Book reviews

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Behrens, K., Barnes, K. & Boix, C. Birding Ethiopia. A Guide to the Country’s Birding Sites . xxxiii + 189 pages, numerous colour photographs and maps . Barcelona : Lynx Edicions , 2010 . Paperback, €25.00, ISBN 978-84-96553-55-2 . Website: .

Spottiswoode, C., Gabremichael, M. & Francis, J. Where to Watch Birds in Ethiopia . 192 pages, numerous colour photographs and maps . London : Christopher Helm , 2010 . Paperback, £19.99, ISBN 978-1-4081-3075-9 . Website:

It was in 1983 that I first had the good fortune to travel to Ethiopia on a birding trip and what a revelation it was! I was completely astonished by a country of such varied landscapes and breathtaking beauty (sometimes quite literally breathtaking – watching Spot-breasted Plovers Vanellus melanocephalus and Wattled Cranes Bugeranus carunculatus at c.4000 m on the Sanetti Plateau!) and a richness of wildlife and cultural diversity such as I had not experienced anywhere else before (or since). From those high tops of the Bale Mountains to the scorching heat of the Rift Valley, the birdlife was as abundant as it was initially confusing. The only relevant books then available, and which I was therefore obliged to carry with me in the field, were the two hefty volumes of the African Handbook of Birds: Birds of Eastern and North-eastern Africa by Mackworth-Praed and Grant (1957, 1960). Even so, we often struggled to identify what we were looking at.

How things have changed, but really only in the last couple of years. Today, we have the splendid new field guide Birds of the Horn of Africa (Redman et al. 2009; reviewed in Ibis151: 787–788) and a distribution atlas –The Birds of Ethiopia and Eritrea (Ash & Atkins 2009; see Ibis152: 661–662), and now these are joined by not one but two new guides on where to watch birds in this remarkable country.

Birding Ethiopia is the usual high-quality production one expects from Lynx Edicions. Although a slightly larger format than the Helm book, it is still compact and ideal to carry on a trip. It is written by three highly experienced South African tour guides (Tropical Birding). Although they acknowledge information gleaned from trip reports by other observers, the overall impression is that much of the detail presented is based on (but also largely limited to) their own personal experiences as visitors to Ethiopia.

The book begins with a useful 22-page introduction to the country and logistics for a birding trip. This is generally sound advice, but I would like to have seen more space devoted to setting the scene in a more balanced way. Detailed accounts (132 pages) cover 26 sites grouped in three regions, the North-West (11 sites), the Great Rift Valley (7) and the South (8), including all the classic sites visited by birding groups intent on catching up with Ethiopia’s rich crop of endemic bird species and other Horn of Africa specialities, but also some less-frequented places. Each account comprises a list of key species, other species of interest, habitat, detailed birding routes and localities within the site, the time required (useful for those on a tight schedule) and directions, and is littered with GPS co-ordinates, both for key road intersections and for some special birding locations to search for particular species. It is remarkable that the authors, all of whom work for a commercial tour company, have been willing to share such detailed information.

The excellent site accounts include good sketch maps and a selection of fine photographs (the vast majority taken by the authors themselves), featuring many of the key species, habitats and landscapes; overall, these are printed in a slightly larger format but, as a consequence, there are rather fewer than in Spottiswoode et al. The accounts are complemented by several small box features giving more background on some of the sought-after birds and a 24-page section at the back of the book advises on how best to find 164 of the ‘Speciality Birds of Ethiopia’. The book concludes with an index of species in taxonomic order, which effectively forms a useful national checklist.

Where to Watch Birds in Ethiopia is written by two UK ornithologists much travelled in the country (Claire Spottiswoode and Julian Francis) and one of Ethiopia’s leading birders (Merid Gabremichael). As a result, it oozes local knowledge and detail that is clearly based on personal experience and much time in the field. It has also benefited from extensive consultation and input from many others who have an enormous collective experience of watching Ethiopian birds. The authors are to be congratulated on having distilled this wealth of knowledge and a wonderful collection of high-quality images by a wide range of photographers into a compact, authoritative yet highly readable account which gives a real flavour of the place. The layout and design of the book are clear and user-friendly.

The book begins with a brief but good introduction to the country and its wildlife and habitats, logistics for planning a trip, other sources of useful reference and contacts. Over 120 pages are devoted to descriptions of the selected top 50 sites. All the classic destinations that current birding tours visit are included but much more, with the authors sharing their knowledge of some very exciting but seldom-visited areas. This book covers nearly twice as many sites as in Behrens et al., although in some cases it depends partly on how a site has been defined. However, Spottiswoode et al. also focus on key areas such as the Simien Mountains and Lake Tana, not covered at all by Behrens. The sites are grouped in eight regions: Addis Ababa area (8 sites), North-Central Highlands (5), Awash Region (6), Central Rift Valley (8), Bale Mountains and beyond (5), Southern Lowlands (10), South-West (5) and North (3). For each, there is background on key species and habitats, access and birding hints, photographs of key species and habitats on virtually every page and instructions on what to look for where, accompanied by useful sketch maps and GPS co-ordinates to aid precision. We can now pinpoint our dream to see Prince Ruspoli’s Turaco Tauraco ruspolii in advance on a Google Map!

Next comes a splendid 26-page section, comprising excellent (albeit small) photographs and a brief written summary for 50 top Ethiopian bird species. This features most of the endemics, including all the scarce seedeaters (almost exclusively Serinus spp.) and larks (Alaudidae) and many of the classic species such as Arabian Bustard Ardeotis arabs. Taxonomy and English names helpfully follow the Horn of Africa field guide and the book ends with a very useful annotated checklist.

When two books appear at the same time on essentially the same subject, it is natural to ask which to choose. However, the approach and detail included in these two titles is sufficiently different that they complement each other and my recommendation would be to buy both. If you are planning a trip to Ethiopia, they will be invaluable to read beforehand but essential to pack – even with luggage weight restrictions, they will both earn their keep. They will certainly enhance your visit to this unique and beautiful country, undoubtedly one of the top birding destinations in the world. How much easier our trip in 1983 could have been!

Martin Davies

Brichetti, P. & Fracasso, G. Ornitologia Italiana: Identificazione, Distribuzione, Consistenza e Movimenti degli Uccelli Italiani. Vol. 6 Sylviidae – Paradoxornithidae . 493 pages, numerous colour photographs, maps, paintings, colour and black-and-white figures and tables; CD-ROM + 14-page booklet: Vocalizzazioni specie nidificanti 4. Passeriformes (Oriolidae–Emberizidae ). Bologna : Oasi Alberto Perdisa Editore , 2010 . Hardback, €48.00, ISBN 978-88-8372-473-2 , Website: .

The ambitious project of summarizing all the basic information on the Italian avifauna moves forward apace. In this sixth volume of the series Ornitologia Italiana, the first volume of which was published in 2003 and reviewed in Ibis147: 228–229, Pierandrea Brichetti and Giancarlo Fracasso present 48 species belonging to three families of passerines: Sylviidae (45 species of six genera), Timaliidae (the naturalized Red-billed Leiothrix Leiothrix lutea) and Paradoxornithidae (Bearded Tit Panurus biarmicus and another naturalized species, Vinous-throated Parrotbill Paradoxornis webbianus, both of which belong to the Timaliidae, according to other authors).

Most of the information is based on Italian ornithological literature and unpublished data, sometimes complemented by references to well-known general ornithological books to fill gaps. For every species, the authors provide data on body measurements and weights recorded at different Italian ringing stations and describe in detail the key features for identification (very useful for both birdwatchers and bird-ringers). Much attention is also paid to the distribution of species and subspecies and estimates of both breeding and wintering populations throughout the country (Corsica is included for zoogeographical reasons). It is worth highlighting the section on bird movements, based on both published and unpublished records of ringed birds. Habitat and reproduction are also covered, while conservation is addressed with a brief note. There are sonograms in the text, but sound recordings for the warblers and Bearded Tit are to be found on the CD accompanying volume 5 of this work (for details, see below).

Superb bird photographs accompany the text of each species. Yet this is not a book of creative photography and the images are presented primarily to aid identification, though a bonus is that several show display-postures, and the effort put into gathering so many beautiful shots is truly remarkable, especially considering the elusiveness of most species. Rather detailed maps of distribution are presented for each species, often accompanied by others that visualize movements documented by ringers. To help with the identification of the most difficult species (e.g. Acrocephalus spp. and Phylloscopus spp.), there are comparative tables with diagnostic features (for ringers). The book also covers vagrant species listed by the Italian Ornithological Committee.

This volume will certainly interest most Italian ornithologists. It reviews a large body of literature from many different sources, from international scientific journals to local ornithological publications. One of the merits of this series of books is precisely that of ‘rescuing’ information that would otherwise be easily overlooked and forgotten. Indeed, the amount of data published from the 1970s onwards is really surprising. Comparisons of historical estimates of population size and distribution with current data reveal patterns that are most informative for bird conservation. For example, the reader learns that the populations of Barred Warbler Sylvia nisoria, Orphean Warbler Sylvia hortensis and Bearded Tit have shrunk dramatically, and only a few species have increased, such as Cetti’s Warbler Cettia cetti, which has expanded its geographical range.

The fact that the book is written in Italian obviously makes it more accessible to local birdwatchers and non-professional ringers. This is important, because the information provided by amateur ornithologists has proved to be extremely valuable when surveying the status and distribution of bird populations across wide geographical ranges, and this book will motivate many to continue their efforts in Italy. However, the book is also worth consulting by everyone interested in the Italian avifauna (an updated checklist partly translated into English appears on page 471) or in a comprehensive review of the literature available for each species. A suggestion for forthcoming volumes (the series is planned to be completed in nine) and possible updates of the earlier ones may be to enlarge the section on conservation, summarizing the relevant information on population size, distribution and habitat use, to give the reader a quicker idea of the situation of each species. Also, the Introduction could be expanded, adding some general qualitative analyses and considerations at family level that would help to put in a wider context the specific information presented later.

Vittorio Baglione & Daniela Canestrari

As an adjunct to the above review, brief details are given here of volumes 2–5. Where the bibliographical information is the same as for volumes 6 or 2 (i.e. illustrations, price –€48.00 per volume), it is not repeated below.

Brichetti, P. & Fracasso, G. Ornitologia Italiana. Vol. 2 Tetraonidae – Scolopacidae.397 pages, CD-ROM + 14-page booklet. Vocalizzazioni specie nidificanti 1. Non-passeriformes (Podicipedidae – Picidae). Bologna: Alberto Perdisa Editore, 2004. ISBN 88–8372–083–0.

Vol. 3 Stercorariidae – Caprimulgidae.437 pages, CD-ROM + 14-page booklet. Vocalizzazioni specie nidificanti 1. Non-passeriformes (Podicipedidae – Picidae; as vol. 2, above). 2006. ISBN 88–8372–241–8.

Vol. 4 Apodidae – Prunellidae.441 pages, CD-ROM + 11-page booklet. Vocalizzazioni specie nidificanti 2. Passeriformes (Alaudidae – Turdidae). Oasi Alberto Perdisa Editore, 2007. ISBN 978–88–8372–410–7.

Vol. 5 Turdidae – Cisticolidae.429 pages, CD-ROM+ 14-page booklet. Vocalizzazioni specie nidificanti 3. Passeriformes (Muscicapidae – Certhiidae). 2008. ISBN 978–88–8372–455–8.


Chandler, D. & Llewellyn, I. Kingfisher . 128 pages, numerous colour photographs . London : New Holland Publishers (UK) Ltd , 2010 . Hardback, £12.99, ISBN 978 1 84773 524 9 . Website: .

The subject of this fascinating and enjoyable book, which is intended for a general audience rather than as a scientific reference, is the Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis. However, it is amply researched and does have substantial scientific merit, enough to keep the reader interested and informed. It is written in a style which, together with the nice balance of well-spaced text and photographs, makes it suitable for both complete beginners and those with some specialist knowledge. There are many interesting accounts of Kingfisher behaviour which lay down the basics and will, it is hoped, entice naturalists to take notes and follow the antics of this ‘blue blur’ in the wild. I also found the description of feather iridescence highly instructive and the depiction of kingfishers in both Greek mythology (‘halcyon days’) and British folklore entertaining.

Descriptions of Kingfisher behaviour are based on the authors’ own field observations and published studies, largely from the monographs, all entitled The Kingfisher, of David Boag (Shire Natural History, 1986; Blandford, 1982 and 1988) and Rosemary Eastman (Collins, 1969). The citation method is rather unsatisfactory, as details of several studies used are not given in the references (‘Resources’).

An introductory general chapter on the family Alcedinidae is adequate, but those seeking a fuller account could consult volume 6 of Handbook of the Birds of the World (del Hoyo et al. 2001), and, for the current kingfisher phylogeny, Moyle (Auk123 (2006): 487–499). Of the seven subspecies of Alcedo atthis, only the European races, nominate atthis and ispida, are mentioned. Even the account of migration is largely restricted to Europe, and there is little mention of flyways taken by Asian populations (McClure, H.E. (1998) Migration and Survival of the Birds of Asia (Bangkok, Thailand: White Lotus Co., Ltd.)) . Including diagrams such as maps of the distribution of the Alcedinidae and the migration routes of Alcedo atthis itself would have been useful.

Kingfishers avoid murky water, preferring shallow, clear water which is still or with little flow. Birds also move south if waters freeze over and it will be interesting to see whether this happens more regularly if hard winters become the norm in Britain. I commend the amazing photographs of Ian Llewellyn, many of which show key behaviour that often goes unnoticed in the wild, such as threat-postures and mating displays. I found behavioural notes on hovering limits, the coup de grâce, expulsion of pellets, and the use of helpers by Pied Kingfisher Ceryle rudis and Laughing Kookaburra Dacelo novaeguineae remarkable.

The 10 chapters of the book provide a concise overview of the Kingfisher’s life history, and the last three discuss current threats faced by the species in Britain and more widely, its conservation status and some tips on how and where to find Kingfishers in Britain. Kingfisher has much to offer readers who wish to learn more about this diminutive but magnificent species beyond the impression of a blue blur, as it guides us step by step through its secret life.

Juan-Carlos Gonzalez

Donald, P.F., Collar, N.J., Marsden, S.J. & Pain, D.J. Facing Extinction: The World’s Rarest Birds and the Race to Save Them . 312 pages, many colour and black-and-white photographs, other figures (including maps), tables, and vignettes by Jan Wilczur . London : T & AD Poyser , 2010 . Hardback, £45.00, ISBN 978-0-7136-7021-9 . Website: .

There have been many books about extinct and endangered birds, so do we need another? The answer is a definite ‘Yes’. Facing Extinction, written by a team of people working on this subject with the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, BirdLife International and the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, have produced a clear and authoritative account of the issues faced by birds and those trying to protect them and a book that everyone should read. All royalties from sales will be donated to BirdLife’s Preventing Extinctions Programme.

The book starts by outlining the major causes of scarcity, most of which are by now well known to readers and include threats such as agriculture/logging (and the concomitant fragmentation of natural habitats), hunting and pollution; some species – especially many of those on islands – are endangered by being naturally limited to a small area and hence having small populations.

The main text is divided into 20 chapters each of which takes a single species (occasionally two or three) and examines the reasons for its scarcity. Some of these species were chosen because they typify similar situations faced by other species. For example, the Royal Cinclodes Cinclodes aricomae lives in the high-altitude Polylepis woodlands in the Andes, forests that are disappearing at an alarming rate; but it is not only the Royal Cinclodes that is threatened by their loss, many other species are found only in these or similar montane forests. The 20 chapters are divided into four sections, each with an introductory chapter. The sections are headed: ‘The distribution and causes of rarity’, ‘Rarity and extinctions on islands’, ‘Saving the world’s rarest birds’ and ‘The lost and the found’.

These chapters give a good account of how varied are the pressures faced by endangered birds. Threats from introduced predators loom large, but these are not just the usual rats and cats. The Brown Tree Snake Boiga irregularis has exterminated several small forest birds on Guam, the House Mouse Mus musculus eats nestling albatrosses (Diomedeidae) on Gough Island and the blood-sucking larvae of an introduced fly Philornis downsi is devastating the population of the Medium Tree Finch Camarhynchus pauper, a Darwin’s finch which occurs only on Floreana in the Galapagos.

It is now well known what effects agricultural chemicals such as DDT have on birds of prey. Less well known perhaps is the precipitous decline in three Asian vultures (Gyps bengalensis, Gyps indicus and Gyps tenuirostris). These species play an important role in the ecology of many Asian countries and until recently occurred in enormous numbers, but the widespread use in veterinary medicine of the anti-inflammatory drug diclofenac, to which the vultures are exceedingly sensitive, has led to their populations being reduced to less than 1% of their former numbers within little more than a decade. The three species may only be rescued by maintaining them with captive breeding programmes until the situation in the wild can be resolved.

Captive breeding to increase numbers is a useful tool, although the problems which caused the species’ decline in the wild must, of course, be sorted if successful reintroductions are to be achieved. A number of species including some curassows (Cracidae) and parrots (Psittacidae) are now listed as extinct in the wild and exist only in collections. Although many of the people holding individuals of these species are trying hard to increase their numbers, other species could almost certainly be better managed if the owners of the birds were less possessive (large sums of money are sometimes involved). The account of the Spix’s Macaw Cyanopsitta spixii does not increase one’s faith in human nature.

Just as the causes of decline tend to be species-specific, so do the solutions, and this book outlines the great lengths to which people go to achieve success. Perhaps outstanding is the case of the Kakapo Strigops habroptila, the world’s largest parrot. This bizarre New Zealand bird is flightless, nocturnal, the males display from leks (bowl-like depressions in the ground) and the females may only breed once in 7 years; given good conditions, they may be very long-lived. It is also confiding and approachable. It was heavily hunted by Maoris, who used the skins in cloaks, but it survived this only to be brought close to extinction in the 19th century, largely by habitat loss and the introduction of mammalian predators (though the decline of this once-common bird was helped by the Victorian craze for stuffed specimens which kept the collectors busy – and wealthy – for decades). As predators seem virtually impossible to eliminate, the solution has been to move the remaining birds to offshore islands which are largely free of the predators (some have rats) – a strategy used successfully for several endangered New Zealand birds. There is some scope for optimism, the numbers of Kakapo are now increasing, albeit rather slowly, but the lengths to which their protectors have gone to ensure an increased breeding success is daunting.

Each chapter is an adventure in itself and overall the book is not only a worthwhile read, but a good source of information for years to come. It is packed with detail, well referenced (some 1200 references are listed) and up to date. Sombre, but inspiring.

Christopher Perrins

Guallar, S., Santana, E., Contreras, S., Verdugo, H. & Gallés, A. Paseriformes del Occidente de México: Morfometría, Datación y Sexado. (Monografies no.5 del Museu de Ciències Naturals any 2009.) 488 pages, numerous black-and-white figures (including photographs) and tables . Barcelona : Institut de Cultura de Barcelona, Ajuntament de Barcelona , 2009 . Paperback, ISSN 1695-8950 . Price not known, but can be downloaded for free from:,2138,418159056_418914204_2_1264006434,00.html?accio=detall&home= .

When I started studying the population ecology of Neotropical birds in Mexico 15 years ago, I spent most of my energy trying to gain the knowledge and ability required to determine the age- and sex-classes of most bird species. If the species was not described in Peter Pyle’s Identification Guide to North American Birds (1997), it was impossible to be sure of its age. It took me three years of fieldwork to be able to determine the age of most of the birds I was catching. In those days, I would have given my eye teeth to have in my hands a copy of this book, which is entirely in Spanish and represents a great achievement in the study of Mexican birds. It fills a huge void that exists in Neotropical ornithology by summarizing decades of study and including detailed descriptions of the life cycles, moult patterns, morphology, morphometrics and ageing criteria for 76 resident and migratory species of western Mexico, an area with high bird diversity. For most of the species presented in the book, particularly for endemics, among which are Dwarf Vireo Vireo nelsoni, Happy Wren Thryothorus felix, Russet Nightingale-Thrush Catharus occidentalis and several members of the family Emberizidae, this is the first time that such information is available, making this publication an essential resource for ornithologists, ecologists and bird-ringers working in the northern part of the Neotropics.

The book comprises three sections, the first being an introduction to the characteristics of the study area (western Mexico) and the methodology used. Included in the second section are general results, describing morphology, morphometrics, moult and ageing data for the region’s avifauna. This section presents interesting discussions on the ecology of the species and about the differences that exist between resident and migratory birds. The final and largest section contains individual accounts of 76 species, among them 23 in the family Parulidae (mostly winter visitors) and nine New World sparrows (Emberizidae), all resident except Lincoln’s Sparrow Melospiza lincolnii. Unlike other books on American birds, this guide describes the characteristics of the different age- and sex-classes by narrating the life cycles of each species and describing how the birds change through their lives. Clear diagrams show both the annual cycles and the different moults each species undergoes during all the stages of its life cycle.

At a time when natural history studies have declined in importance and descriptive studies are rarely published, this book represents an oasis of basic information that can be applied for ecological, evolutionary and conservation studies of Neotropical birds. It is worth mentioning that Paseriformes del Occidente de México is the result of collaboration between ornithologists from both sides of the Atlantic, representing one of the few studies that link ideas and working techniques between America and Europe, allowing the convergence of knowledge in research areas (ageing and moult) that have evolved independently in these two continents.

My one criticism is that the printed version includes only black-and-white photographs. This makes it difficult to appreciate the descriptions of different plumage colours and patterns presented in the figure legends and the text. However, colour photographs are included in an electronic version (for details, see above).

I hope that this book will promote more studies of other Neotropical species, and the publication of similar guides in the near future. Without this type of information, it will be very hard to understand and protect the rich avifauna of Mexico and other tropical countries of America – an avifauna that is today facing a large number of conservation problems.

Jorge E. Schondube

Isenmann, P., Benmergui, M., Browne, P., Ba, A.D., Diagana, C.H., Diawara, Y. & El Abidine Ould Sidaty, Z. Oiseaux de Mauritanie – Birds of Mauritania . 408 pages, numerous colour plates (photographs), 3 colour figures, tables, line drawings . Paris : Société d’Etudes Ornithologiques de France , 2010 . Paperback, €38.00 (+ postage) from S.E.O.F. Bibliothèque, Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle, Case Postale 51, 55 rue Buffon, 75231 Paris Cedex 05, France (, ISBN 2-916802-02-9 .

This important work is a continuation of the senior author’s welcome documentation of the avifaunas of northwestern Africa (Algeria: Isenmann & Moali 2000, reviewed in Ibis144: 166; Tunisia: Isenmann et al. 2005, see Ibis148: 185). All are francophone countries, and the text is usefully in both French and English. Only occasionally is there a significant difference between the two, parallel, texts here (e.g. under Dideric Cuckoo Chrysococcyx caprius, a young cuckoo fed by a Yellow-bellied Eremomela Eremomela icteropygialis is said to be ‘plus probablement’ Klaas’s Cuckoo C. klaas but in English just ‘possibly’, which is surely incorrect).

Sixty-one pages of introduction deal thoroughly with the physical environment, history of exploration, biogeography (particularly the interface between the Palaearctic and Afrotropical avifaunas) and migration (stressing the international importance of the Banc d’Arguin). There are beautiful habitat photographs and three maps, essential for interpreting the text. The systematic list of 303 pages details the status of each species, with localities, dates of migration and reproduction. A status abbreviation is given, but for an explanation one must go to page 384, the complete country list. Taxonomic discussion is well informed, although documentation of breeding Acrocephalus warblers ought to have mentioned molecular and other evidence for baeticatus being conspecific with the European Reed Warbler Acrocephalus scirpaceus (Parkin et al. (2004) Br. Birds97: 276–299). Unlike the books on Algeria and Tunisia, there are no species maps, in view of the limited field surveys possible in this large and politically difficult country. Road counts mentioned for some species show changes in abundance observed at various degrees of latitude, but without details of methodology it is not clear to what extent factors such as seasonality were taken into account.

There is much new information, for example detailing the incursion of Afrotropical breeding species from the south, or the colonization of birds such as Eurasian Collared Dove Streptopelia decaocto and House Sparrow Passer domesticus from the north. The text is up to date, including recent results of satellite-tracking. Among Palaearctic migrants, a report of 70 Black-winged Pratincoles Glareola nordmanni in January ought to be followed up (the usual non-breeding quarters are in southern Africa, and reports of large numbers in winter in Mali were surely misidentifications). Under Iberian Chiffchaff Phylloscopus ibericus, Morel and Roux (1990) is given as reference for singing birds in the Senegal Delta, but this is an error for 1966 (Terre et Vie20: 159), where there was no indication that other than Common Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita was intended. A flock of several dozen Grey Wagtails Motacilla cinerea raises some questions. Observations from adjacent northern Senegal make for useful comparison (Heuglin’s Wheatear Oenanthe heuglini, mentioned here, has not been documented in Senegal). Most records are supported by references or observers’ names, and can be readily investigated.

At the end of the systematic accounts is a long list of species claimed in the literature but now deleted for various reasons, some from the same source as the many erroneous records of forest birds in neighbouring Mali (rejected by Dowsett-Lemaire & Dowsett (2005) Malimbus27: 77–111). These show the need for more fieldwork in the southern tip of Mauritania. A few of the species that are accepted ought perhaps to have been in that list (e.g. Familiar Chat Cercomela familiaris, unknown from anywhere else in the region, as Isenmann et al. admit). Among records listed from neighbouring Senegal, a singing Marsh Warbler Acrocephalus palustris, far from the wintering zone of southern Africa (Dowsett-Lemaire & Dowsett (1987) Ostrich58: 68–85) was perhaps a Reed Warbler Acrocephalus scirpaceus with a mixed song (Helb et al. (1985) Z. Tierpsychol. 69: 27–41)? Appendices list species under various categories of breeding status or migrant.

An excellent book, essential for an understanding of the region’s avifaunas, and likely to be the standard work for a long time.

R. J. Dowsett

Jennings, M.C. Atlas of the Breeding Birds of Arabia. (Fauna of Arabia vol. 25.) 772 pages, numerous maps and line drawings, 106 colour photographs, 2 appendices, summary in Arabic . Frankfurt am Main and Riyadh : Senckenberg Gesellschaft für Naturforschung and King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology , 2010 . Hardback, CHF169.00 from Karger Libri AG, Basel (Distributors) , . ISBN 978-3-929907-83-4 .

The Atlas of the Breeding Birds of Arabia (ABBA) project, brainchild of Michael Jennings who has worked passionately on it through the immense task of data collection to publication, was launched on 1 January 1985 and now, a quarter of a century later, the finished atlas has finally been published. Many observers sent in breeding records, but the author contributed a huge amount of information from his own field surveys. Data of Colonel Richard Meinertzhagen, author of the 1954 Birds of Arabia (reviewed in Ibis97: 162–163), have been largely ignored because of instances of apparent dishonesty and consequent unreliability. An interim ABBA atlas (Jennings 1995; reviewed in Ibis138: 803) was published by the National Commission for Wildlife Conservation and Development (now the Saudi Wildlife Commission) in Riyadh. Its 134 pages include introductory material on the factors affecting bird distribution in Arabia: habitats and bird communities, the changing avifauna of Arabia, and conservation and the environment. A species account comprises the ABBA distribution map and a brief paragraph of text. By contrast, the present publication is, in effect, a heavy and expensive handbook, beautifully produced and printed on glossy paper. The maps, the raisons d’être of the project, are there but also there is an immense amount of material on the birds of the Arabian Peninsula.

Jennings’s Arabia is the Arabian Peninsula south of the northern borders of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, thus also including Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Oman and Yemen, plus its associated islands and the Socotra Archipelago. The breeding data, usually confirmed breeding, probable breeding and presence and other records, were plotted on grid squares where four squares correspond to an area of a full degree in latitude and longitude. Records prior to 1984 are distinguished by their colour and are included if they exceed the subsequent breeding evidence code from that square. The maps are very clear and easy to consult. Taxonomy generally follows the Howard and Moore checklist (Dickinson 2003).

In total, 273 species breed or have bred in the region. A further 24 probably breed or are likely to breed in the near future. There are 23 endemic species: the 11 endemic land-birds include Arabian Partridge Alectoris melanocephala and Arabian Accentor Prunella fagani, and among the nine listed for the Socotra Archipelago is Arabia’s only endemic genus in the Socotra Warbler Incana incana; three seabird species are judged to be endemic to Arabian waters and of those the Socotra Cormorant Phalacrocorax nigrogularis, which merits an account of nearly five pages, is the most threatened (categorized as Vulnerable). The well-illustrated introductory chapters are essential reading; they cover similar themes to those of the Interim Atlas, but have been considerably expanded and updated and now occupy 127 pages. Guest authors have written some of the authoritative species accounts, which describe taxonomy with emphasis on the Arabian Peninsula, status and population size by country and for the entire Arabian Peninsula, habitat utilization and ecological requirements, breeding biology and phenology, and contain the maps. Identification criteria of taxa are not covered. The highlights of the species accounts for me are the behavioural snippets. For example: a pair of Brown-necked Ravens Corvus ruficollis attacked a Cream-coloured Courser Cursorius cursor in flight, knocking it to the ground but it ran off; Black-crowned Sparrow-Lark Eremopterix nigriceps has been seen eating uncooked rice spilt on a concrete lorry-park in Oman and Temminck’s Lark Eremophila bilopha has been noticed turning over small stones in the manner of Ruddy Turnstone Arenaria interpres. The Arabian Peninsula now has an impressive and indispensable handbook of its ornithology and an up-to-date field guide (Porter and Aspinall’s Birds of the Middle East; see Ibis153: 221). The publishers of Fauna of Arabia should now consider producing an e-book version of volume 25 to make it far more portable.

Peter Cowan

McMullan, M., Donegan, T.M. & Quevedo, A. Field Guide to the Birds of Colombia . xii + 232 pages, including 225 colour plates and 6 colour maps . Bogotá : ProAves , 2010 . Paperback, US$29.95, ISBN 978-0-9827615-0-252995 .

Salaman, P., Donegan, T.M. & Caro, D. Checklist of the Birds of Colombia . 73 pages, 1 colour map . Bogotá : ProAves , 2010 . Paperback, US$9.95, ISBN 978-0-9827615-1-9 . Website: .

When I first visited Colombia, A Guide to the Birds of Colombia (Hilty & Brown 1986; reviewed in Ibis130: 136) had just been published. Not being able to afford a hardback edition, but worried about how its 800+ pages would survive as a paperback in the field, I followed local advice and got it hard-bound in Bogotá. Thereafter I carried my 1.45 kg treasure, wrapped in a plastic bag, in a special shoulder bag along forest trails. It was invaluable. The new guide, however, fully deserves its epithet Field. A full kilogram lighter than Hilty and Brown and less than 250 pages long, this remarkable book will fit in a pocket. Unlike the former, it illustrates in colour all of the species (nearly 1900) recorded in Colombia. This it achieves in 225 plates, which despite also fitting in distribution maps and brief notes for each species, appear far less crowded than in Hilty and Brown, especially for groups such as hummingbirds (Trochilidae), antbirds (Thamnophilidae) and tyrant flycatchers (Tyrannidae). There are coloured maps showing relief, political boundaries, vegetation types, rainfall, Endemic Bird Areas and Protected Areas, as well as lists of endemics, ‘near-endemics’, threatened species and species lists for Colombia’s offshore islands in the Caribbean and Pacific.

Unlike Hilty and Brown, there is no separate text section. To meet this book’s rigorous requirements for economy, species notes are restricted to the few words that can be fitted onto the plates, highlighting information to help identification: habitat, status, diagnostic behaviour, perhaps one or two plumage features to separate from confusion species and, for some groups only, voice. It is a practical compromise which works extremely well to meet the stated objective of the book: to be easy and quick to use in the field, with the emphasis on identification. Its compact design is based on an extensive consultation with birders. There will, of course, be times when you need to refer back to the more extensive and comprehensive coverage of Hilty and Brown, but I recall that even with that work, which was my starting point in those days, I still needed to consult additional literature and museum skins from time to time.

This book will be indispensable for anyone interested in Colombia and will be an essential companion in the field. There is also another important reason why I warmly recommend it. It is published by the pioneering Colombian NGO ProAves and all profits from sales will go towards their work in bird conservation and education. In just over 10 years since its formation, this group of energetic young fieldworkers and conservationists have made many exciting discoveries, helped to establish two national parks and currently own and manage a network of 18 bird reserves, as well as implementing integrated conservation and rural development projects and promoting bird tourism.

The authors intend to publish a Spanish edition soon, which should have great appeal to both students and the general public in Colombia. As the country becomes safer to travel in, there is a growing interest in getting to know its extraordinary biodiversity through visits to reserves and national parks offering access and good infrastructure.

The bilingual Checklist to the Birds of Colombia serves as a companion volume to the Field Guide. It is the most up-to-date list for Colombia, which has more bird species recorded than for any other country. Subspecies are given (with an indication of where they are found) and endemic species are highlighted in bold. A further column indicates whether the species carries a threatened status and in which ProAves bird reserves it is known to occur (no fewer than 1130 species have been recorded in these 18 reserves, a remarkable 12% of the world’s total!). There are eight blank columns for personal use. The inside back cover carries a coloured map showing the location of these reserves, as well as national parks and other protected areas.

Much as I still treasure my copy of Hilty and Brown, I wish that these publications had been around as well during my early travels in Colombia, to complement the former and save on considerable wear and tear! I will certainly be using this new field guide and the checklist on my next trip and I unreservedly recommend others to do the same.

Martin Kelsey

Møller, A.P., Fiedler, W. & Berthold, P. Effects of Climate Change on Birds . 321 pages plus 9 colour plates on an additional 4 pages, numerous black-and-white figures and tables . Oxford : Oxford University Press , 2010 . Hardback, £65.00, ISBN 978-0-19-956974-8 ; paperback, £34.95, ISBN 978-0-19-956975-5 .

As the likelihood that we will restrict the magnitude of global climate change to less than +2 °C declines with each year of relative inaction (Anderson & Bows (2008) Philos. Trans. R. Soc. A366: 3863–3882), the chances that projected severe consequences of climate change on future rates of species extinction will be realized increases (Thomas et al. (2004) Nature427: 145–148). Accordingly, there is an urgent need to document and understand potential impacts of climate change upon biodiversity. This book, focusing on birds, provides an important addition to the literature.

The book opens with an overview chapter on the causes and consequences of climate change, which provides the context for the remainder of the text. A section concerned with methods for studying effects of climate change follows, comprising a series of short chapters that describe different approaches, ranging from long-term monitoring and methods of analysing time-series data to the use of animal models for studies of evolution and habitat-suitability models to project future distributions. Each chapter serves as a quick introduction to the approach covered and so usefully summarizes the potential advantages and pitfalls associated with each.

Then follows the core of the book: 11 chapters reviewing different aspects of the effects of climate change on birds. The first three consider what much of the literature has discussed to date, namely the effects of climate change on the timing of both migration and breeding, and the consequences for populations of getting such timing wrong. The next two chapters examine the evolutionary consequences of climate change, before three key chapters assess the population consequences of climate change on birds in more detail. Changes in population are likely to impact upon species’ distributions, and the few studies that have quantified recent changes in bird distributions are reviewed next. Then follows a useful summary of the effects of climate change on bird communities, reviewing both likely projected future changes and recent key papers documenting the extent to which these changes have already been observed. A brief summary of the likely effects of climate change on birds and bird conservation then concludes the main chapters.

Møller et al. focus almost exclusively on the direct effects of climate change on birds. They do not cover indirect impacts operating through climate-driven changes in land-use, which in many areas may be more important (Jetz et al. (2007) PLoS Biology5: 1211–1219). Furthermore, only a brief appraisal of the potential for conservation to reduce the severity of such direct effects is presented, thus skimming over what is a very extensive literature. These gaps are not serious omissions, but do narrow the scope of the book; however, within this scope the editors and authors have provided a very good review of the latest studies. I do, however, have two minor criticisms. First, the content has a strong European focus. Although this reflects where much of the research has been conducted, some more discussion about the potential implications of these studies upon other habitats and environments, particularly as it is in the tropics, where most avian diversity is found, would have widened the book’s appeal. Secondly, the concluding remarks of the editorial team are very brief. Given that this is a volume produced by a wide range of authors, the editors could have usefully synthesized the main conclusions of the book in a more detailed final chapter.

Readers should be aware that this is an academic book, largely aimed at science professionals and postgraduate students, and so in places it may not be an easy read for the keen amateur. However, this is an excellent volume, and the editors and contributing authors should be congratulated for producing such an extensive overview of the latest research on the effects of climate change on birds. The book should certainly be widely read by all with a scientific interest in the subject, and I have very much enjoyed reviewing it.

James Pearce-Higgins

Savill, P.S., Perrins, C.M., Kirby, K.J. & Fisher, N. Wytham Woods: Oxford’s Ecological Laboratory . 263 pages, 14 plates of colour photographs, numerous black-and-white figures (including photographs), tables . Oxford : Oxford University Press , 2010 . Hardback, £55.00, ISBN 978-0-19-9543205 .

Ecological research has been going on for so long at Wytham Woods that it has almost become an archaeological site for the history of science. Ornithologists trudging between nestboxes might stumble across the remains of a hut in which hardier predecessors slept during the field season, or old site markers poking through the leaf litter, giving the eerie feeling of treading on hallowed ground. This book charts the history of research and conservation at Wytham Woods, with thoughtful reviews of the long-term research projects studying birds, mammals, insects and plants that bring the reader up to date with recent research, and looks to the future of ecology. It’s a fascinating and worthwhile read for anyone interested in the ecology of British woodlands and the development of conservation management, including some nice asides on the prominent figures, such as Charles Elton and David Lack, who were pivotal in the early development of ecology, The wealth of exemplary work described in this book is also of great value to the teaching of ecology.

Wytham is an unremarkable mixed deciduous woodland, but the site has become an icon in ecology for just that reason – its ordinariness is its strength because the research there is representative of most woodland in the south of England. The Wytham Estate was bequeathed to Oxford University in 1943, providing the stability of tenure to allow generations of ecologists to build the long-term studies that have made Wytham Woods so remarkable. That stability was done no harm by the location just west of Oxford.

Chris Perrins opens the book with the history of the Wytham Estate, reflecting the changing management of British woodland from the retreat of the ice sheets through feudal lordships and the Enclosure Acts to the woodland landscapes we are familiar with today. Work on woodland ecology, flowering plants and grassland restoration has formed the bulk of applied ecological research at Wytham, continued by the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology’s maintenance of Wytham as an Environmental Change Network site to monitor the effects of climate. Just three of the projects on animals in the Woods continue to figure in textbooks: Varley and Gradwell’s life tables for the Winter Moth Operophtera brumata, David Macdonald’s long-term study of Badgers Meles meles, and Chris Perrins’s work on clutch-size of Great Tit Parus major. The chapters on insects, birds and mammals also include the beginnings of these famous projects and a wealth of lesser-known studies, making for a comprehensive but readable account.

Wytham Woods is said to be the most studied piece of land on Earth, a grand claim but one that stands up on reading this book. The eerie feeling of the ornithologist trudging from nestbox to nestbox comes not just from those who walked the Woods with binoculars and notebook, but from the thousands of ecologists who have scrutinized every aspect of this place.

Matthew J. Wood

Sokolov, L.V. Climate in the Life of Plants and Animals (in Russian) . 344 pages, numerous black-and-white figures (graphs, maps, photographs) and drawings . St. Petersburg : TESSA Publishers , 2010 . Hardback, price not known, ISBN 978-5-94086-076-1 . Contact emails: (publisher), (author ).

Many books have been published on the subject of climate change in recent years (see the review of Møller et al. in this issue), yet this one undoubtedly deserves a place in the Alexander Library. Leonid Sokolov is a highly regarded Russian ornithologist and a good part of his book (three of the five chapters) is devoted to birds and their response to global climate change.

The work consists of a number of introductory chapters, first on the Earth’s climate, then on the ecological implications of global warming in general (for plants, insects, marine organisms, fish, amphibians, reptiles and mammals). There follow three chapters that relate to the impact of climate change on birds – the phenology of their migration and breeding, population numbers, and distribution. Chapter 3 (phenology) discusses the changes in arrival and departure dates of migratory birds set against recent trends in climate change. Examples are given from North American and European literature mixed with original observations by the author and his colleagues at Rybachiy on the Courish [Curonian] Spit (southeastern Baltic), as well as some observations by other Russian authors. In general, it is shown that birds are tending to arrive earlier than some decades ago, whereas departure dates are largely unchanged. However, the author considers this an ‘open question’. Discussing the impact of climate change on the numbers of birds (Chapter 4), Sokolov examines a variety of evidence that demonstrates the significance of ambient temperature on the reproductive success of various species, evaluates density-dependent mechanisms and predator–prey relationships and describes interesting examples of invasive species such as Coal Tit Periparus ater, Long-tailed Tit Aegithalos caudatus (an astonishing total of almost 70 000 were trapped at Rybachiy and in the Baltic States in 2000), and Spotted Nutcracker Nucifraga caryocatactes macrorhynchos. The final chapter deals with the impact of climate change on the distribution of birds. Most of the examples used in this chapter demonstrate the northward range expansion of certain species in response to global warming.

In the Conclusion, the author summarizes the facts and suggests that the data gathered are sometimes contradictory, and there is an urgent need to have large-scale monitoring of sensitive species. Breeding success in some northern species has declined, whereas in others it has increased and the distribution expanded.

This book is an excellent compilation of published material and is a great read, both at an introductory level and for those with more advanced knowledge of the subjects covered. Two pages are given over to ‘Recommended literature’, but unfortunately there is no full list of references, so that details of many of the sources cited are lacking. This may be because the book was intended for a wide audience and the publisher imposed limits on its length. It is also a pity that only low-resolution illustrations have been printed (72 dpi at most): something of a disappointment, especially when one views the superb graphics on both covers.

Eugene Potapov

Tennekes, H. The Simple Science of Flight: From Insects to Jumbo Jets. Revised and expanded edition . 201 pages, many black-and-white drawings, graphs and tables . Cambridge, MA : The MIT Press , 2009 . Paperback, US$21.95, £16.95, ISBN 978-0-262-51313-5 . Website: .

This is a revised edition of a well-loved book on bird flight by an aeronautical engineer. The original’s strengths were its clear delivery of a simple message: aerodynamics constrains the designs of all things that fly, whether they are insects, birds or aircraft. The engineering and physics are thoroughly presented, but in a clear and simple fashion, focusing on indisputable Newtonian mechanics rather than complex and arguable mathematical modelling. The book is illustrated throughout with elegant drawings. Tennekes doesn’t shy from presenting the rigorous equations of aerodynamics, but he accompanies them with appropriate anecdotes and examples so that, rather than weighing down the text, they enlighten the reader.

With regard to bird flight, new stories include the astonishing achievement of Bar-tailed Godwits Limosa lapponica in migrating some 11 000 km (7000 miles) nonstop across the Pacific from Alaska to New Zealand, and the gliding performance of a Western Jackdaw Corvus monedula in a wind tunnel. Perhaps the most entertaining sections of the book are those where Tennekes defends his favourite aircraft – the Boeing 747 – against all competitors. In the first edition (1997; reviewed in Ibis141: 520–521), he contrasted the 747 with Concorde, not entirely reasonable given their rather different design brief. With the current edition, the attempts to show that the 747 is better optimized than the Airbus A380 begin to look very much like special pleading.

As an introduction to the science of flight, and of bird flight in particular, Tennekes’s book is an entertaining read, which I thoroughly enjoyed. There has, however, been a lot of work on animal flight in the last 10 years, and readers wanting a view of the state of the art are advised to consult other sources: not just Robert Dudley’s The Biomechanics of Insect Flight (2000) or John Videler’s Avian Flight (2005; reviewed in Ibis148: 190–191), for example, both of which are cited by Tennekes, but also David Alexander’s Nature’s Flyers: Birds, Insects, and the Biomechanics of Flight (2002; reviewed in Ibis146: 538), which is not.

Adrian Thomas

Tidemann, S. & Gosler, A. ( eds ) Ethno-ornithology: Birds, Indigenous Peoples, Culture and Society . xxii + 346 pages, many black-and-white figures (including photographs) and tables, 15 colour plates . London : Earthscan , 2010 . Hardback, £60.00, ISBN 978-1-84407-783-0 . Website: .

Rozzi, R. ( ed.) & Collaborators . Multi-Ethnic Bird Guide of the Sub-Antarctic Forests of South America. Revised and enlarged 2nd edition (in English, with bird names given also in Yahgan, Mapuche and Spanish) . 235 pages, numerous colour photographs and maps, a few other colour and black-and-white illustrations (including photographs), 2 audio CDs . Denton, TX and Punta Arenas, Chile : University of North Texas Press and Ediciones Universidad de Magallanes , 2010 . Hardback, US$34.95, ISBN 978-1-57441-282-6 and 1-57441-282-5 . Website: .

Here are two new books that are important as much for their attempt to influence wider ethical values in ornithology as for their material bird-related content. Both works attempt to awaken an understanding of how birds and the wider natural environment can be viewed, valued and treated by communities that are largely untouched by dominant Western attitudes. Each book makes the case that cultures all over the world, especially indigenous peoples living by traditional agricultural or pastoralist systems, can have a deep knowledge of birds that owes very little either to science or to modern environmentalism.

The two books are, in some ways, complementary and make a range of common arguments: that these alternative versions of ‘bird knowledge’ have been neglected in the past; that they deserve wider recognition now; that they can enrich our understanding of the natural world and, most crucially, our place within it; that they can often be central to the effectiveness of environmental protection.

Ethno-ornithology is the more conventional academic work. The Editors and another leading US writer on the subject, Mark Bonta, set out the intellectual stall for the book’s field in three overarching theoretical essays, while the meat of the text is the 18 subsequent chapters – the case studies in ethno-ornithology – that are worldwide in scope and hugely varied in content.

Some of them simply illuminate the diverse ‘practical’ roles into which birds are pressed by indigenous peoples. One chapter, for example, documents the rather arcane history of ‘feather money’, those exquisitely beautiful coils of red fabric that are now featured in many European ethnographic museums, but which were originally manufactured by inhabitants in the Solomon Islands. Measuring anything up to 5 m in length, these fibre strips were embroidered like hand-stitched carpets with thousands of crimson feathers harvested from the Scarlet [Cardinal] Honeyeater Myzomela cardinalis. For the inhabitants of Santa Cruz, these objects were used as money until the middle of the last century.

Another chapter explores the tensions and possible grounds for collaboration between environmentalists and traditional collectors in the context of egg harvests of the various megapodes (Megapodiidae) in Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands. The case study explores what will surely persist as a major stumbling block to full recognition of ethno-ornithology for many conventional scientists. Although the local indigenous view of megapodes is rich in empirical data and draws on an ancient tradition of encounter and observation, it also embraces fundamental errors about megapode biology. For instance, the Solomon Islands collectors believe that a single female may lay 700–1000 eggs per year at their communal and geothermally heated nest-sites, when the real figure is probably fewer than 20. Such gross over-estimation of egg yields could lead to excessive exploitation, with major implications for the species’ survival and conservation. However, an overarching precept in Ethno-ornithology is that there is deep merit in combining the virtues of science with the cultural engagements of traditional attitudes to birds. Indigenous societies and Western scientists can benefit from mutual understanding.

First published in English as Multi-Ethnic Bird Guide of the Austral Temperate Forests of South America in 2003, the second book is in many ways the more unusual of the two. It resembles a conventional regional bird guide, covering the avifauna in the southern tip of Chile between 35 and 56° S, the southernmost forested ecosystem in the world, with high levels of biotic endemism. Nearly a third of birds are found nowhere else. It is also an area occupied by several indigenous communities, most notably the Mapuche and Yahgan peoples.

The book aims to combine the multitudinous ways of knowing and perceiving this same avifauna by the region’s complex human mosaic. Each of the 50 separate species accounts has a number of recognizable field-guide elements, such as plumage descriptions, range maps and high-quality photographs. Yet it also places, side by side with these, traditional stories, poems, personal reminiscences and myths. A determination to be even-handed in the treatment of these respective taxonomies and knowledge systems is typified by the inclusion of Yahgan and Mapuche stories in their original language form. In addition to bird vocalizations and names, such stories and songs are also to be found on the two CDs.

The primary editor, Ricardo Rozzi, is motivated by the same editorial intention manifest in Ethno-ornithology, to honour the existence and role of these alternative views of nature. The Multi-Ethnic Bird Guide challenges a common presumption among those embedded in a scientific tradition that all other forms of epistemology are somehow subservient to their own and that local knowledge is quaint and colourful but otherwise irrelevant to the study and conservation of wildlife. Rozzi argues that communities such as the Yahgan are major stakeholders in the Fuegan environment, and, therefore, their responses to nature are integral to its future management. In addition, their lifestyle of deep engagement with the landscape and other species carries invaluable lessons for all who care about the future of the natural world.

Mark Cocker

Volkov, S.V., Morozov, V.V. & Sharikov, A.V. ( eds ) [Owls of Northern Eurasia] (in Russian, with English Contents, abstracts and captions) . 471 pages, black-and-white figures and tables, a few drawings by E. Koblik . Moscow : Working Group on Diurnal Raptors and Owls (Russian Bird Conservation Union) , 2005 . Paperback, price not known. No ISBN .

Volkov, S.V., Sharikov, A.V. & Morozov, V.V. ( eds ) [Owls of Northern Eurasia: Ecology, Geographical and Biotopical Distribution] (in Russian, with English Contents, abstracts and captions) . 311 pages, a few monochrome photographs, black-and-white figures, tables and drawings . Moscow : Working Group on Diurnal Raptors and Owls (A.N. Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution, Moscow Pedagogical State University) , 2009 . Paperback, price not known, ISBN 978-5-87317-616-8 . Contact emails: (S.V. Volkov), (A.V. Sharikov ).

To clarify at the outset, ‘Northern Eurasia’ in these two publications refers mainly to the Russian Federation, although data are included from other parts of the former USSR. The 69 papers in the first are grouped by region: Arctic; Eastern Europe; the Ural Mountains; Western Siberia; Eastern Siberia; the Russian Far East; and also ‘Urban landscapes’. Topics covered include status, distribution, biology, population, and conservation. The Preface bemoans the fact that owls (Strigiformes) are one of the least well studied groups in Russia. From the 1950s, published reports were largely about occurrence and diet and there was little on population changes, monitoring and distribution. One result of this neglect was that the widespread and catastrophic decline of the Eurasian Eagle Owl Bubo bubo in European Russia went largely unnoticed and its inclusion in the Red Data Book came some 25–30 years later than should have been the case. It is also pointed out that the owl accounts in Birds of Russia and Adjoining Regions (1993, 2005; reviewed in Ibis136: 386 and 148: 189) contain very little new information compared with volume 1 of Birds of the Soviet Union (Dement’ev & Gladkov, 1951; English translation 1966). Owls of Northern Eurasia (2005), on the other hand, has much that is new: outstandingly, for example, in several contributions on Snowy Owl Bubo scandiaca and on the Endangered Blakiston’s Fish Owl Bubo [Ketupa] blakistoni in Ussuriland (Far East).

Papers in the second collection are grouped by species: Long-eared Owl Asio otus, Short-eared Owl Asio flammeus and Eurasian Scops Owl Otus scops; Strix owls; Eagle Owl, Northern Hawk-Owl Surnia ulula, Snowy Owl; Barn Owl Tyto alba. There are also two more general sections on owl ecology and ‘owl fauna and community’. Astonishingly, more than 40% of the book is devoted to information about the Long-eared Owl (primarily its diet). The Editors also draw attention to valuable review papers on the owl species of Ussuriland and those of the Stavropol’ Territory (northwest Caucasus). In contrast, there is a worrying shortage of information about Boreal Owl Aegolius funereus, Eurasian Pygmy Owl Glaucidium passerinum, Little Owl Athene noctua, and Northern Hawk-Owl, whose range has contracted in European Russia.

There is surely much to interest owl researchers worldwide in these two books and the English abstracts and captions will give some help in overcoming the language barrier to those with no Russian.

M.G. Wilson

Wells, D.R. Systematic Notes on Asian Birds 2010. (British Ornithologists’ Club Occasional Publications No.5.) vi + 148 pages, 12 colour plates, 12 black-and-white figures (maps, sonograms), 2 tables . Peterborough : British Ornithologists’ Club , 2010 . Paperback, £18.00 (£20.00 Europe air/world surface, £22.00 world air) from British Ornithologists’ Club, P.O. Box 417, Peterborough, PE7 3FX, UK or online from, ISBN 978-0-9522886-5-7 .

This is the latest instalment in the Systematic Notes on Asian Birds series, an important collection of taxonomic and nomenclatural papers dealing with birds in South and East Asia. After a gap of 4 years, during which the British Ornithologists’ Club assumed responsibility for publishing the series, SNAB 2010 continues the style and scope of previous volumes. At 148 pages, the new volume is somewhat slimmer and includes fewer papers than previous instalments (reviewed in Ibis145: 164–165; 150: 845).

SNAB 2010 includes nine contributions, of which four deal with babblers. Cibois, Gelang and Pasquet present a general overview of the babblers and sylviine warblers (Timaliidae and Sylviidae) and discuss how our understanding of the composition of these groups has changed during the past 20 years as a result of molecular phylogenetic studies. They also identify species that are currently placed in other families but may turn out to be babblers, or vice versa. Dickinson and Cibois offer a preliminary taxonomic review of a part of the babbler subfamily Pellorneinae, although much room is given to nomenclatural problems. In a companion paper, Dickinson et al. list the 159 names given to the Asian species and subspecies of Pellorneinae. Dickinson and Cleere discuss a nomenclatural issue relating to Macronus gularis.

Jochen Martens presents an impressive 75-page (preliminary) review of the Asian species in the genera Phylloscopus and Seicercus. As Martens notes, the number of species in these genera has exploded as a result of recent bioacoustic and molecular work, and new discoveries in the field. His review integrates the rapidly growing literature on these genera and is illustrated with sonograms of 33 species and colour photographs of museum specimens of 18 species. Martens proposes to split the Arctic Warbler Phylloscopus borealis into three species, based largely on molecular results published by T. Saitoh, P. Alström et al., and newly reported differences in songs. Although Martens may well be correct, I would hesitate to adopt this split until song differences have been properly analysed statistically and the specific identity of the types of Phylloscopus borealis examinandus, Phylloscopus borealis hylebata and Phylloscopus borealis xanthodryas (which were all collected during migration or on the wintering grounds) has been confirmed by molecular analysis. Although specialists may disagree with some of his taxonomic views (e.g. treatment of Phylloscopus trochiloides plumbeitarsus as a full species, but P. nitidus as a subspecies), Martens’s review is an outstanding contribution to an already impressive series.

Nazarenko, Steinheimer and Surmach argue that the Korean population of Chinese Nuthatch Sitta villosa deserves to be recognized as a subspecies, Sitta villosa corea. Two papers by Mlíkovský review the genera, species and subspecies of grebes (Podicipedidae) in Asia, and their names and types. Mlíkovský argues that the Wallacean populations of Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis should be recognized as a full species, Tachybaptus tricolor, although few details are provided. Finally, Mees presents an update of his 1986 paper on the birds of Bangka Island, Indonesia.

Systematic Notes on Asian Birds has established itself as an authoritative series of papers covering a taxonomically neglected region. It is highly recommended to anyone seriously interested in Asian ornithology, taxonomy or nomenclature.

George Sangster

Editorial note: The analysis of song types and molecular analyses suggested by the author of this review as being necessary before splitting the Arctic Warbler into three species appears in a paper by Alström et al. in this issue of Ibis.

Also received

Ackroyd, C. ‘Natures Powers and Spells’: Landscape Change, John Clare and Me. (Langford Press Wildlife Art Series.) 168 pages, numerous illustrations . Peterborough : Langford Press , 2009 . Hardback, £38.00, ISBN 978-1-904078-35-7 . Website: .

This work, its title taken from John Clare (1793–1864), presents a large and colourful collection of impressionistic rural images by the Northamptonshire artist Carrie Ackroyd. The text interweaves extracts from the poems of her historical neighbour mourning the loss of countryside, with the author’s own reactions to more recent losses. In Clare’s case, these were to the Enclosure Acts which left the county without a single common; in Ackroyd’s case, they have been to the drastic effects of modern ‘agribusiness’ with its widespread hedge removals and spraying, including the loss of her favourite bird the Lapwing Vanellus vanellus.

The book contains around 100 striking screen prints (serigraphs) with another 50 watercolour, acrylic and other graphic forms. In many, birds are peripheral subjects, the landscape being central, but they also include arresting portrayals of Brown Hares Lepus europaeus and Foxes Vulpes vulpes. In the final section, the images range east into East Anglia with its wintering swans Cygnus cygnus and Cygnus columbianus, and north to Berwickshire and the Hebrides. Sources of the poems are given throughout, and at the end there is a useful list of publications by, or about, Clare. The author refers to her book as a ‘meander’, and a leisurely approach seems best suited to enjoying this splendid production from the Langford Press. It would make a delightful gift to any admirer of John Clare, of Northamptonshire, or of the varied artistry of Carrie Ackroyd.


Belik, V.P. ( ed .) Strepet: Fauna, Ekologiya i Okhrana Ptits Yuzhnoy Palearktiki [The Little Bustard: Status, Ecology and Conservation of the Birds of the Southern Palaearctic] . Volume 8(1) (in Russian, with English Contents, abstracts and some captions ). 136 pages, figures and tables . Rostov-on-Don : Pedagogical Institute of the South Federal University , 2010 . ISSN 1992-2361 . Contact email: Dr V. P. Belik, .

Raptors are the subject of two of the four short notes in Volume 8(1) of Strepet and of all three articles in the section ‘Conservation’: distribution, ecology and conservation of Saker Falcon Falco cherrug in Turkmenistan; a report on breeding Levant Sparrowhawk Accipiter brevipes, a relatively little-known species in Russia until recently, in and around the village of Divnoe in the northern Stavropol’ Region; and status of Red Kite Milvus milvus (no confirmation of breeding) in the Caucasus. Included in ‘Status and population’ is a further part (in Russian translation) of the 1887 T. Lorenz paper ‘Beitrag zur Kenntniss der ornithologischen Fauna an der Nordseite des Kaukasus: Non-Passeriformes’; two other contributions are studies of breeding birds in, respectively, the middle zone of the Volga Delta and specially protected areas of the Belgorod Region. In ‘Ecology and behaviour’, V. N. Fedosov describes ecology and numbers of Calandra Lark Melanocorypha calandra in the steppes of the Kumo-Manych Depression (northeastern Stavropol’ Region), where the density reaches 165.1 individuals per km2 in Artemisia-Festuca associations. The other article in this section notes the recovery of severely depleted Stock Dove Columba oenas populations in parts of European Russia and Ukraine apparently due, at least in part, to nesting in hollow concrete pylons, which affords much greater security from predators.


Beskaravaynyi, M.M. [Coastal Birds of South Crimea] (in Russian, with English abstract) . 160 pages, many black-and-white figures (including photographs) and tables, 20 colour photographs, endpaper maps . Simferopol’, Ukraine : N. Orianda , 2008 . Hardback, price not known, ISBN 978-966-96878-0 .

This book is based on the author’s own studies in the period 1976–2008, relevant literature and archival sources going back to the mid-19th century. The area covered extends from near Sevastopol’ east to the Kerch Peninsula, and the different habitats, including rock and clay cliffs, are described in detail, as are the birds of varying status associated with them. Most of the 180 species recorded (largely waterbirds) occur on passage or in winter. Only 32 species breed in the coastal zone, among them European Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis, Caspian Gull Larus cachinnans, and also three wheatears Oenanthe spp. (Pied Wheatear Oenanthe pleschanka is common on cliffs and around buildings). A regular visitor through the year (mainly August–September) here named Puffinus puffinus is Yelkouan Shearwater Puffinus yelkouan. Further chapters touch on anthropogenic impacts, ways of conserving avian biodiversity and the role of existing and future protected areas.


Davies, A. & Miller, R. The Biggest Twitch . 301 pages and 17 additional pages of colour photographs . London : Christopher Helm , 2010 . Paperback, £12.99, ISBN 978-1-4081-2387-4 . Website: .

In 1989, Jim Clements, author of the Clements Checklist of the Birds of the World, recorded 3662 bird species and set the world record for the highest number seen (or heard) in a single calendar year. Alan Davies and Ruth Miller decided to devote the year 2008 to global birding and, spurred on by a friend, to attempt to break that record. After a period of intensive planning and preparation (best countries to visit, equipment, contacts, car hire, website, etc.), they gave up their jobs, sold their house and travelled to more than 20 countries in North, Central and South America, Europe, Africa, then Australia, Malaysia and India. The book is a fast-moving and colourful account of highs and lows, of people and places and, of course, of birds – from the first of 2008, a Cactus Wren Campylorhynchus brunneicapillus in Arizona, to the last, a Brownish Flycatcher Cnipodectes subbrunneus in Ecuador. Mission accomplished? Yes (‘Around the world in 4000 birds’), they took the record to 4341 species.


Dowsett, R.J. ( ed .) A Contribution to the Ornithology of Zambia. Tauraco Research Report No. 9 . 163 pages, tables . Liège : Tauraco Press , 2009 . Paperback, ISBN 2-87225-006-9 . Can be downloaded from African Bird Club website: Contact email (Zambian Ornithological Society): .

Birds of Zambia: an Atlas and Handbook by Dowsett et al. was published in 2008 and reviewed in Ibis150: 644–645. This Tauraco Report comprises five chapters, which aim to update that work in various ways. Resident birds and Palaearctic migrants are the focus of the first two chapters (written by R. J. Dowsett), attention then shifting to intra-African migrants and annotated lists of the birds of Zambia’s 19 national parks in Chapters 3 and 4 co-authored by Dowsett and P. M. Leonard. Leonard presents a systematic list of recent additions to the bird checklists of the country’s IBAs compared with his own IBAs in Zambia (2005; see Ibis149: 865). There are valuable measurements (wing-lengths) and weights in the first three chapters.


Fitter, J. Field Guide to the Wildlife of New Zealand . 276 pages, numerous colour photographs and a few maps . London : A&C Black Publishers Ltd , 2010 . Paperback, £16.99, ISBN 978-1-4081-0865-9 .

Field guides to birds, especially photographic guides, are an ambitious undertaking. To extend the scope of a field guide even further to deal with all the fauna and flora of a whole country borders almost on the reckless. Nonetheless, Julian Fitter’s useful pocket guide takes on this almost impossible challenge to provide such an overview for New Zealand. The texts are necessarily brief, but adequate, covering, in the case of birds, ID, distribution, habitat and breeding. The photographs too are small, but of good quality.

Somewhat ironically, but again from necessity, the amount of space dedicated to each taxonomic group is directly proportional to how well known each group is, and in many cases inversely proportional to the numbers of species: all of New Zealand’s nearly 300 species of birds are dealt with individually, whereas the weevils (Curculionidae) and ground beetles (Carabidae), with 1540 and 540 species in the country, have just four and two photographs, respectively. There is similar succinct treatment for plants, fungi, amphibians and reptiles, and ‘Seashore’. Somewhat oddly, given the book’s comprehensive title, fish species are not included, thus omitting all mention of New Zealand’s endemic Galaxiidae and many important marine species.


Freeman, D. Mangroves and Man-eaters and Other Wildlife Encounters . 204 pages, black-and-white figures (including maps and photographs), line drawings by Robin Prytherch, 48 colour photographs on 20 additional pages . Dunbeath, Caithness, UK : Whittles Publishing , 2010 . Paperback, £18.99, ISBN 978-1-84995-009-1 . Website: .

Dan Freeman studied zoology at Oxford ‘long after I had left school’, became a member of the Bird Room staff at the Natural History Museum in London and, as the colourful, at times hair-raising, 18 chapters of this book reveal, has travelled very widely over 35 years for film-making (often working for the BBC Natural History Unit), research, tourism and photography. The title of one of the chapters and of the book alludes to a special fascination with mangrove forest, including man and tigers in conflict in the Sundarbans of the Bangladesh/India border area.

Outstanding among the bird stories related is an expedition to northern Australia in 1968 when interest was focused on three species of grasswrens (Maluridae): the Black Grasswren Amytornis housei, not seen since its discovery in 1901, was rediscovered and collected; White-throated Grasswren Amytornis woodwardi, discovered in 1903, was found again by H. Deignan in 1948, and by this expedition 20 years later. In contrast, the Carpentarian Grasswren Amytornis dorotheae, first recorded in 1913 (collected in 1914) eluded them, although others were more fortunate in 1971. Moving in Chapter 13 to the Hortobágy National Park (Hungary) brings delightful accounts of observing and filming breeding Red-footed Falcons Falco vespertinus and White Storks Ciconia ciconia, and roosting Common Cranes Grus grus. When the author worked with a friend and Sino Films of Hong Kong on the first series of films about China and its wildlife in 1987, one episode featured a man with a captive flock of Azure-winged Magpies Cyanopica cyanus regularly hired to release his birds into pine plantations to deal with caterpillar infestations and able to whistle his birds back to the lorry when it was time to move on.


Green, G. & Cade, M. Where to Watch Birds in Dorset, Hampshire and The Isle of Wight . 4th edition . 384 pages, many black-and-white maps and drawings . London : Christopher Helm , 2010 . Paperback, £18.99, ISBN 978-0-7136-8813-9 .

This revised and expanded 4th edition has information on 90 sites in a part of southern England which includes, following the arrangement of the sites in the book, the subregions Portland and Weymouth, Purbeck and Poole Basin, the Chalk Downs and the New Forest and nearby coast. A number of factors, among them certainly the many different habitats (coastal and inland), attract a wide variety of birds. Interesting comments on the avifauna and recent changes to its composition are to be found in the Introduction. The first (1989) and third (2001) editions were briefly reviewed in, respectively, Ibis132: 145 and 144: 365; a second edition appeared in 1997.


Hilbers, D., Lotterman, K. & Vliegenthart, A. Finnish Lapland including Kuusamo. (Crossbill Guides.) 224 pages, numerous colour photographs, maps and text boxes . Arnhem : Crossbill Guides Foundation , 2010 . Paperback, €24.95, £19.95, ISBN 978 90 501 1337 3 . Websites:, .

Crosssbill Guides on ‘major European natural areas’ in Poland, Hungary, Spain and France have already been published and more are planned. This is the first I have seen and its portrayal of ‘one of the last great wildernesses of Europe’ in words and fine photographs is impressively comprehensive – from the Aurora Borealis to the cycles of northern ecosystems, from the Sámi people and culture to recommendations for coping with troublesome insects. There are two main sections – descriptive and practical, the first being subdivided into Landscape (geography, geology, climate, habitats, history and nature conservation) and Flora and Fauna. Details of 22 hiking routes in six main areas (Kuusamo, Inari Lapland, etc.) take up most of the Practical Part.

Birds, among them owls (Strigiformes), woodpeckers (Picidae) and various passerines, are described on pages 96–107 of ‘Flora and Fauna’, but also in hiking route reports (Route 5, Valtavaara, is a search for Red-flanked Bluetail Tarsiger cyanurus) and on pages 201–207 of ‘Tourist information and observation tips’. The book can be warmly recommended to all visiting birdwatchers and those with other natural history interests.


Hopkins, T. Pecked and Painted. Rock Art, from Long Meg to Giant Wallaroo . ( Langford Press Wildlife Art Series .) 168 pages, numerous watercolours and some photographs . Peterborough : Langford Press , 2010 . Hardback, £38.00, ISBN 978-1-904078-29-6 .

The author travelled the world prehistoric, recording rock art in meticulous watercolours. Whatever the culture, mammals and in hot countries also reptiles, dominate the images; very few are of birds, and here the author’s identifications, despite his being an evidently keen birdwatcher, are often open to question; e.g. is the ibis-like bird scratched onto a rock face in Creswell Crags (UK; p.165) Sacred Threskiornis aethiopicus or Glossy Plegadis falcinellus, or rather, surely more likely, just a curlew Numenius sp.? Birds seen during his excursions, from Ravens Corvus corax in Britain to a Papuan Frogmouth Podargus papuensis in Australia, are mentioned incidentally in the travelogue text.


Jonsson, L. Lars Jonsson’s Birds: Paintings from a Near Horizon . 192 pages, numerous paintings, some colour photographs . London : Christopher Helm , 2008 . Hardback, £35.00, ISBN 978-14081-1014-0 .

This magnificently illustrated book offers a fascinating retrospective on the work of Lars Jonsson, considered by many the most distinguished of modern bird artists. The 150 full-colour illustrations reflect his favourite theme, birds in the wider landscape, particularly gulls, waders, ducks and raptors. It is based on the catalogue produced for an exhibition in Oldenburg, Germany, during 2008, mainly showing works from 2002 onwards, but also includes illustrations from his field guides and from his youth. There is a drawing of a bird done when he was five years old, which gives no hint of child prodigy, although the later examples when he was about 15 years old show the budding talent.

Within the book are essays by other acclaimed artists, and an added bonus of commentaries by Jonsson himself along with pages from his sketchbooks, which give an insight into his artistry, and are in themselves good enough to be framed and displayed, so that the book can be enjoyed on multiple levels. It is not just a coffee-table book, but one for serious artists to learn Jonsson’s techniques and the thinking behind his pictures. The way Jonsson talks about his subjects and the artistic process makes clear his profound understanding of both.

Apart from essays on Jonsson’s work, the book is divided into chapters on Early works, Sketchbooks, Watercolours, Oil paintings, Ornithological projects, and Lithographs. There is also an interesting chronology of the artist’s life and a list of exhibitions, but no index.

The high-quality binding and paper and the large format do justice to the images and the result is a formidable portfolio of work which will appeal not only to lovers of birds, but also to lovers of great art.


Matishov, G.G. & Tarasov, G.A. ( eds ) [Nature of the Shelf and Archipelagos of the European Arctic. Issue 8. (Proceedings of the International Scientific Conference, Murmansk, 9–11 November 2008.)] ( in Russian and English ). 432 pages, black-and-white figures and tables . Moscow : GEOS , 2008 . Hardback, price not known, ISBN 978-5- 89118-428-2 .

The study area for the 107 papers in these Proceedings (only five in English, the others entirely in Russian) is primarily the coast/continental shelf of the Kola Peninsula (Murman coast in Russia and further east to the Kanin Peninsula and Pechora Delta, and west into Norway), the Barents Sea archipelagos of Svalbard (Spitsbergen and other islands), Franz Josef Land and Novaya Zemlya.

A report on the Norwegian College (UNIS) at Longyearbyen, Spitsbergen, with its Departments of Arctic Biology, Geology, Geophysics and Technology, coincidentally gives a good idea of the wide range of subjects in the Proceedings. Few papers relate to birds, the most notable (M.V. Gavrilo & A.E. Volkov, pp.67–74) being on the status of bird populations and their dynamics around the Sedov Archipelago, Severnaya Zemlya, in the eastern Kara Sea, which is globally important for Ivory Gull Pagophila eburnea. Breeding populations of that species, Black-legged Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla and Glaucous Gull Larus hyperboreus are reported to have benefited from the warming of the Arctic. Other contributions describe the effects of seabird colonies on the geochemistry of Spitsbergen landscapes (pp. 197–201) and phoresia of soil microarthropods in Arctic birds (pp. 211–214). Jevgeni Shergalin (pp. 392–395) introduces Russian scientists to Henry Seebohm (1832–1895) and pleads for the translation into Russian of Seebohm’s The Birds of Siberia (1901).


Mercer, I. Dartmoor. (The New Naturalist Library.) 402 pages, 277 figures (colour photographs, maps, etc .) London : Collins , 2009 . Hardback, £50.00, ISBN 978-0-00-718499-6 ; paperback, £30.00, ISBN 978-0-00-718500-9 . Websites:, .

Dartmoor National Park in southwest England was created in 1951 and described in a New Naturalist volume of 1953. Ian Mercer’s career, specialist knowledge and his observation of this ‘singular hill’ over 50 years make him well qualified to bring the story in all its many aspects up to date. He has written for the lay reader a beautifully illustrated book ‘about my perception of a landscape and what knowledge is needed as a foundation to that perception’, and it is a fine addition to the NN Library. Among topics discussed in its 10 chapters are topography, history, politics, weather and water, physical anatomy, vegetation, working the landscape, farming and sustaining moorland, and conservation.

While more detailed information about birds is doubtless available in specialist regional and national literature (a few such sources are included in the Select Bibliography), much of interest is to be found in ‘Fauna in the 21st century’, the basis of which is the food chain. To cite a few examples: Red Grouse Lagopus lagopus appears to be doing well, breeding waders of five species less so; Dartmoor is the stronghold of the Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe in southern Britain, but Woodlark Lullula arborea and Cirl Bunting Emberiza cirlus occur only on the fringes of the Park; conifer plantations attract Northern Goshawk Accipiter gentilis and Lesser Redpoll Carduelis cabaret, while broadleaved woods have Common Redstart Phoenicurus phoenicurus and Pied Flycatcher Ficedula hypoleuca, whose breeding population was established in the 1950s and considerably expanded since through the provision of nestboxes.


Nigge, K. Whooping Crane: Images from the Wild . viii + 218 pages, many colour photographs, 1 map . College Station, TX : Texas A&M University Press , 2010 . Hardback, US$45.00, ISBN 978-1-60344-209-1 and 1-60344-9-X . Website: .

The Whooping Crane Grus americana is one of North America’s most endangered birds. In 1941, the population was down to just 21 individuals – that is just 21 individuals in the world. Enormous, majestic, the Whooping Crane is among the world’s most beautiful and iconic birds. After several decades of intensive care and conservation, the numbers of this extraordinary bird have risen to around 380, but it is still far from safe. At the present time, there are two breeding populations: one that breeds in the Wood Buffalo National Park in Canada and winters in Aransas, Texas; the other – an introduced flock, the product of careful conservation – breeds at Necedah, Wisconsin, and winters in Florida. This book, by the extraordinary photographer Klaus Nigge, is both a collection of stunning images that celebrate the utter beauty of this magnificent bird, and a poignant reminder of why we should continue to protect and preserve this species. Impressive photographs of Common Cranes Grus grus by Klaus Nigge are to be found in Kranich (Nigge & Schulze-Hagen 2007), which was reviewed in Ibis150: 212–213.


Ravkin, Yu. S., Dzhamirzoev, G.S. & Bukreev, S.A. ( eds ) [Ornithogeography of the Palaearctic: Current Problems and Prospectives (sic)] (in Russian, with English summaries) . 262 pages, a few colour and many black-and-white figures and tables . Makhachkala, Dagestan : Institute of Biogeography and Landscape Ecology, Dagestan Pedagogical University , 2009 . Paperback, price not known, ISBN 978-5-9972-0044-2 .

The 24 papers in this collection were to have been delivered at a conference in Makhachkala in November 2008, but that did not take place as planned. Most are summaries of long-term studies concerning summer and winter bird populations and distributional changes, based mainly on fieldwork carried out in different regions of Russia, from the European part of the country east to Eastern Siberia, but also in Belarus, Turkmenistan and Mongolia.


Roderick, H. & Davis, P. Birds of Ceredigion . 302 pages, figures and tables, colour photographs . Aberaeron : O. Roderick & P. Davis in association with The Wildlife Trust, South and West Wales , 2010 . Hardback, £16.50, or £20.00 including postage from P. Davis, Felindre, Aberarth, Aberaeron, Ceredigion SA46 0LP, UK. No ISBN .

Following publication of The Birds of Cardiganshire [Ceredigion] (Ingram et al. 1966), a summary of modern records was produced for very limited circulation by the present authors in 1994. Roderick worked on the text for 15 years, circulated a draft in 2007, but died in 2009 before the work could be completed. Davis, County Recorder for many years, edited it and made a sizeable contribution to the historical background.

This is a no-nonsense county avifauna, making scholarly use of all available material and densely packed with information. There are bird references in Welsh poetry back to the 13th century, but the founders of modern recording were Dr J. H. Salter, from 1897, and W. H. Condry, from 1947; the latter was Warden of Ynys-hir Reserve from 1969. Most species accounts are neatly divided into ‘Historical Review’ (before 1966) and ‘Recent Status’ (to 2007), corresponding to the period for which a County Report has been published. A formidable amount of research has been devoted to pre-1967 records, one excellent result of which is the detailed history of heronries. There is a modest use of histograms and tables. Outsiders may turn first to the accounts of Red-billed Chough Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax, of which Ceredigion now has at least 28 pairs, and Red Kite Milvus milvus, of which it has at least 186! By contrast, the Ring Ouzel Turdus torquatus may have now vanished from its haunts in the gullies of Pumlumon. There are excellent introductory chapters on bird recording, topography, changes in populations and conservation, and there is a separate section of colour photographs showing habitats and typical species.

The price is wonderfully cheap for a solidly bound county avifauna. It is good to see a Wildlife Trust so deeply involved in local ornithology.


Ryabitsev, V.K. & Tarasov, V.V. ( eds ) Distribution of Birds in the Urals, their Environs [Priural’ye] and Western Siberia, no.15 (in Russian) . 202 pages, a few maps . Ekaterinburg : Urals University Press , 2010 . Paperback, price not known (only 150 copies printed), ISSN 2218-7685 . Email contact: .

An editorial in this 15th collection of articles and short notes (33 in total) on birds of varying status in an area amounting to roughly a quarter of the territory of the Russian Federation announces the aim of gaining official recognition for the publication as a journal (note ISSN, above) –‘a regional avifaunistic annual (or year book)’.

A number of the longer articles review the birds, their status, distribution and other aspects in the Asha District of the Chelyabinsk Region (southern Urals) and, just east of there, in the northern Kurgan Region; the Northern Kazakhstan Region (southern part of the West Siberian Plain); and on the lower Ket’ River, also in the south of Western Siberia; Urengoy and the interfluve of the lower Pur and Taz rivers in the northwest of Western Siberia. E. V. Barbazyuk (pp.17–20) reports on the migration of the tundra race of the Peregrine Falcon, Falco peregrinus calidus through the Orenburg Region (southern Urals). A. V. Kovalevskiy and V. B. Il’yashenko (pp. 75–87), working on the Tom’ River in the Kemerovo Region of Western Siberia in July to October 2008 and June to September 2009, describe the migration of small passerines. They trapped and ringed 13 970 birds of 85 species, among them both Sand Martin Riparia riparia and Pale Martin Riparia diluta.


White, D.M. & Guyette, S.M. Zen Birding . 194 pages, crane and dragonfly vignettes . Winchester, UK and Washington, D.C., USA : O-Books , 2010 . Paperback, £9.99, US$16.95, ISBN 978-1-84694-389-8 . Website: .

In popular literary perception, Zen has, over the last several decades, drifted from the Art of Archery (1948), through Motorcycle Maintenance (1974), to arrive rather belatedly in the birdwatchers’ court. As in those earlier manifestations, ‘Zen’ is here seen as an approach, a state of mind, rather than the arduous Buddhist practice of ‘just sitting’ in a temple or retreat. Hence the book is really a meditation on birdwatching ethics and attitudes, an appeal to ‘being with the bird in its own context’ rather than concentrating on competitive listing or over-objective science. The authors are anthropologists by training, and the book is full of insights into human behaviour when faced with birds and the wild. My favourite is a series of notes on how management and staff reacted to the saga of owls nesting in a tree by the office windows of a large company – snotty supervisors, know-all birders and cute-loving females, with arguments around time-wasting, how people see raw predation, and whether baby owls should be rescued when fallen from the tree (natural selection vs. humane compassion), and, if rescued, should the company trumpet this to gain PR kudos.

There is an effective appeal to strive for conservation whatever the setbacks – to grieve losses and move on, not mourn and give up. The book is full of anecdotes and commentary on birding and bird behaviour, which fall a bit flat on this side of the Atlantic as they are all set in North America or Hawaii, but the principles are valid wherever you are (and Holarctic Ravens Corvus corax feature frequently). A good reflective read on dark winter evenings.


Woodcock, M. Safari Sketchbook: A Bird Painter’s African Odyssey . 176 pages, numerous sketches and paintings . Wiveton, Norfolk, UK : The Esker Press , 2010 . Hardback, £45.00, ISBN 978-0-9564016-0-1 . Website: .

Martin Woodcock is perhaps best known for having illustrated all seven volumes of The Birds of Africa (1982–2004). Safari Sketchbook shows a different side of this prolific artist and includes much looser, more artistic works, with the birds shown in more naturalistic poses.

This is indeed a collection of studies and sketches made while researching the illustrations for The Birds of Africa, and some of these sketches were then used as the basis for the books’ plates. They capture the freshness and immediacy of birds observed in the field, but also included are close-up studies of some caught during mist-netting, for scientific work.

A double-page spread depicting Hartlaub’s Turaco Tauraco hartlaubi is particularly striking. The mixture of colour and pencil sketches along with the variation in layout means the book delights at each turn of the page. Some of the sketches show the bird’s behaviour, for example sparring and posturing by male White-bellied Bustards Eupodotis senegalensis.

Here are more than 200 sketch pages, in watercolour and pencil, which will evoke vivid memories for anyone who has experienced the wild beauty of Africa and her native fauna and flora. Much of the material comes from trips to Tanzania and Kenya, but there are also accounts of visits to Uganda, Cameroon and Ethiopia.

This superbly produced book takes the reader with Martin Woodcock on his travels through Africa, entertaining with stories of adventures from his journals and, through the sketches, showing what he saw; not just birds, but the landscapes, habitats and plants, too. As well as the journal extracts, the text includes anecdotes, descriptions and brief histories, which all enhance the reader’s experience.