Originally Posted by John Cantelo
However, given the huge popularity of our hobby, the number of brilliant bird artists out there and seventy-odd years of experience in producing field guides, isn't it just a bit outrageous that, in well birded countries, birders should ever feel the need for more than one book to confirm an ID? It's one of the disappointments of being an ornitho-bibliophile that, over ten years on, nobody elsewhere in the world has come remotely close to the magisterial authority and quality of the "Collins Guide",
I haven't actually seen this Collins Guide, but I wonder if the problem is that you just can't fit enough pictures into a book small enough to be called a field guide in order to cover all the plumage variations. How many species does the Collins Guide cover?
I sometimes wonder if people's preference for one guide might reflect the fact that the particular plumage variations of the specimens that artist drew from might happen to match those in their local area.
That said, I'm not that impressed by some aspects of the layout of HANZAB. For those of you who don't know it, it's a 7 volume set (two of which are double volumes) costing several thousand dollars and weighing the equivalent of maybe 30 or 40 copies of Pizzey and Knight. I've often thought it would be nice if they released it as a set of illustrations only, as they cover many plumage variations and the resulting book ought to be a manageable size.
HANZAB isn't intended to be a field guide, but the plate pages are inserted in groups, so they are rarely near the associated text, and it's a struggle to find them, let alone refer to them while reading. The illustrations are also numbered, so you have to refer to a numbered list on the page next to it. This list doesn't have a line per illustration either, they're squeezed in several to a line, so it's hard to even work out which number you want to look at. A wonderful resource, but it makes all the field guides look good in terms of easy access.