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Tracks & Signs of the Birds of Britain and Europe (cover)

Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing, London

Publication Year: 2021

Binding: Softback

Page Count: 416

ISBN Number: 9781472973184

Price: £ 29.99

Tracks & Signs of the Birds of Britain and Europe

I suspect that the vast majority of naturalists and birdwatchers have a few feathers, skulls and general bird detritus somewhere in their possession. These can serve as a souvenir from a trip, a useful reference, or worth having simply to appreciate their beauty or structure. Knowing where these objects come from adds a lot to their meaning. This is where Tracks & Signs of the Birds of Britain and Europe steps in.

This is the third edition of this book, with this latest version seeing a large amount of content added compared to the first edition (that I own). The page count has nearly doubled, with each topic receiving expansions, fresh illustrations (19 new colour plates and hundreds of photographs) and new knowledge. Footprints, feathers, pellets, droppings and bones are a few topics covered.

The book is approached from the perspective of a field naturalist, with details on how you will find these objects and signs while on a walk, making it particularly useful for how most of us will discover footprints or pellets. Some signs are contrasted with those left by mammals, helping avoid embarrassing mix-ups.

Around half of the book is dedicated to feathers and skulls, with the overwhelming majority of species covered, with a range of feathers for each bird. This may be the limit of the book, as there is always a good chance the feather you have found won’t be covered. However, it remains a great jumping-off point for the feather enthusiast. The skulls are wonderfully illustrated, and with a small amount of care, you would likely get to a species-level ID even with very similar species.

Those who only birdwatch in the UK may find frustration in the number of pages covering species they are unlikely to encounter, but I took great pleasure in seeing the footprints of a Great White Pelican or Crane replicated in life-size. For those whose shelves are already crammed with field guides of birds, this is a must-own, adding extra depth to the knowledge and enjoyment we get from watching birds and making sure that wing feather on your mantelpiece is properly identified! 

Book reviewed by Rob Jaques

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