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Book Reviews

Browse the archive of BTO Book Reviews, which originally appear in each issue of BTO News - the BTO membership magazine. Join BTO today to get BTO News, and new book reviews, first.

Wintering: A Season with Geese (cover)

Wintering: a Season with Geese

Author: Stephen Rutt

Publisher: Elliott and Thompson, London

Publication Year: 2019

ISBN: 9781783964543

Binding: Softback

Page Count: 197pp

Price: £12.99

This is not a long book, but its conciseness is its strength. By the end, you have spent time with each of our native wintering geese species, but a short enough period to be left with the essence of each.

One chapter is dedicated to each of our wintering species (or two, in the case of the most recent taxonomic wrangling of the Bean Geese). Each chapter deftly combines facts with personal anecdote. I learned something new about geese in every one.

The author can see... read more

Teresa Frost

Bird Photographer of the Year 4 (cover)

Bird Photographer of the Year: Collection 4

Author: Rob Read & Paul Sterry (editors); Foreword by Chris Packham

Publisher: William Collins, London

Publication Year: 2019

ISBN: 9780008336196

Binding: Hardback

Page Count: 256pp

Price: £25.00

If a picture paints a thousand words, what can a brief review of a book with 248 beautiful and creatively diverse photos hope to achieve? Happily for all concerned, I am under no illusion that I should try accurately describe each one! I simply aim, using only slightly more than one word per photo that, to convince you that if you like to look at photographs of birds, this book will bring you huge enjoyment. You may, as I do, disagree with many of the selection panel’s choices of award-... read more

Mark Wilson

Birds of Thailand (cover)

Birds of Thailand

Author: Uthai Treesucon & Wich'yanan Limparungpattanakij

Publisher: Lynx Edicions, Barcelona

Publication Year: 2018

ISBN: 9788416728091

Binding: Hardback

Page Count: 452pp

Price: £60.00

I visited Thailand in the 90s and the guide I took with me was the newly published Lekagul and Round, at the time the best available. Nothing could prepare me for what I was about to see, new families and new species were a daily challenge and although Lekagul and Round provided me with an aid to identification for most, for some it was rather lacking.

Fast forward thirty-five years and the new Birds of Thailand is definitely up to the job. There are over 2,000 illustrations... read more

Paul Stancliffe

Ospreys (cover)

Ospreys (RSPB Spotlight)

Author: Tim Mackrill

Publisher: Bloomsbury, London

Publication Year: 2019

ISBN: 9781472956033

Binding: Softback

Page Count: 128pp

Price: £12.99

RSPB’s new addition to their Spotlight series, this time on Ospreys, written by Tim Mackrill of Roy Dennis Wildlife Foundation, provides a science-driven, yet enjoyably written read on this stunning species of bird of prey.

The book starts by providing the reader with a comprehensive look into the biology and behaviour of Ospreys on a global scale and then continues onto the history of the species in Great Britain. The latter section of the book then looks into the conservation of... read more

Nina Schonberg

Wildlife and Wind Farms: Conflicts and solutions, Volume 3 (cover)

Wildlife and Wind Farms: Conflicts and solutions, Volume 3 - Offshore: Potential Effects

Author: Martin R. Perrow

Publisher: Pelagic Publishing, Exeter

Publication Year: 2019

ISBN: 9781784271275

Binding: Softback

Page Count: 300pp

Price: £45.00

As a relative newcomer to the offshore wind industry, I found this book incredibly useful for explaining the underlying principles of the major elements of the industry, and for getting a good overview of how the sector works. Excellent diagrams, tables, figures and case studies are used throughout to support the clear explanations of, sometimes complicated, processes. The chapter layout flows well, so that each new chapter builds on knowledge from previous ones, such that there is an... read more

Ros Green

Europe's Sea Mammals (cover)

Europe's Sea Mammals: A Field Guide to the Whales, Dolphins, Porpoises and Seals (WildGuides)

Author: Robert Still, Hugh Harrop, Tim Stenton & Luis Dias

Publisher: Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ

Publication Year: 2019

ISBN: 9780691182162

Binding: Softback

Page Count: 208pp

Price: £20.00

This is a detailed identification guide to Europe’s sea mammals, covering 41 species of whales, dolphins and porpoises and nine species of seals. This comprehensive field guide covers the eastern Atlantic from Iceland to Macaronesia, the Mediterranean, Caspian and Baltic Seas, south to Cape Verde and north to Svalbard.

The book opens with an introduction to the different groups of marine mammals covered, the pinnipeds and cetaceans, and to the region covered. It then has a brief... read more

Rachael Barber

A Sparrow's Life's As Sweet As Ours (cover)

A Sparrow's Life's as Sweet as Ours: in Praise of Birds and Seasons

Author: Carry Akroyd & John McEwen

Publisher: Bloomsbury, London

Publication Year: 2019

ISBN: 9781472967145

Binding: Hardback

Page Count: 144pp

Price: £20.00

This book is a pleasure to read and to look at. The beautiful screenprint illustrations by Carry Akroyd match perfectly John McEwen’s informative and entertaining one-page accounts. A collection of the authors’ pieces for the Bird of the Month column in The Oldie, this book covers 66 species, from passerines to seabirds, from common to rarer ones, divided between the four seasons.

This is a perfectly-balanced book where the text and illustrations are not there as a mere... read more

Daria Dadam

Birds of the West Indies (cover)

Birds of the West Indies

Author: Guy M. Kirwan, Anthony Levesque, Mark W. Oberle & Christopher J. Sharpe

Publisher: Lynx Edicions, Barcelona

Publication Year: 2019

ISBN: 9788416728183

Binding: Hardback

Page Count: 400pp

Price: £49.99

Having recently been to the West Indies bird watching and bird ringing, I was disappointed at the selection of bird guides available for the region with them all appearing to be reprints of older books, which while serviceable, are definitely in need of updating. Therefore, it’s good to see a new, modern guide for the region come out, even if it’s a few weeks too late for me to make use of personally, at least for now!

Covering 29 countries and territories from the Bahamas in the... read more

Hugh Hanmer

British Birds: A Pocket Guide (cover)

British Birds: A Pocket Guide (WILDGuides)

Author: Rob Hume, Robert Still, Andy Swash, Hugh Harrop & David Tipling

Publisher: Princeton University Press, Princeton (NJ) & Oxford

Publication Year: 2019

ISBN: 9780691181677

Binding: Softback

Page Count: 272pp

Price: £9.99

Throughout my birding life I have never been a fan of photographic guides. The images in most of these early guides were of poor quality and often only featured one or two plumages per species. Back in 2016 that changed after seeing a copy of the WILDGuides' Britain's Birds: An Identification Guide to the Birds of Britain and Ireland in the accommodation I was renting on Shetland. This book was packed with high-quality photos by various photographers, including Hugh Harrop and David... read more

Scott Mayson

Where to Watch Birds in France (cover)

Where to Watch Birds in France

Author: Jean-Yves Barnagaud, Nidal Issa & Sébastien Dalloyau

Publisher: Pelagic Publishing, Exeter

Publication Year: 2019

ISBN: 9781784271541

Binding: Softback

Page Count: 336pp

Price: £25.00

Having been birding in France a number of times I was intrigued to read this new guide to see how well it stands up to the sort of planning I like to make. As with many guides, this book divides up the country with clear recommendations for each region and lists which species to look out for. Following a detailed guide to the book itself, the descriptions are well set out with nice suggestions for hot spots to visit wherever in the country you might be, how long you might want to spend there... read more

Katharine Bowgen

Gulls Simplified (cover)

Gulls Simplified: A Comparative Approach to Identification

Author: Pete Dunne & Kevin T Karlson

Publisher: Princeton University Press

Publication Year: 2018

ISBN: 9780691156941

Binding: Softback

Page Count: 208pp

Price: £20.00

This book aims to look at shape and structure, before dwelling on finer plumage characteristics, an approach you might already use on raptors. It starts ‘Gulls? No waaaayyeeeeeeeeeee!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!’, which rather sets the tone for the rest of the book; chatty, laid back and informal.

Author Pete Dunne realised he was better able to identify a Lesser Black-backed Gull at 200 yards than at 20 feet. Although, being a book covering the gulls of North America, I can relate to... read more

Sarah Harris

Listening in the Field (cover)

Listening in the Field: Recording and the Science of Birdsong

Author: Joeri Bruyninckx

Publisher: MIT Press, Cambridge (MA) & London

Publication Year: 2018

ISBN: 9780262037624

Binding: Hardback

Page Count: 248pp

Price: £27.00

Bird song and calls have caught people’s attention and captured our imagination for millennia. As scientific study emerged and advanced, listening to, recording and analysing bird vocalisations became a key aspect of ornithology.

Bruyninckx documents the history of these developments in absorbing detail, starting with case studies of some of the early pioneers of bird sound recording in the field and going on to consider how we interact with and interpret bird sounds. The author... read more

Nick Moran

To the Ends of the Earth (cover)

To The Ends of The Earth: Ireland's Place in Bird Migration

Author: Anthony McGeehan

Publisher: Collins Press, Dublin

Publication Year: 2018

ISBN: 9781848893528

Binding: Hardback

Page Count: 248pp

Price: £24.99

As a resident of Northern Ireland, I chose this book for its title: ‘Ireland’s Place in Bird Migration’. However, the scope of this fascinating book is global, like the paths of the book’s protagonists.

This is far from being a book for those interested in the birds of Ireland only; the miraculous biology of migration is explored from the physiological changes in a bird’s body to the actions of weather and luck on migrations. Each chapter of the book is well researched, and McGeehan... read more

Katherine Booth Jones

The Feather Thief (cover)

The Feather Thief

Author: Kirk Wallace Johnson

Publisher: Hutchinson, London

Publication Year: 2018

ISBN: 9781101981610

Binding: Hardback

Page Count: 297pp

Price: £20.00

Before reading this book, not one of us who met to discuss it had any idea whatsoever about the very serious and skilful art of salmon fly-tying, especially when taken to the lengths described in this narrative. Fly-tying, yes maybe - ordinary ones for actually catching fish - but not created to the level we get to see here, where flies are made from the most beautiful feathers, coveted and preserved beyond comprehension, never to go near a drop of water and many, it seems, made by men who... read more

BTO Book Group

Birds of Nunavut volume 1 (cover)

Birds of Nunavut (2 volume set)

Author: Ed. Richards, J.M. & Gaston, A.J. (editors)

Publisher: University of British Columbia Press, Vancouver

Publication Year: 2018

ISBN: 9780774860246

Binding: Hardback

Page Count: 810pp

Price: £99.99

Many readers, perhaps most, will be unfamiliar with the territory of Nunavut, a sprawling landscape dominated by islands that covers nearly two million square kilometres. Created in 1999 by division of Canada’s Northwest Territories, Nunavut supports a human population of fewer than 40,000 individuals, making it one of the most sparsely populated landscapes on our planet. Readers are more likely to recognise some of its component islands, such as Baffin Island and Ellesmere Island, and may... read more

Mike Toms



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