Whenever a new Field Guide appears on the scene I always ask myself the same question. “Do I really need another new field guide?!” This is especially true for identification guides to British birds. There are so many adequate bird ID books out there now and so many on-line aids I have to ask myself if the age of physical paper versions of books are actually worth having? However, I am of an age where I like the feeling of having an actual book in my hand to browse through and read without having to wait for the next page to download. I also find myself increasingly impressed by photographic guides, so having reviewed the superb Crossley ID Guide to the Birds of Britain and Ireland a while ago, I was looking forward to the new Britain’s Birds Identification Guide arriving on my doorstep. And arrive it did, with a bump! The book is almost twice as thick as the Crossley Guide but once you open it up you can understand why. It is packed to the brim with undoubtedly the most superb images you will see, all 3,200 of them! There are a few you may have seen before, I’m sure I recognise some of the rarer species photos as previously published in magazines or on the internet? The book is set out in a similar fashion to the Crossley Guide with birds of all plumages set against a suitable habitat, but the difference with Britain’s Birds is the fine detail. Each species page for birds occurring regularly or as residents, has a distribution map and brief description of plumage, voice and other things to look for, but most helpful are the salient ID features found close to and around each image.
There are two things in particular that make this book stand out for me and ensure it has a place in my library. Firstly, the flight comparison pages. Most of the non-passerines get individual pages showing similar species comparatively in flight, which is of great help if you genuinely want to use this book in the field. And secondly, the additional rarity pages. These are found at the end of each family section and again show some superb images of rare and scarce birds found in Britain. I imagine these pages will be perused more than most by some of my birding peers!
In conclusion I would say that this is probably the most complete and comprehensive British Bird Guide I have seen for a number of years. It will no doubt be of interest to birders, regardless of experience or expertise and the authors have certainly set the standard for all future photographic guides.
The book depicts 648 species including all those on the official British and Irish lists up to March 2016. It is now available and can be purchased from the link below (ISBN: 9780691158891).
Reviewed by P. Freestone (6th Aug 2016)