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Birds of the Middle East (cover)

Publisher: Helm, London

Publication Year: 2022

Binding: Softback

Page Count: 224

ISBN Number: 9781472986757

Price: £ 16.99

Birds of the Middle East: A Photographic Guide

The Middle East is something of an international stepping stone for both migratory birds and people travelling between Europe, Africa and Asia. For birdwatchers stopping over in this part of the world, a rich and unique avifauna awaits, and this photographic guide provides a perfect introduction. The front cover is adorned with stunning images of a representative selection of the region’s birds: Lichtenstein’s Sandgrouse, Desert Wheatear, Steppe Eagle and Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin. These provide a taster of the fabulous photographs to be found throughout the book; personal favourites include the sentry-like pair of Cream-coloured Coursers and the beautifully-framed White-spectacled Bulbul – the latter an often-underrated species that is largely confined to Turkey and the Arabian Peninsula. The exceptional photography is made all the more impressive by the vast majority of the images clearly having been taken in the region.

The introductory section identifies the target audience as “those who on their travels in the Middle East would like to spend some time watching the exciting birds [it offers]” as well as voicing the hope that “it will encourage those who live in the region to take an interest in its wonderful birds and their conservation” – a worthy aim indeed. Next is a summary of some of the challenges facing birds and their habitats in the Middle East, then a short but tantalising overview of some of the top birdwatching locations in each country. The species entries follow directly; given that these account for about 90% of the book, it would have been good to see this section clearly announced.

The species accounts are brief but all have a handy ‘Where to see’ paragraph, outlining each bird’s habitat, distribution and seasonal occurrence. Understandably for a book of this nature, a limited selection of plumages are shown. Some of the image choices are a bit perplexing: two images of adult male Little Bittern but none of the less distinctive plumages, and two near-identical portraits of Hamerkop, for example. However, these very minor points don’t detract from a set of accounts that provide a useful amount of information for a well-chosen selection of birds that the target audience could expect to encounter in the region. I certainly echo the closing words on the back cover: “Portable yet authoritative, this is the perfect guide for travellers and birdwatchers visiting this spectacular and bird-rich slice of western Asia.”

Book reviewed by Nick Moran

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