Current book reviews

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Steller's Sea Eagle

Vladimir Masterov, Michael Romanov & Richard Sale
Snowfinch Publishing, Coberley 2019
ISBN: 9780957173231
Hardback

In 1740 Georg Steller, a young German doctor and naturalist, accompanied the explorer Vitus Bering on his search for a land bridge between Russia and America. The expedition was shipwrecked amid storms, and despite Steller’s best efforts, Bering and much of the crew died on what became known as Bering Island. Steller survived a harsh winter and returned to St. Petersburg with first descriptions of many animals, among them Steller’s Sea Eagle.

Green andProsperous Land cover

Green and Prosperous Land – a Blueprint for Rescuing the British Countryside

Dieter Helm
William Collins, London 2019
ISBN: 9780008304478
Hardback

This book arrives at the right time. Irrespective of whether and how we leave the European Union, the central tenet of Dieter Helm’s thesis is fast gaining traction: a healthy environment is fundamental to a healthy economy. The author has good credentials for presenting the arguments: he has nature firmly embedded in his upbringing, and economics filling his mind. Rarely does a book arrive, chiming so perfectly with the policy environment of the day.

Bonkers Birding (cover)

Bonkers Birding

John Lee
Brambleby Books 2018
ISBN: 978190824154

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. It is well-written and comes as close as any book I have read to explaining why people go birding or twitching. The book also resists the temptation of just listing foreign holidays and the birds seen which can become a little boring to the reader. Instead it documents how John’s birdwatching started, the revelation of the first trip to Minsmere (I can still remember mine 50 years ago), birding in different parts of the UK and world as John’s life changed and his relatively late obsession with foreign birding.

Birds of Vietnam (cover)

Birds of Vietnam

Richard C. Craik & Lê Quý Minh
Lynx Edicions 2018
ISBN: 9788416728107
Softback

For me, a good foreign bird guide is one that doesn’t just inform you of the many species you might see on your travels, but also takes the time to introduce you to the area and habitats you will be visiting when in a new country. The Birds of Vietnam by Craik and Minh is one of these, with clear and distinguishable illustrations prefaced by a good introduction to the country and help on how to plan your trip.

African Raptors cover

African Raptors

William S.Clark and Rob Davies (illus.)
Bloomsbury Publishing, London 2018
ISBN: 9780713665383
Hardback

Another quality guide from the Helm stable, African Raptors covers all 106 species that are found on the continent.  The book follows the Helm Identification Guide format putting the colour plates in the first half of the book followed by the map and text pages in the second half. All of the 52 plates were painted for this guide and are excellent, my only minor gripe being that some of the plates are a little crowded; they do, however, contain a lot of information, the plate for Steppe Eagle showing fourteen different plumage types.

Birds of Japan cover

Birds of Japan

Mark Brazil
Christopher Helm, London 2018
ISBN: 9781472913869
Softback

Birds of Japan follows a tried and tested field guide format, with an introductory section on the different habitats found across the islands, followed by the species accounts. All 700 species that have occurred in Japan are included, even those that are recorded as being extinct are illustrated.

Climate Change and British Wildlife cover

Climate Change and British Wildlife

Trevor Beebee
Bloomsbury Publishing, London 2018
ISBN: 9781472943200
Hardback

Thus is a must-read for anyone with an interest in British wildlife.

Understanding how flora and fauna are responding to a changing climate, and the potential consequences of these changes, are arguably one of the most important tasks facing ecologists today. Trevor Beebee has managed to present the current information in a way that is good, not just for scientists, but for any interested amateur natural historians.

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Bat roosts in trees

Bat Tree Habitat Key
Pelagic Publishing, Exeter 2018
ISBN: 9781784271619
Softback

The ‘Bat Tree Habitat Key’ is a collaborative project, set up by Henry Andrews to provide a detailed account of how bat species in the UK exploit trees as roost sites. Mainly designed and written for tree-care and ecology professionals, the objective is to provide a practical and systematic framework for finding tree roosts, with defined thresholds for action.

Common and Spotted Sandpipers cover

Common & Spotted Sandpipers

Phil Holland
Whittles Publishing, Dunbeath 2018
ISBN: 9781849953610
Softback

Many of us will probably have only a passing familiarity with Common Sandpipers, either encountered as birds on passage in lowland wetlands, or as dispersed breeding birds along upland lochs and rivers. This delightful book brings all aspects of their behaviour and ecology to life with a mix of natural history observation, data and reference to published studies, which enable us to get to know the species much better. Importantly, this is not just a book about Common Sandpipers in the UK.

The Refugees from Daffodil Cottage

The Refugees from Daffodil Cottage

Ian Rudd
Xadrum 2017
ISBN: 9780995581500
Softback

The Refugees from Daffodil Cottage is a children’s fiction book told from the perspective of a flock of birds that lose their home. It teaches about the importance of friendship and the impact that human activity has on birds. It also shows the hardships of the changing seasons birds have to face every year. 

The Wren: a biography

The Wren: a biography

Stephen Moss
Square Peg, London 2018
ISBN: 9781910931936
Hardback

On St Stephen's Day (Boxing Day) the young men of the village would set out to hunt a Wren to parade round the houses in exchange for charity. The tradition of the Wren hunt stretches back as far as the Bronze Age, punctuating the darkest point of the year.

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Ploughing a New Furrow: a Blueprint for Wildlife-Friendly Farming

Malcolm Smith
Whittles Publishing, Dunbeath 2018
ISBN: 9781849953283
Softback

Ploughing a New Furrow primarily focuses on a series of case studies where the author, Malcolm Smith, seeks to gain an insight from farmers who overcome the myriad of challenges of managing a profitable farming business whilst conserving wildlife.

Rewild Yourself: 23 Spellbinding Ways to Make Nature More Visible

Rewild Yourself: 23 Spellbinding Ways to Make Nature More Visible

Simon Barnes
Simon & Schuster, London 2018
ISBN: 9781471175404
Hardback

Finding time to enjoy the natural world can be hard, but with a few tips and tricks such as those mentioned in Simon Barnes’ Rewild Yourself it becomes possible to make the most of any length of time and location you might find yourself in. A pleasant book, it takes the time to show you how simple actions and equipment can be used in small “spells” to deepen your perception of the natural world.

Woodpeckers cover

Woodpeckers

Gerard Gorman
Bloomsbury Publishing, London 2018
ISBN: 9781472951182
Softback

From the Gila Woodpecker excavating nest-holes in desert cacti and the Acorn Woodpecker jamming thousands of acorns into holes in ‘granary’ trees to feed on later, through to the flycatching woodpeckers, the woodpeckers are a more diverse family than one might initially assume. This message is adeptly conveyed in Woodpeckers by Gerard Gorman, with crisp colourful images and easily digestible text.

Sutherland Birdlife

Sutherland Birdlife

Fraser Symonds & Alan Vittery
Privately published 2018
ISBN: 9781788084925
Softback

Sutherland Birdlife is a book of two halves; the first covers the geography, habitats and birdlife of the county and the second is comprised of species accounts that form an extension to Alan Vittery's 1997 book 'The Birds of Sutherland'. These distinct halves are separated by several pages of beautiful watercolours by Symonds, illustrating some of the species characteristic to the county at different times of the year.