Originally Posted by Edward
Shame that you aren't entirely happy with your purchase, Swissboy. Perhaps we've been spoilt in Europe by Mullarney and Zetterström in the Collins guide but I personally think Frank Knight's plates are of a consistently high standard and I can't think of a guide to another part of the world which has as attractive plates as Pizzey & Knight, certainly not Sibley (check his weird petrels out!), SASOL Southern Africa or a couple of the new Asian guides I own to name a few. Judging plates is all very subjective (some people love Sibley's plates!) and as I can't even draw stick men perhaps I'm not the person to judge. But when I was in Brisbane choosing which book to buy (there were 3-4 on offer) this is the book which immediately grabbed my attention. Good job you didn't go for the Morcombe guide, that's all I can say!
My one main criticism of this book is that the maps don't show seasonal distributions.
Although some top guides don't even have maps (e.g. Robson - SE Asia).
If and when you visit Australia Swissboy, you'll have no choice but to take it out into the field with you. The new birds come so thick and fast there that even with copious note taking you won't have a prayer when you get back to the book in the car!
I recently bought Menkhorst & Knight's Field Guide to the Mammals of Australia and he does a great job there too although the book is depressing reading - every mammal in the country seems to be on the verge of extinction.
You are certainly right that we are very lucky in Europe with that "Collins Guide" by Svensson et al. And I fully agree with you that the Sibley book is not of the superb standard it is usually praised to be. It is a very good book, however. And the same goes for the Pizzey & Knight bird guide, to clarify my opinion. But when I say this, I qualify the book from the point of view of its usefulness as a field guide (which is certainly excellent, except for the size). Thus, my complaint is more on the level of bird art. In addition, I wanted to point out that even a book illustrated by only one person can have rather variable plates. By the way, I also own that mammal guide you mention, and there the quality of the illustrations is more consistently high. In fact, I have no "complaints" at all with regard to that book's illustrations.
My overall favourite non-european bird guide is the one by Stevenson and Fanshawe for East Africa. I just love those plates. And the book is considerably more compact than the other ones we have discussed here. But it is clear that judging plates is a very subjective matter, I fully agree on this with you.
As for a book that I thought I might take to the field in Australia (if I ever make it there, that is): the Slater Field Guide is extremely compact. This holds at least for my 10 year old copy.