Mann’s 18), and nine other unpublished reports not listed by him. It would not, however, have been necessary for Mann to list every one of these, because the trip reports from websites are often redundant sources. Repeat tourists and birdwatchers visit the same few sites again and again, recording that they have seen one of this and two of that. Here is the birdwatcher’s opportunity to contribute more details on habitat and behaviour, foraging, roost sites and abundance, and push our knowledge forward from the excellent foundation that Mann has provided. The Birds of Borneo is another worthy addition to an increasingly valuable series.
Geoffrey W. H. Davison
Say Goodbye to the Cuckoo . 243 pages, a few black-and-white illustrations . London : John Murray , 2009 . Hardback, £16.99 , ISBN 978-1-84854-063-7 . Website: http://www.johnmurray.co.uk
Increasing age has few advantages, though one is a perspective: the ability to view events over time. Growing up in the late 1950s in a semi-rural, semi-suburban area of Yorkshire, I would get up at first light to listen to the dawn chorus and record it, using an old reel-to-reel Grundig tape recorder. I’d later play back the tape to anyone who would listen and enjoy the volume and diversity of bird song. Today, listening to the dawn chorus, even in a more rural environment, there is no comparison. There are simply fewer birds, and the dawn chorus little more than a whisper. But anyone hearing it for the first time today is still impressed, in part because it may be the first time they’ve really listened, and partly because they’ve rarely been up so early. Today’s dawn chorus is the standard for the uninitiated, however, for they have nothing to compare it with. This is the shifting baseline, the continual readjustment to new circumstances and the delusion that nothing has changed and everything is going to be okay.
It isn’t. Bird numbers in Britain and elsewhere are in decline. One only has to go to eastern Europe, somewhere like the Biebrza Marshes in north-east Poland, or Pol’ana in Slovakia, where agricultural development lags several decades behind the UK, to recapture, momentarily at least, what the dawn chorus was once like in Britain. There is no clearer sign that we are destroying our environment, and yet, because of the shifting baseline, we kid ourselves that everything is okay.
At first sight, Say Goodbye to the Cuckoo doesn’t look all that serious; the dust jacket looks a bit naff; appealing to the general public perhaps, but it doesn’t look like the kind of book a serious birder or a professional ornithologist might read, though you certainly should, for it is the 21st-century version of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring (1962) and contains an important message. Mike McCarthy’s powerful and poignant book is about loss: the loss of birds and birdsong from the British countryside. It is also a wake-up call, telling us that it might not be too late to save what we have, and in that sense the book is also celebration of our summer migrants.
Writing in a seductively easy prose, McCarthy takes us through a succession of summer visitors, relating stories of their lives and the lives of those that have studied them. McCarthy is an ornithological novice: he loves birds, but he’s no twitcher. Yet as Environment Editor for The Independent, he knows exactly what is at stake, and he knows what he needs to know and how to get it. Engaging a series of experts, he visits a succession of archetypal summer migrants, the spring-bringers, in turn: the Swallow Hirundo rustica, ultimate harbinger of spring and summer; the Nightingale Luscinia megarhynchos; various warblers (Sylviidae); Turtle Dove Streptopelia turtur; Swift Apus apus; and perhaps most unexpected and delightful, the Spotted Flycatcher Muscicapa striata, a bird with no song and little colour, but immense charm and an intriguing fan base in Worcestershire. The penultimate chapter describes the Cuckoo Cuculus canorus whose call is summer for many Brits. Yet, it is a call that is heard less and less. I identified all too easily with the people McCarthy interviews, who, in recent summers, have failed to hear a Cuckoo at all.
The Cuckoo symbolizes what we have lost or are losing. It and many other farmland birds, such as the resident Skylark Alauda arvensis, have undergone a monumental decline over the last 50 or 60 years. The decline is real, all too real, for McCarthy has done his homework and obtained the necessary data. Luckily, there have been counts of birds over the previous decades that allow us to track their dwindling numbers. Numbers remove the need for arm-waving; no one can argue with numbers. But the bodies that collect these data usually present them as graphs – essential hard data – and these may be less powerful than McCarthy’s wonderful stories. Numbers fill one niche, a vital one; but there are more ways to skin a cat, as my mother used to say, and there are other ways to draw attention to the appalling environmental degradation that is going on in our own cherished countryside. Wake up to the shifting baseline, for everything is very definitely not okay! Mike McCarthy’s remarkable and timely book is, I believe, our best hope so far of doing just that and halting the catastrophic crash in our common birds.
Sachslehner, L. ( ed .) Der Raubwürger in Österreich – The Great Grey Shrike in Austria . 304 pages, c. 69 colour photographs, 103 other black-and-white and colour illustrations (maps and diagrams), 43 tables . Stockerau, Austria : Forschungsgemeinschaft Wilhelminenberg , 2008 . Paperback, €19.50 (£17.50) , ISBN 978-3-200-01389-6 . Email for orders: email@example.com .
The true shrikes (Laniidae) have always fascinated researchers with their unique behaviour of impaling prey, while their almost uniform global declines have aroused concern in conservation circles. This has resulted in the creation of the International Shrike Working Group and the publication of a series of conference proceedings, monographs and books. This compilation of 17 articles (in German, with English summaries) about the Great Grey Shrike Lanius excubitor in Austria is the most recent in the series of such publications. The papers were written by many of the leading ornithologists of Austria and summarize the conservation of the species and research on it in Niederösterreich [Lower Austria] and other parts of the country over the last 15 years.
The book starts with an overview of the study species – its taxonomy (seven subspecies in the Palaearctic, two in North America), including the recent split from the Southern Grey Shrike Lanius meridionalis, global distribution, also brief summaries of biometrics, breeding biology, population, and the sources used for this subsection. Thereafter, the focus is at the national and regional level. Site-specific studies of wintering, breeding biology, nest defence, and the effect of agricultural activities on shrike distribution are also included, and there is an unusual chapter of special interest that analyses all of the Great Grey Shrike skins held in the Natural History Museum in Vienna.
The book was published on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Forschungsgemeinschaft Wilhelminenberg (research foundation). It has been printed digitally on ‘Hello gloss’, core ‘Offset white’, half-matt paper, which makes the reading easy on the eyes, but means that the coloured pictures have lost some of their sparkle. Although the English translation of the figure legends and abstracts from the original German is good, there is room for improvement by a native English speaker. This will be especially important as the editors intend to publish an English translation of the book. Researchers and the publishers have made a commendable effort to pull together and update the information published to date for the Great Grey Shrike in Austria, and the fact that this comprehensive review is now available in one volume will make it easy for future researchers to access the information. Furthermore, as the studies presented here have not been published elsewhere, all researchers and fans of the true shrikes and grassland species will especially welcome this collection of papers.
An Evolutionary Study of Some Archaeologically Significant Avian Taxa in the Quaternary of the Western Palaearctic. (BAR International Series 1653.) xix + 272 pages, 217 black-and-white figures, including scattergrams and some drawings illustrating measurements taken, 108 tables . Oxford : Archaeopress , 2007 . Paperback, £38.00 from Hadrian Books, 122 Banbury Road, Oxford 0X2 7BP, UK, phone +44 (0) 1865 310431, email: firstname.lastname@example.org , ISBN 978 1 4073 0089 4 . For orders in USA, contact The David Brown Book Company, email: email@example.com .
This title in the ‘British Archaeological Reports’ series deals with the evolution of four bird taxa – cranes Grus spp., ptarmigan and grouse Lagopus spp., Common Raven Corvus corax and starlings Sturnus spp. – through the Quaternary in Europe. Each chapter summarizes the systematics of one genus as well as its modern metric, morphological and geographical variation. Data from the literature are combined with those collected by the author in several major osteological collections; a number of tables and bivariate scattergrams illustrate various aspects of the variation. Data on modern specimens are then critically compared with fossil and archaeological materials, so that the reader is offered a tour from the oldest finds in Europe through (pre)historical times up to the present.
Each of the four chapters, perhaps slightly adapted, could make a separate paper. Yet the author decided to do something more ambitious, which gives the volume a more universal character. In two more theoretical sections, preceding the chapters on the chosen taxa, Stewart summarizes such theories as species concepts, modes and rates of species evolution, character displacement, sexual dimorphism and geographical and temporal variations. All the theories, explained in simple language, are illustrated with examples from the world of birds – something very useful for students and lecturers alike. The theories are then applied to interpret the results in the chapters on the four taxa chosen, which allows the author to present his point of view not only on the evolution of particular species but on the theories as well. He questions the validity of some fossil species, tries to explain the reasons for size differences between various populations or to figure out the timing of divergence of others.
Readers less familiar with palaeontology will find useful an overview of the Quaternary chronology that includes a correlation of various systems and names used in Britain and in continental Europe. The table with correlation would be even better had it included one more column with absolute age in years BP (Before Present).
I like the author’s professional approach to the mensural techniques on the one hand and morphological variation on the other. The problems are too often swept under the carpet even in serious studies, although they may influence the final results. Here, Stewart gives precise descriptions and illustrations of the measurements taken, separately for every group of birds (yes, the same measurement – for instance proximal breadth – of the same bone may be taken in a different manner for a crane, raven, grouse or starling). Such detailed procedures make it more reliable to compare one’s own data with the author’s. The method used for distinguishing between taxa in their morphology is worth noting because it acknowledges that there are few perfect characters and it provides a realistic recognition that variation does exist in the characters used. The reader learns also a few reliable osteological characters for distinguishing Sturnus from Turdus.
A remarkably rich bibliography of 17 pages has been compiled and it is a valuable source of information. The omission of some references (for example Tomek & Bochenski (2000) The comparative osteology of European corvids (Aves: Corvidae), with a key to the identification of their skeletal elements) can happen to anyone.
In summary, I strongly recommend the volume to everyone interested in ornithology, zooarchaeology and avian palaeontology. The theoretical background summarized and applied by the author to analyse the material provides new insights into the possible interpretation of zooarchaeological and palaeontological results and may stimulate future studies. Those who are more interested in practical rather than theoretical aspects will find extremely useful the material presented in the volume: the measurements, scattergrams and descriptions of osteological characters will undoubtedly save a lot of time when identifying bird remains.
Zbigniew M. Bochenski
Important Bird Areas in Timor-Leste: Key Sites for Conservation. Daerah Penting Bagi Burung di Timor-Leste: Daerah–Daerah Penting Bagi Konservasi . 88 pages, many colour photographs and tables . Cambridge, UK : BirdLife International , 2007 . Paperback, £14.99 from NHBS Environment Bookstore, http://www.nhbs.com , ISBN 978-0-946888-59-7 . , , , &
In just under 90 colourful pages, this slim paperback describes 16 Important Bird Areas (IBAs) in the newly independent country of Timor-Leste (East Timor), as well as something of the IBA concept, biodiversity conservation, and Timor-Leste’s natural environment. It is bilingual, with English on left-hand and Indonesian on right-hand pages (a charming way to learn some Indonesian vocabulary), and has been prepared by a multi-disciplinary team from BirdLife International, from Indonesia and from Timor-Leste itself. This book is very much in the style of other BirdLife publications, with many photographs of scenery, habitats and animal species (mainly, but not exclusively, the rare and endemic birds).
Each of the 16 area descriptions follows a common format, giving basic information on its size and location, access, site description, the birds, protection status, and conservation issues. These sections form a single paragraph each. With a nice GIS image of the terrain, and a table of the threatened and restricted-range species present, this results in an average of just under three pages per site, and just under a page of text per site (remembering that this is repeated in the two languages). Hence the descriptions are in-a-nutshell reviews that provide quick and handy ammunition for conservation planning and advocacy, readily accessible to a local readership. They are not comprehensive: they do not indicate the general avifauna within each IBA (even to the extent of giving a rough species total), nor do they indicate the population sizes of the threatened and restricted-range birds within the sites, or suggest the extent to which these species are found outside the 16 IBAs.
Timor and the islands of Wetar, Sawu, Roti and Semau constitute the ‘Timor and Wetar Endemic Bird Area’ (EBA) as defined by BirdLife International. Of the 35 restricted-range species occurring in the EBA, 31 are found on Timor Island (all also in Timor-Leste). Of the 23 species endemic to the EBA, 20 are found in Timor, the other three being confined to Wetar Island. There are 20 species at risk in Timor-Leste, two of these being Critically Endangered (one, the Frigatebird Fregata andrewsi, is only a vagrant); three, all in the family Columbidae, are Endangered (EN), and the other 15 are Near Threatened (NT). Wetar Ground-dove Gallicolumba hoedtii (EN) and Chestnut-backed Thrush Zoothera dohertyi (NT) appear to be found in only a single IBA each, though they seem not to be the most threatened; Critically Endangered Yellow-crested Cockatoos Cacatua sulphurea are found in eight IBAs, but face heavy and immediate threats.
This is a very attractive small publication, well printed, with nice paper quality and photographs. It is important when using it not to rely on a single site description, but to interrelate the site descriptions with the supplementary material given in the introductory sections and appendices. It then forms a powerful tool for local conservation action, as well as providing an historical snapshot of Timor-Leste at the beginning of the 21st century.
Geoffrey W. H. Davison
The Little Owl. Conservation, Ecology and Behaviour of Athene noctua . xx + 574 pages, 39 colour plates, many black-and-white photographs, other figures and tables . Cambridge : Cambridge University Press , 2008 . Hardback, £40.00 , ISBN 978-0-521-88678-9 . Website: http://www.cambridge.org . , &
The number of monographs available nowadays is rapidly increasing thanks to free access to information on the Internet and the increasing worldwide demand for wildlife literature. Some such books are excellent reviews, although it is difficult to find books which include surprising and interesting data based on an extensive survey of the published literature and, moreover, that are easy to read and interesting enough to hold the reader’s attention. In the case of this monograph on the Little Owl Athene noctua, Van Nieuwenhuyse and his co-authors have certainly given us a fascinating read. However, the most impressive aspect of this book is the huge amount of work the authors did to cover almost all the literature ever published in every type of source, including the grey literature. They found 1544 references, 416 of which come from the period 1980–2000, although they summarize a total of 1900 Little Owl references (listed in a bibliography with a keyword index as Appendix B and C), including PhD theses, master's theses, books, atlases, reports, proceedings and red data books. Hence, one can now enjoy this enormous amount of information, covering the species’ entire distribution range (84 countries, from the UK to China). In fact, there is so much information that it is sometimes difficult to assimilate.
I learnt of the authors’ project concerning this book several years ago, at the first international Little Owl conference (Champ-sur-Marne, France, 2000), and I have been following their efforts to produce the ‘best’ work about the Owl. They and other colleagues founded the International Little Owl Working Group (ILOWG) in 1999 with the aim of increasing communication on research, conservation, and education across Europe. Afterwards, the ILOWG organized international conferences where researchers shared their knowledge and, as Klaus-Michael Exo has written in the Foreword, ‘helped to engender a common spirit of co-operation’. The Working Group also established contacts with other scientists outside the European community, covering the distribution range of the species. Valuable information in the book enables readers to make contact with research teams, educational initiatives, websites, and so on. Moreover, a monitoring programme is underway and a network of 30 vital sign demographic monitoring areas has been proposed in 20 countries, involving mark-recapture studies. Vital signs are key elements indicating the health of the Little Owl population and key habitat components. The authors explain the methodology and the main goals and they suggest different strategies for improving the outlook of the species.
To summarize, The Little Owl follows the traditional order of such works, starting with Exo’s Foreword, an extensive Acknowledgments, where one begins to realize the magnitude of the task undertaken, and a short Introduction, where the authors explain some of the background that made this book possible, and note that its ‘framework … reflects the complexities of the species in different social and ecological contexts’. This is followed by history and cultural traditions (Chapter 2), taxonomy and genetics (Chapter 3), morphology and body characteristics (4), distribution, population estimates and trends (5), habitat (6), diet (7), breeding season (8), behaviour (9), population regulation (10), conservation (11), research priorities (12) and a monitoring plan for the Little Owl (Chapter 13). Finally, there is a chapter written by Roy S. Leigh about citizen conservation and volunteer work on Little Owls, where he analyses some of the main projects developed in Europe. Following the Glossary and References, Appendix A is a list of prey items for the Western and Eastern Palaearctic.
In conclusion, if you want to know anything about the Little Owl, this book probably contains the information you seek, while clues are also offered to some as-yet-unanswered questions.
Wings and Rings: A History of Bird Migration Studies in Europe . 228 pages, colour frontispiece and 23 colour plates (photographs), 22 black-and-white text figures, including maps and photographs . Penryn, Cornwall, UK : Isabelline Books , 2009 . Paperback, £19.95 (includes UK postage) from Isabelline Books, 6 Bellevue, Enys, Penryn TR10 9LB, UK , ISBN 0-9552787-4-0 and 978-0-9552787-4-7 . Email contact (Isabelline Books): firstname.lastname@example.org .
On foggy nights, lighthouses can be the bane of migrating birds, but a bonanza for students of migration. During the autumn of 1901, William Eagle Clarke spent a month on the Eddystone Lighthouse, 14 miles south-west of Plymouth in the English Channel, explicitly to witness migration at close quarters. He wasn’t disappointed. On 12 October –‘…the scene presented was singular in the extreme…. Hosts of glittering objects, birds resplendent, as it were, in burnished gold, were fluttering in, or crossing at all angles, the brilliant revolving beams of light…. Some of those that struck fell like stones from their violent contact with the glass; while others glanced off more or less injured or stunned, to perish miserably in the surf below.’
As a teenager, I visited the island of Bardsey off the Welsh coast and was excited by the discovery of several dead birds at the base of the lighthouse, providing what was then a unique opportunity to examine unfamiliar species at close quarters. In the past, the opportunity that lighthouses and lightships provided for the study of migration inspired Alfred Newton – at that time, Britain’s most eminent ornithologist – to establish the Migration Committee in the 1880s to collect and collate such observations of migrating birds.
Although subtitled ‘A history of migration studies’, Richard Vaughan’s fascinating book is actually a history of a small number of important, but rather specific, phenomena in the history of migration, spanning the end of the 19th and start of the 20th century. After a fleeting glimpse at some early pioneers such as Aristotle and Frederick II, the main focus of this small but nicely produced book is four individuals: Heinrich Gätke, Hans Christian Mortensen, Johannes Thienemann and William Eagle Clarke, who were, respectively, the first serious observer of bird migration, the inventor of modern bird ringing, the founder of the first bird observatory (Rossitten), and the pioneer of visible migration studies at lighthouses.
The action starts with Gätke, who went to Helgoland [Heligoland] in 1837 and remained there until he died in 1897. A keen sportsman, Gätke had no interest in birds other than shooting them, but after killing a Greenland Gyrfalcon Falco rusticolus in 1843, he was inspired by its extraordinary beauty and became obsessed with birds. He started keeping a detailed ornithological diary of birds shot and seen, many of which – a North American Grey Catbird Dumetella carolinensis, for example – were exciting rarities. Gätke’s records comprised a migration calendar that described for the first time the seasonal occurrence of different species, year in and year out. His records were sufficiently extraordinary for others to become suspicious. In 1858, however, the sceptical German ornithologist J. H. Blasius visited Helgoland and verified the validity of Gätke’s records and, in so doing, placed Helgoland firmly on the map as a place for migration studies. A succession of others, including Henry Seebohm, Henry Dresser and R. Bowdler-Sharpe, then made Helgoland a place of ornithological pilgrimage. Vaughan later credits Johannes Thienemann with the invention of the bird observatory, but almost single-handedly this is what Gätke had done and indeed it was he who coined the term Vogelwarte, which means the same thing.
It was only after Gätke’s death in 1899 that ringing became an important part of migration studies, as Vaughan describes in the story of Danish teacher and ornithologist, Hans Christian Cornelius Mortensen. Between 1899 and 1920, Mortensen ringed over 5000 birds of 33 different species. Ringing was also what Johannes Thienemann did. Following a visit in 1896 to Rossitten (now Rybachiy) on the Courish Spit – a migration hotspot on the Baltic coast of what is now Russia (though part of the Spit lies in Lithuania) – Thienemann said he ‘could never again cut myself off from it’. There, Thienemann capitalized on the local tradition of catching (and eating) Hooded Crows Corvus cornix to explore their migration patterns, buying Crows from local trappers, to ring and release them. A master of publicity, Thienemann made his ringing ‘experiment’ widely known, and was soon getting recoveries of his ringed Crows and showing that they wintered in Germany and bred in Finland.
Vaughan provides us with a succession of snapshots of a brief but important era of migration studies. Knowing what we know now, it is easy to forget how little we understood about migration as recently as 100 years ago. It is also easy to forget how intrepid some of our ornithological predecessors were in their quest for knowledge, living alone in remote locations, such as Helgoland, Rossitten or on isolated lighthouses – or worst of all, on lightships in the North Sea, sometimes for weeks on end.
For anyone interested in the history of ornithology, migration, bird observatories or bird ringing, this book, illustrated by a number of black-and-white and colour photographs, provides an intriguing and detailed account.
The History of British Birds . 263 pages, black-and-white figures and tables . Oxford : Oxford University Press , 2009 . Hardback, £55.00 , ISBN 978-19-921751-9 . Website: http://www.oup.com . &
This eagerly anticipated book provides a definitive review of the history of British birds as largely seen from their skeletal remains recovered from archaeological and palaeontological sites. The book comes just over 20 years after the last attempt to do the same – Colin Harrison’s The History of the Birds of Britain (1988). The most notable feature of Yalden and Albarella’s book is the exceptional detail, due in large part to the database that Yalden has produced over the last decade or so, which lists all the available records of bird remains from the Quaternary, covering the last 2 million years or so. The database merits further mention as it includes much of the great volume of data – often published as appendices or as grey literature – from the most obscure literature on bird finds from archaeological sites. Incidentally, this database is due to form the basis of Category F of the British List [British Ornithologists’ Union Records Committee (2007) Ibis149: 652–654], which will extend the List back in time to 700 thousand years BP (Before Present). All this makes Yalden and Albarella’s volume the most comprehensive review of the subject achieved to date and unlikely to be surpassed in the near future. It may be of interest that P. G. P. Ericson and T. Tyrberg produced a similar book for Sweden (The early history of the Swedish avifauna – a review of the subfossil record and early written sources) in 2004.
The book is well produced and, despite being a little pricey at £55, should form part of any serious ornithologist’s library. The organization of the text is logical, starting with an introduction, detailing issues such as avian skeletal anatomy, identification, dating, and where bird remains are generally found. I was at first concerned about the section on identification because it omits some important literature and appeared to be overly optimistic regarding some of the taxonomic attributions in the literature. However, the ease with which bird remains can be identified was qualified later in the chapter by a more detailed discussion of how identification problems vary according to the taxon. In any case, this topic is not the primary focus of the book, and there is much for both the specialist and generalist reader to enjoy.
Chapters providing a chronological breakdown of the British avifauna follow the Introduction. Chapter 2 covers the truly ancient fossils, including the birds from the time of the dinosaurs, through to those from the last Ice Age. Chapter 3 then deals with the birds from the very end of the last glaciation moving into the present warm phase, the Holocene, and in so doing describes the time when our modern avifauna became established. This brings us up to about 5500 years ago – the time of the Neolithic – when agriculture started to arrive in Western Europe. This agriculture eventually led to a greater degree of openness in the British countryside; the impact of this change is discussed in Chapter 4. The first domestic birds did not appear until some time after the beginnings of agriculture in Britain, during the Iron Age. This, along with the subsequent Roman period, is the subject of the fifth chapter. Then comes a chapter on the Medieval period, a time which, in archaeology, often appears to be interpreted as one long banquet. Chapter 6 also discusses the early references to birds in literature and in British place names. The post-medieval period is dealt with in Chapter 7, the penultimate chapter, and includes the most depressing aspect of the history of British birds – the disappearance of species such as the Great Auk Pinguinus impennis, the Great Bustard Otis tarda, the range decrease of the Capercaillie Tetrao urogallus and the decline of raptors. Finally, in Chapter 8, there is a discussion of the last 100 years or so and the future of the British bird fauna.
The focus of this volume is more ornithological than archaeological, which is reflected in the themes that are addressed. This is another positive aspect of the book, as it circumvents the problem of archaeologists working in different time frames often appearing to be driven by distinct paradigms. Archaeologists studying the Palaeolithic and Mesolithic (Pleistocene and early Holocene) industries generally work within, and are mediated by, Quaternary Science, whereas those covering the Roman period onwards have interpretations restricted by written history. The intervening period of time, including the Neolithic, Bronze Age and Iron Age, is where the less restricted interpretations take place and post-modern relativism has currency. The latter has thankfully been omitted from The History of British Birds. However, it is as well to remember that we are all inevitably defined by the paradigms that we unconsciously adopt.
John R. Stewart
Artukhin [Artyukhin], Yu. B. & Gerasimov, Yu.N. ( eds ) The Biology and Conservation of the Birds of Kamchatka. Volume 8 ( in Russian, with English Contents, abstracts and captions ). 116 pages, black-and-white figures and tables . Moscow : BCC Press , 2008 . Paperback, free (but only 300 copies printed) from http://www.terrakamchatka.org/bird.htm , ISBN 978-5-93699-065-6 . For further email and website details, see Ibis 150: 210 .
Four of the 13 longer articles in this volume of ‘Kamchatka’ are studies of seabirds. One such describes the ‘landscape formative factor’ of more than 8 million birds, probably the largest concentration of colonial seabirds in the North Pacific, on Matykil’ Island (6 km2) in the Yamskoy Archipelago (Sea of Okhotsk). Another reports on changes in the diet of Glaucous-winged Gulls Larus glaucescens on the Commander Islands, the only regular breeding site of the species in Asia, after the closure of a mink farm. Steller’s Sea Eagle Haliaeetus pelagicus (lifetime variation in bill-coloration and monitoring of winter concentrations) and Black-billed Capercaillie Tetrao parvirostris are the subject of other papers in this section. Species new to the Kamchatka Region are reported in some of the nine short communications.
An Introduction to Ornithology and Biology of the Blue Rock Pigeon . 383 pages, many black-and-white figures and tables . Kolkata, India : New Central Book Agency (P) Ltd , 2008 . Hardback, Rs. 495.00 , ISBN 81-7381-561-5 .
The author of this book is an Indian academic whose ornithological research has been primarily concerned with morphology, beginning with the functional morphology of the feeding apparatus, and he has clearly become an acknowledged expert in the field. When I first saw the title of this book, which is aimed at under- and postgraduate students of zoology (its content is influenced by the syllabi for such courses), I took it to be a monograph of the (Blue) Rock Pigeon or Rock Dove Columba livia, which is represented in the Indian subcontinent by the races neglecta and intermedia. Once I was able to inspect the review copy, it was clear that it, in fact, comprised two parts, the first entitled ‘General ornithology’ and the second, much shorter, devoted to the Pigeon.
Bhattacharyya nobly and impressively aims at near-comprehensive coverage in Part 1, tackling, in varying depth, such topics as population, distribution, habitat, morphology, habits and intelligence, food and feeding, voice, reproduction (physiology and behaviour), classification and the origin of birds; then the endo- and exoskeleton and muscles, pterylosis, flight and migration. The last, to some extent ‘lighter’, subsections include profiles of some common Indian birds, economic importance and agricultural ornithology, and threatened species and their conservation. In Part 2, there is a brief general introduction to the chosen ‘model flying bird’, the Rock Pigeon, before the move to very detailed sections on its external and internal morphology and physiology, the digestive, circulatory, respiratory, excretory, reproductive, and nervous systems, the sense organs and endocrine glands.
There is an impression that the text is not as up to date as one might wish, but the author alludes to personal and other reasons for the long preparation of the manuscript and the delayed publication of the book. The appearance and appeal of what must be, or become, a standard textbook for Indian students would, I feel, be greatly enhanced by far more accurate illustrations of birds than those presented, perhaps in colour and executed by a competent artist.
But’ev [Butiev], V.T. ( ed .) Rare Bird Species of the Non-Black Earth Centre of Russia. Papers from the 3rd Conference Entitled ‘Rare birds of the Central European part of Russia’ (Moscow, 1–3 December, 2000) ( in Russian ). 327 pages, black-and-white figures and tables . Moscow : Russian Bird Conservation Union and Moscow Ornithological Society , 2008 . Paperback, price not known , ISBN 5-94018-018-3 . Website: http://www.rbcu.ru .
Brief notices of the Proceedings of the 1st conference (Pushchino, 1989) and the 2nd (Moscow, 1998) were presented in Ibis134: 309 and 141: 702, respectively. Russia’s ‘Non-Black Earth Centre’ comprises the Moscow Region and 10 surrounding regions, clockwise from the north: Yaroslavl’, Kostroma, Ivanovo, Vladimir, Ryazan’, Tula, Kaluga, Bryansk, Smolensk, and Tver’. Papers from this 3rd ‘Rare birds’ conference are arranged under six subheadings, including ‘Short communications’ and ‘Rare birds of adjoining regions’, and review distribution, population, ecology and conservation. An appendix has maps showing the range of 46 species (coverage is very uneven), a list of breeding birds of Central European Russia in eight categories (7 of 11 Endangered species are raptors), and tabulated data on the distribution and population status of breeding species in the 11 regions.
Traveller’s Guide to Wildlife of the Galápagos. 2nd edn . 256 pages, many colour photographs, maps and drawings . London : Collins , 2007 . Paperback, £16.99 , ISBN 0-00-724818-0 and 978-0-00-724818-6 . Website: http://www.collins.co.uk . , &
The first edition of this guide to Galápagos birds, mammals, reptiles, invertebrates, plants, and coastal and marine life was published in 2000. A long and detailed review by an expert, which included comparison with Andy Swash and Rob Still’s Birds, mammals and reptiles of the Galápagos Islands (2000), appeared in Ibis144: 171–172 (see also 148: 842). More species are described and illustrated in this second edition of what remains a most attractive and valuable pocket guide.
A Primer on Natural Resource Science . 206 pages, 17 black-and-white figures, 3 tables, bibliography, index . College Station, TX : A&M University Press , 2008 . Paperback, $19.95 , ISBN 978-1-60344-025-7 and 1-60344-025-9 . Website: http://www.tamu.edu/press
Unlike most primers, Guthery’s book is not for the uninitiated. Its intended readership is that of PhDs and above (examples include some from the field of ornithology) and, in particular, those with a firm grasp of mathematics and statistics. It differs from typical books of this genre in that it presents a balance between philosophical theory, for example Chapter 6 on ‘Creativity’ (in the sense of creative thinking), and methodology.
Each chapter consists of a number of carefully selected topics, which are introduced and explained. In a book of 206 pages this is something of a feat, however, and all too often I felt that more explanation would be needed for the novice. The section on ‘P’ values is good and to the point, that on the Akaike Information Criterion (AIC) – a statistic for finding an optimal model for a given set of data – would need more explanation than space allowed. To some extent, the extensive bibliography makes up for this, but it does require the reader to make the effort to follow up on items of interest. This is a wide-ranging book, from an explanation of hypotheses and their role in science to interpreting multivariate models, and publishing (for ‘egotistical, practical, and noble’ reasons). It will appeal to those actively involved in environmental research or to new PhD students involved in analytical research.
Birds of Moscow and the Moscow Region – 2005 ( in Russian, with English summary and captions ). 179 pages, 11 colour photographs, black-and-white figures and tables . Moscow : KMK Scientific Press , 2008 . Paperback, price not known , ISBN 978-5-87317-436-2 . Website (for this and other ‘Moscow’ publications reviewed below): http://www.birdsmoscow.net.ru/ & ( compilers )
For this seventh annual report of the programme ‘Birds of Moscow and the Moscow Region’, 310 observers contributed information on 244 bird species (139 breeding) in the period 1 November 2004 to 31 October 2005. As before (see Ibis148: 587 and 150: 212), there are subsections on the weather and phenology, a summary of 2005 records, rare birds, reviews of Ruddy Shelduck Tadorna ferruginea, gulls and terns (Laridae) and owls (Strigidae), February counts of wildfowl (Anatidae) and gulls, ringing results, and interesting observations. Tabulated data on sites and bird species make up the three appendices.
It may be appropriate to mention here that Moskovka [The Coal Tit] ‘News from the programme “Birds of Moscow and the Moscow Region”’ is edited by G. Groot Koerkamp (email@example.com), M. Kalyakin and O. Voltsit and was first published in 2005. Thanks to Victor Zubakin (Russian Bird Conservation Union), nos 7 (April 2008) and 8 (September 2008) have now been deposited in the Alexander Library.
Kalyakin, M.V. & Voltzit [Voltsit], O.V. ( eds ) [Birds of Moscow City: 2007, from Square to Square] (Trudy Progr. ‘Ptitsy Moskvy i Podmoskov’ya’ 2) ( in Russian, with English abstract ). 228 pages, 10 colour photographs, 3 colour and many black-and-white maps, tables . Moscow : KMK Scientific Press , 2008 . Paperback, price not known , ISBN 978-5-87317-435-5 .
The first volume of this series, which publishes data being collected for the new Moscow City atlas, was reviewed in Ibis150: 212. In this second volume, results from surveys of 37 tetrads (2 × 2 km) are presented. The three (updated) colour maps of distribution and abundance are for the same species as in volume 1.
Kalyakin, M.V., Arkhipov, V.Yu. & Voltzit [Voltsit], O.V. ( eds ) Fauna i Ekologiya Ptits Podmoskov’ya [Faunistic and Ecological Studies of Birds in the Moscow Region] (Trudy Progr. ‘Ptitsy Moskvy i Podmoskov’ya’ 3) ( in Russian, with English summaries ). 100 pages, 9 colour photographs, a few tables . Moscow : KMK Scientific Press , 2008 . Paperback, price not known , ISBN 978-5-87317-492-8 .
The first of seven papers in this third volume (see above) summarizes the status, distribution and population of the White Stork Ciconia ciconia in the Moscow Region in 2004. A survey recorded 76 active nests, mainly in the west and most on water towers near small villages, but there were estimated to be 80–90 breeding pairs, a considerable increase over the last 10 years. Also worthy of special mention is a paper by V. V. Kontorshchikov et al. on the distribution and biology of the Azure Tit Cyanistes cyanus in the north-east of the Region. Together with Blue Tits Cyanistes caeruleus, Azure Tits forage mainly in reed beds in winter, pecking open the reed stems to get at larval Diptera. The main threats to this attractive species are illegal trapping and peat fires.
A Field Guide to the Birds of the Indian Subcontinent . 352 pages, 96 colour plates and many maps, a few black-and-white illustrations . London : Christopher Helm , 2008 . Paperback, £19.99 , ISBN 9-78-14081-0978-6 . Website: http://www.acblack.com/naturalhistory . &
Originally published in hardback in 2000, this paperback reprint offers the benefits of a reduced price and increased portability. The guide claims to illustrate and describe, albeit briefly, all 1300 species occurring in the Indian Subcontinent. A short description of size, identification, habitat, voice and status is provided along with the same rather nice and clear distribution maps from the earlier hardback. The only discernible difference appears to be the omission in the paperback of the coloured endpaper illustrations: inside the front cover, an easy-to-reference guide, showing a representative species from all the illustrated families/genera with the relevant page number; inside the back cover, the generous political map. A criticism of the earlier hardback edition was the washed-out appearance of the plates. The reviewer attributed this shortcoming to a printing problem. Although that optimistic diagnosis is vindicated to some extent (most plates are reproduced slightly darker), plate anaemia is still a persistent problem, but the book has many merits and an informed (see Ibis142: 687) potential buyer should not be dissuaded.
Kurochkin, E.N. ( ed .) Ornithological Studies in Northern Eurasia: Abstracts of Papers from the XIIth International Ornithological Conference of Northern Eurasia ( in Russian ). 604 pages . Stavropol’ : Stavropol’ State University , 2006 . Paperback, price not known , ISBN 5-88648-499-X .
Abstracts of 12 plenary papers (pp. 6–30), then of contributions to symposia, special discussion groups and poster presentations, on a wide range of topics and species from this conference, which took place in Stavropol’ (North Caucasus) from 31 January to 5 February 2006. It is regrettable that there is no Table of Contents, unlike for the preceding XIth North Eurasian Conference of 2001 (see Ibis143: 518).
Internationally Important Bird Areas in the Krasnodar Territory ( in Russian ). 62 pages, 2 black-and-white maps, 21 tables, 5 appendices . Krasnodar : Russian Bird Conservation Union , 2007 . Paperback, price not known. No ISBN. Website (RBCU): http://www.rbcu.ru, contact email: firstname.lastname@example.org . &
The Krasnodar Territory lies in the north-western part of ‘Predkavkaz’ye’ [the North Caucasus], and its western boundary is the Black Sea coast. This booklet gives detailed information on a total of 18 sites (overwhelmingly, wetlands of the eastern Azov Sea and Black Sea coastlands), 10 of which are considered to merit the ‘Internationally Important’ status, but are not yet officially designated as such. All relevant information is given on the IBA programme – both BirdLife International and within the Russian Federation. A total of 222 species of the 346 recorded are confirmed or probable breeders, while 28 mainly wetland breeders are the species most at risk.
Lyubimova, K.A. ( ed .) Klyuchevye Ornitologicheskie Territorii Rossii [Important Bird Areas of Russia. Bulletin No.21 (December 2008)] ( in Russian ). 36 pages, black-and-white photographs and other figures . Moscow : Russian Bird Conservation Union , 2008 . Paperback, free to participants in IBAs of Russia programme .
Eleven articles in this bulletin focus on the care and conservation of IBAs in the North Caucasus, and the remaining eight discuss Russian IBAs within the framework of the BBI–Matra Action Plan (based on Dutch government aid programmes: Matra for Eastern Europe, BBI a separate one for promoting biodiversity).
Where to Watch Birds Yorkshire. 3rd edn . 320 pages, black-and-white maps and line drawings, colour photographs on front and back covers and spine . London : Christopher Helm , 2008 . Paperback, £16.99 , ISBN 978-0-7136-8782-8 . Website: http://www.acblack.com/naturalhistory .
Previously published, with a title including ‘North Humberside’, in 1994 and 1998 (for brief reviews, see Ibis137: 293 and 140: 716), this guide in a well-established and successful series describes the best birdwatching sites in the large English county of Yorkshire. It follows a tried and tested format, offering the adventurer a succinct description of the habitat, species likely to be encountered, timing, access to site, summary calendar of species, and very clear diagrammatic maps, which experience of other books in the series tells me are likely to be accurate and reliable. Despite the slight abbreviation in the title, the broad geographical extent of the guide remains the same, but this latest edition includes 18 new sites, in addition to the previous 93. Impressively, the author claims to have visited most of the localities receiving treatment. Mather has also taken the revision seriously and provided the user with updated access information, which is one of the key objectives of such a guide.
Matishov, G.G., Lebedeva, N.V. & Savitskiy, R.M. ( eds ) Methods and Theoretical Aspects of Sea Bird Studies. Proceedings of the 5th All-Russian Marine School (October 25–27 2006, Rostov-on-Don) ( in Russian, with English Contents and abstracts ). 280 pages, many black-and-white figures and tables . Rostov-on-Don : SSC RAS Publishing House , 2007 . Hardback, price not known , ISBN 978-5-902982-25-8 . Website (Southern Scientific Centre, Russian Academy of Sciences): http://www.ssc-ras.ru .
For delegates at this meeting, ‘sea birds’ included other waterbirds, such as Common Coot Fulica atra, and even (colonial-nesting) Montagu’s Harriers Circus pygargus. Among the topics discussed were study methods, marine pollution, feeding behaviour, social organization of colonial nesters, censuses (including use of GPS technology), and disease.
et al. A Field Guide to the Birds of the Moscow Region ( in Russian ). 232 pages, many colour plates, a few maps, 1 table . Moscow : Russian Bird Conservation Union and Kolos , 2008 . Paperback, price not known , ISBN 978-5-10-004016-3 . Website: http://www.rbcu.ru . &
A field guide to the birds of European Russia (V.E. Flint et al.) appeared in 2001 and was reviewed in Ibis143: 690–691. Why publish another guide to a single European Russian region, albeit that of the state capital? The answer lies in an obvious desire on the part of the RBCU and the organizers of the ‘Birds of Moscow and the Moscow Region’ programme to get more people involved in birdwatching, to improve their skills, and to encourage them eventually to participate in surveys.
As with Flint et al. (2001), glossy paper is employed and A. Mosalov is the sole artist. Overall, I much prefer Mosalov’s paintings in the new guide, not least because of the smaller scale. Following Victor Zubakin’s Foreword, a short section about birdwatching and how to use the Guide, come well-composed short texts, placed opposite the plates, for over 300 species. Inclusion in any one of three red data books (for the Russian Federation, Moscow Region, or Moscow City) is indicated in red letters. After the systematic section we find a ‘Where to watch birds in the Moscow Region’, notes for amateur ornithologists on the RBCU, the ‘Birds of Moscow …’ programme, and International Birdwatching Days. A list of species and their status in the Moscow Region concludes the book.
Where to Watch Birds Devon and Cornwall & the Isles of Scilly. 5th edn . 384 pages, numerous maps, information boxes and line drawings, colour photographs on front and back covers and spine . London : Christopher Helm , 2009 . Paperback, £16.99 , ISBN 978-0-7136-8814-6 . Website: http://www.acblack.com . &
The geographical position of these West Country counties, which include the Isles of Scilly (Cornwall) and Lundy in the Bristol Channel (Devon), the many miles of coastline and the variety of inland habitats offer much to the birds and, in increasing numbers, their local and visiting admirers. First published in 1984, this ‘WTWB’ was reissued in 1991, 1997 (see Ibis140: 355) and 2001. Over 80 sites are covered in the ‘fully revised and updated’ fifth edition which includes, inter alia, a new section about ‘sought-after species’ and, very much a sign of the times, information on bird news lines and websites.
Preobrazhenskaya, E.S. ( ed . ) Population Dynamics of Birds in Terrestrial Landscapes. Proceedings of a Russian Scientific Conference, Moscow, Russia, 21–22 February 2007 ( in Russian, with English abstract and summaries ). 277 pages, numerous black-and-white figures and tables . Moscow : A.N. Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution, Russian Academy of Sciences , 2007 . Paperback, price not known , ISBN 5-94018-016-7 .
Contributions to this conference discuss population dynamics in relation to climatic fluctuations and autochthonous population processes, as well as changes in bird populations and species diversity under the influence of plant successions and anthropogenic transformation of habitats. Single-species studies relate to Common Blackbird Turdus merula (population dynamics during a period of range expansion and consolidation in Russian Karelia) and Middle Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos medius (breeding density in the Bryansk Region). Methods, organization and results of population-monitoring schemes are the subject of two papers.
Romanov, A.A. ( ed . ) Ecosystem Biodiversity on the Putorana Plateau and Surrounding Areas ( in Russian, with English abstract and summaries ). 316 pages, black-and-white figures and tables . Moscow : Goose, Swan and Duck Study Group of Northern Eurasia and State Nature Reserve ‘Putoranskiy’ , 2007 . Paperback, price not known , ISBN 978-5-85941-187-0 . Email contact (Goose Study Group): email@example.com .
Five of 12 papers in this collection, plus some of the short communications, relate (mainly) to birds. Study sites include the River Kureyka basin, Noril’sk City and its environs, the Agapa River, where the primary objective was to monitor populations of Red-breasted Goose Branta ruficollis and Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus, the western Anabarskoye Plateau and the Lower Tunguska (Evenkiya). For earlier Putorana (Taymyr Peninsula, north-central Siberia) publications, see Ibis150: 435.
Rustamov, E.A. ( ed . ) Research on Important Bird Areas in Kazakhstan and Middle Asia. Issue 2 ( in Russian ). 120 pages, (mainly) black-and-white figures and tables . Ashkhabad [Ashgabat] : Ministry for the Protection of the Environment in Turkmenistan and Important Bird Areas Programme in Central Asia , 2007 . Paperback, price not known. No ISBN .
This collection of 13 longer articles (General questions) and seven short notes is dedicated to the leading ornithologist of Turkmenistan, Academician A. K. Rustamov (1917–2005) and concludes with a tribute to his life and work by Chary Ataev. The first publication with this title appeared in 2006. Topics range from the role of GIS (Geographical Information Systems) in inventorying and digitally recording IBAs and their boundaries throughout the region, to the status of the Common Crane Grus grus lilfordi in Turkmenistan, spring observations in Eastern Kazakhstan (part of the Sociable Lapwing Vanellus gregarius programme), monitoring waterbirds on the Caspian, and the role of a student ornithological club (Phasianus) in environmental protection and sustainable development, specifically in this case the IBAs programme in Uzbekistan.
Birds of the Lipetsk Region. History of Studies. Bibliography (1855–2007) ( in Russian, with English abstract ). 163 pages, 1 table . Voronezh : Voronezh State University Press , 2008 . Paperback, price not known , ISBN 978-5-9273-1278-8 .
The Lipetsk Region is situated in the Central Black Earth area of European Russia, with the Tula Region to the north and Voronezh to the south. This is the forest-steppe landscape zone of the East European Plain. Of particular value in Sarychev’s book is the bibliography of 828 titles, some referring specifically to Lipetsk or to adjoining regions, others of more general relevance. Before this comes a series of chapters: on the geography of the Region and its birds (285 species are listed with their status), a history of studies and the subjects investigated, and how well different parts of the territory and different systematic groups have been covered.
Rare Birds of the Kursk Region ( in Russian ). 126 pages, 8 plates with 32 colour photographs, 1 map . Kursk : Kursk State University Press , 2008 . Paperback, price not known , ISBN 978-5-8125-1126-5 . &
South-west of Lipetsk (see review of Sarychev in this issue) and sharing a border with north-east Ukraine lies the Kursk Region. From studies over more than a century, its avifauna numbers 273 species and 172 of these are deemed to be rare or scarce. This includes breeding birds that may have been affected by habitat changes or other negative factors, but also scarce passage-migrants and vagrants. The species accounts, which have notes on the status in adjoining regions, are arranged in categories: inclusion in the Red Data Book of the Russian Federation (Mazin et al. 2000) or its regional (Kursk) equivalent, or belonging in ‘Other rare species’. The final subsections look at potential records in Kursk of species that have occurred in neighbouring regions and potential Kursk IBAs.