Book reviews

A Birdwatching Guide to South-East Brazil - Juha Honkala & Seppo Niiranen: reviewed by Rick Simpson.

We have just received a copy of this excellent book from Juha Honkala as a donation for our growing library.
I have had the chance to look through it and I am mightily impressed. The book seems to be very thorough and the information and details are set out clearly and concisely. The details of the places that I am personally familiar with seem to be accurate and detailed enough to allow a visitor, unfamiliar with the area, to find the sites easily.
The site guides include clear easy to understand maps, details of how to get to the site in a highlighted box using landmarks as well as road numbers etc. A description of the habitat and trails available and a list of the most important or interesting species.
The species accounts are short and concise giving size; plumage characteristics; subspecies in the region; voice; habitat; status in both the Agulhas Negras region and the south-east in general. There are many excellent photographs illustrating the field guide section. I am not a great fan of photographic field guides in truth, there is a tendency to put in substandard photos purely out of the necessity to illustrate every species. This book however has few such photos. Where no photo exists truly breathtaking artworks by Tomasz Cofta are used, the realistic quality of these images is truly stunning. An effort has been made to include different plumages where applicable and raptors in flight as well as perched, which is a really useful feature. Although I haven't had a chance to study the maps in detail they seem to fall in line with the known distributions of the species in question although there is no indication of seasonal movements.
At the end of the book there is a section containing useful information and contacts.
Are there errors? Of course there will be in a work of this nature, but looking for them or highlighting them would do a great injustice to this magnificent work.
My congratulations to the authors and publishers.

We have copies of this book available for sale on behalf of the author at £25.00 plus P+P (£2.50) total price £27.50 e mail (UK only).


The Urban Birder - David Lindo: reviewed by Rick Simpson.

Some may say, as David is a long standing friend of mine, that a review of his book written by me is unlikely to be impartial, but David is a good enough friend that should I feel the need to lambast his book, he would take it on the chin and then never speak to me again, so rest assured this is from the hip.

So how does a perfectly normal boy end up being that strange creature The Urban Birder? A question that some have asked me; well if you want to know that you should read this book.
David sets out, in a number of clear passages of his life, how all this came about, the text is lively and readable and although I must admit I skimmed through it the first time to see if my name was mentioned (which it wasn’t, just an oblique reference to ‘a birder in Norfolk’; so there’s your first criticism for a start), the second time, once I realised that the book wasn’t in fact about me,  I found it hard to put down.

I think this is because David’s life in birding greatly reflects that of my own, and I guess many others who are now involved in the activity, whether professional or not. I was reminded, through David’s insightful recollections of similar milestones in my own birding career, and as such this book can offer much food for thought. I often found myself thinking, ‘Yeah! That happened to me too.” creating an empathy with the young lad growing up in London. If you are not lucky enough to be a mate of David’s, you will certainly feel like one when you have finished this book.
Apart from events along the way it also reminded me of some of the places that were important to me in my development that I seldom get the chance to visit these days, my first local patch and the birds that occurred there. There is much opportunity for trips down memory lane provoked by David's own experiences.

David writes in several magazines and presents wildlife items on the television; his writing is very readable and has a pithy style that is David’s very own, his gentle charm and enthusiasm for his subject shine through.
Guia completo para identificação das aves do Brasil - Rolph Grantsau: reviewed by Jeremy Minns.

I received my copy of Rolph Grantsau's new guide yesterday and I thought it'd be useful to give my first impressions for those thinking of investing in the book
It's a big tome in two volumes that weighs nearly 5kg and has nearly 1300 pages, entirely in Portuguese.
The contents of the book are distributed thus:
Principle text 34%
Plates 14%
Keys to plates 14%
List of birds 21%
Index 14%
The plates are excellent. Nearly all Brazilian species are shown and many subspecies are illustrated. The hummingbirds are especially beautiful, as you'd expect from Rolf. I'm not great at identifying birds by sight but the illustrations of the species that I am familiar with look, to me, to be very well done showing the correct plumage, shape and posture.

The principle text, that forms one third of the book, has a long and technical description of the plumage of each taxon and a short resumé of the distribution and habitat within Brazil.
In many cases the habitat consists of a single word – floresta (forest).
There are no distribution maps nor a description of behaviour or vocalisations. It gives key identification features which are extremely detailed and might be useful for identifying birds in the hand, or from good photos, but are of little use to identify birds merely observed. I tried to use the identification keys in Rolf's hummingbird book – Os Beija-flores do Brasil - to identify the hummingbirds that visit the bottles at our house in Ubatuba and with similar species like Versicoloured Emerald and Glittering-throated Emerald I had little success. In these cases a good illustration is worth much more than a detailed description.
The bird list gives the taxonomic history and another resumé of the distribution but this time not restricted to Brazil.
The Portuguese and scientific names are given in one unified index.
For birdwatchers, for sure the most interesting part will be the plates.

No comments:

Post a Comment