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Handbook of Western Palearctic birds

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Old Thursday 9th August 2018, 21:18   #126
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... the inclusion of Iran ....
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What they say as justification is "Our decision is based purely on pragmatic and birdwatcher-friendly approach" ...
Must admit, I found this a mite odd, given that the senior author (Israeli) would most definitely not have access to Iran (and probably not to large parts of the Arabic-speaking world, either).
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Old Thursday 9th August 2018, 22:28   #127
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Must admit, I found this a mite odd, given that the senior author (Israeli) would most definitely not have access to Iran (and probably not to large parts of the Arabic-speaking world, either).
Pretty sure HS has got a Swiss passport but may be wrong on that point. He is certainly very well travelled!

cheers, a
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Old Friday 10th August 2018, 04:55   #128
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My biggest complaint is a minor one: the photo metadata includes only month and country. It would be nice to have full dates, and, especially, more exact places in larger countries. Now there is only "Russia" or "India" which is not very informative.
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Old Friday 10th August 2018, 09:55   #129
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Western Palearctic and sharp borders of it is a purely practical definition, not an objective or scientific one, for reasons which I given in other threads.
Jurek - I both agree and disagree. WP has two types of borders - between east and west, which is purely arbitrary and can be practical and between biome eg between Palearctic and Afro-tropical, which is based upon the flora and fauna and is a line of definition and not of political or other arbitrary line.

I don't mind that the book is called the birds of the WP too much. However then including a "Checklist of the birds of Western Palearctic" which includes Afro-tropical birds (where they dont occur in the WP biome) is a step too far IMO. Excluding those that occur in the WP biome but not in the arbitrary area; I can excuse in the text but not from the Checklist.

As a side comment it also come down to the use of definitions - the gazeteer shows the geographic definitions. The list of countries shown in the Balkans for example is the oddest I have seen. Also Maghreb has about five different definitions in use elsewhere - Libya is either in or out, Mauritania is often now included. But they include a definition which shows that the wording is in places not we (I) would normally use).
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Old Friday 10th August 2018, 10:00   #130
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My biggest complaint is a minor one: the photo metadata includes only month and country. It would be nice to have full dates, and, especially, more exact places in larger countries. Now there is only "Russia" or "India" which is not very informative.
I am not sure what info they have for 3rd party provided photos.

In terms of the photos I provided there would have been date info, but no locational metadata in the files. I wasnt asked for GPS coords.
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Old Friday 10th August 2018, 10:29   #131
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Actually, now there are at least three definitions of the WP used by important authors, which creates nothing but confusion for the layman. In the end everybody will just stick to the old definition.
Again, I think they made quite clear that they don't want to propose a new WP definition, but merlely chose to cover an area a little larger than the conventional WP definitions.

Yes, the title is not entirely coherent with the area covered, and you may rightly complain about this, if it bothers you. To me, it's not an issue.

I'm quite a layman, but I read the introduction and I got the WP boundary issue. I'm happy to have a few more species than the Collins covered. For example, I was happy to read details on the Large-billed Reed-Warbler, even if that is clearly outside the WP and even the area covered in the boook.
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Old Friday 10th August 2018, 14:26   #132
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I'm quite a layman, but I read the introduction and I got the WP boundary issue. I'm happy to have a few more species than the Collins covered. For example, I was happy to read details on the Large-billed Reed-Warbler, even if that is clearly outside the WP and even the area covered in the boook.
Just to clarify - Large-billed is only included as a confusion species within the account of Blyth's Reed Warbler. It is justified IMO as
- it may already have occurred in the region
- it is not given a full account and does not feature in the check list
- it is only recently that the bird has been rediscovered and more recently again that the breeding area has been (at least in part) discovered this brings it closer the proposed (and arbitrary WP/EP line)

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Old Friday 10th August 2018, 14:43   #133
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These include;
- Area covered
- Taxonomy
- Species covered
- Species accounts
- Production values
Following yesterday's post, I thought I would move on to Taxonomy. I have to say that this is not my strong point and I believe that this has been done to death my other reviewers. It may be that this has fallen foul of the time this book has been in preparation and it is clearly "conservative" and not in line with other lists. From a UK perspective it is doubly disappointing as we are being ask to align with IOC - for all of its strengths and weaknesses.

There are two aspects of this - sequence and species definition.

In terms of sequence there are so many divergences that it is pointless to try and list. I suspect that IOC is not in its last form as more genetic material comes to light. As this drives the sequence of the book - it does however make navigating difficult. (it is true to say I have no idea what a true sequence should look like).

What the AOU would think of the the vagrant tanagers still in the Thraupidae I would hate to think.

In terms of individual species, both their genus and species vs subspecies changes are more DIY (other reviewers terminology) than I would have liked.

This shows personal favorites; e.g. the separation of Basalt Wheatear warriae and the three way split of Variable Wheatear (bear in mind that IOC treats it is monotypic) shows this and departs from the conservative view they say they are following.

If all the subspecies cover the species splits - I am no so concerned, but do they?

Rather than clarifying my taxonometric bafflement with the rapid change in recent years the approach here clouds it further - which ultimately is a shame.
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Old Saturday 11th August 2018, 10:33   #134
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I thought I would move on to species covered.

There are two self imposed criteria - that species accounts are for birds with more than 10 times and the cut off point was the end of 2016. any comments need to take this into account and therefore the recent Paddyfield Pipit in UAE would not make the cut - it is included as a footnote in the confusion species of Richard's Pipit. (there is further confusion with the inclusion of African pipit despite the wording in the Richard's Pipit write up.

However, I believe that American Tree Sparrow was seen in Sweden in 2016, yet is missing.

Maffong has previously noted that 3 species from Mauritania are lost on the area definition, although only one (Pygmy Sunbird) is a passerine. Is this the only location for Pygmy Sunbird anyway? The loss of Chad takes out Anteater Chat and the 1954 record.

The only other issue then is the treatment of the naturalised escapes. This IMO is a bit hit and miss. Some species are included (Indian Silverbill for example - even if the range in Egypt is massively under-mapped) some are missing; eg Vinous-breasted Starling (Israel), Vinous-throated Parrotbill (Italy & Netherlands), Brahminy & Superb Starling (UAE) etc

There is also some inconsistency on the division between natural and introduced populations - White-eared Bulbul is treated a category C on the UAE list yet you would believe it was a natural population from the text here. Conversely with Indian Silverbill there is an attempt to separate the likely natural range from the introduced. It is the inconsistency that in my opinion spoils a valid attempt - perhaps a 'Dutch' approach to ignore all introduced species would have been more valid, or the Collins BG approach to push them to an appendix, but the result here is a bit of everything and more confusing for it.

I would have also preferred a different nomenclature in the Checklist B(I) is too similar to the general B or the special B(I) and with C being often used makes the change look different for the sake of it rather than helpful.
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Old Saturday 11th August 2018, 22:00   #135
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Actually, some species are lost to WP list by this definition, e.g. Pygmy Sunbird, African Grey Woodpecker and Blue-naped Mousebird spring to mind (even though the latter just catapulted itself just back onto the list with recent observations in Algeria).
'The bird was photographed at a village in the Tin-Zaouten district, located in the south of Tamanghasset province. The village location (20 23N) is slightly outside of the classic limit of the Western Palearctic as defined in the BWP. According to the observer, the species has already been observed at this location (single birds and sometimes a small group).'
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Old Sunday 12th August 2018, 14:11   #136
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Moving to species accounts; each account follows the pattern of a clear summary box including map and names in 4 languages additional to English. It then goes through the sequence of
- Identification,
- Vocalisations
- Similar species
- Ageing and sexing
- Geographical variation and range (includes biometrics)
- Taxonomic note
- References

This is easy to navigate and is counterpointed by the numerous photographs to support the text. The density of the text reminds me of Svensson's identification guide to european passerines but is more readable to the non ringer.

I recognise the issue that other reviewers have mentioned about the vocalisations - is there really an alternative to this in a book? The real thing can easily be accessed on Xeno-canto.org etc so why worry? Transcribing is fraught with cultural phonics - as an aside this was recently highlighted on bbc news web site https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/stories-43343337.

What is here is well written and IMO a good half way between the thumb-nails in Collins Bird Guide and the extensive text of BWP.

However the lack of the "moult wheels" to show seasonal shifts and the lack of habitit notes I find odd - these are both aids to identification yet are missing.

I will leave it to others to pick up if there are any errors in the text themselves and if the text supports the taxonomic shifts they support. I did read Variable Wheatear - a species I have historic knowledge of and have struggled with the split. I also read the text on Magpie in light of the recent 5 way split by IOC. IOC say the split is due to morphological differences - here "morphological differences are still surprisingly slight". Who do we believe?
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Old Monday 13th August 2018, 17:15   #137
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'The bird was photographed at a village in the Tin-Zaouten district, located in the south of Tamanghasset province. The village location (20 23N) is slightly outside of the classic limit of the Western Palearctic as defined in the BWP. According to the observer, the species has already been observed at this location (single birds and sometimes a small group).'
This is correct, but the HBWP definition of the WP includes all of Algeria into the WP. So, in forthcoming non-passerines volumes the species would still have to be described.
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Old Tuesday 14th August 2018, 14:36   #138
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I thought I would finish off with the production values.

It is very difficult to fault the book from a purely aesthetic perspective. The binding and the storage box that keeps the two volumes together is a nice touch. The paper is a good weight and a high enough gloss to show the photographs to their best.

As a photographic id guide it is the photographs that are central to the look of the book and their usefulness. The challenge is how to select photos that show the plumage characteristics at the same time as conveying the jizz of the species - and to a less extend also retaining some interest for the viewer. In the main I think they have done an admiral job with probably the widest selection of photos (each validated) that are well captioned to show draw attention to the characteristic they are trying to show.

When this book was considered this would be truly ground breaking but it matches the best of the guides (not only for birds but other fauna) that have appeared in the last few years. I personally hope that it does not mark the end of the artist illustrations in guides but shows what can be brought together.

As an overall package, I think the authors can be truly proud and I also believe other regions will be jealous of the quality of the product. With the plethora of photographers in China, Japan and the rest of the Far East perhaps the next step should the be Eastern Palearctic sister volumes.
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Old Monday 20th August 2018, 12:12   #139
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I thought I would move on to species covered.

Paddyfield Pipit in UAE would not make the cut -
I looked again and of course Paddyfield Pipit is included via the two records in Iran and it is both in the Vagrants text and the checklist
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Old Monday 20th August 2018, 12:35   #140
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I returned the matter of the species covered and in doing so it really is a question of what do you believe. One of the problems is the lack of information and also the inconsistency of the information.

By choosing the boundaries it means that vagrancy at the borders includes Monsoon species and areas that a very infrequently watched. The species lists for UAE and Oman are a good starting point but these are difficult to reconcile especially with respect to escapes - UAE adopts a cat C on the list, it appears Oman does not. The list of escapes in both is very long.

Yemen has no list that I can find.

Searching on Iran immediately brought up lists from approx 480 to 551 species. The latest list is reviewed in Dutch Birding this month, see https://www.dutchbirding.nl/recensie...ecies?sort=asc

This makes interesting reading as it also suggests that the impact of the latest review should remove two species from the wider WP list. Indian Pitta - included in HWP (inc Checklist) on the basis of the single Iranian record, and Indian Golden Oriole - not included in the Checklist and only mentioned as an aside in the Golden Oriole text.
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Old Monday 20th August 2018, 15:17   #141
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"Yemen has no list that I can find"

There certainly is no official checklist of Yemeni birds. There are old reports in Sandgrouse 9 (1987), 4-66 (North Yemen), and Sandgrouse 17 (1996), 22-53, 54-72, 83-101 (South Yemen and Socotra).
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Old Monday 20th August 2018, 18:04   #142
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By choosing the boundaries it means that vagrancy at the borders includes Monsoon species
Having 'monsoon species' included in the WP suggests to me that the boundary has been pushed a bit far.

Steve
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Old Wednesday 22nd August 2018, 14:50   #143
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Having 'monsoon species' included in the WP suggests to me that the boundary has been pushed a bit far.

Steve
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Old Thursday 30th August 2018, 17:29   #144
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After the crowd-sourced post-publication proof-reading exercise we carried out here on the second edition of the Collins Bird Guide a while back, I told myself that I wouldn't be doing anything similar again.

However ... several people have been sending me details of errors they've found in HWPB and hinting that it would be a good idea to do so. Reluctantly, I've been persuaded that compiling the list in a single place is of value to readers and to the authors and publishers (not least because it will help improve the planned electronic edition). Rather than starting a Birdforum thread on the subject and dissecting the book in real-time here, I've gone for a slightly different approach and set up a wordpress site where any corrections can be collected together and updated in a slightly more controlled way. People can contribute details of any errors they notice via a "Contact" page. That said, I'll check back here every now and again in case anyone does feel the need to post errors here.

The site is at http://thehwpb.wordpress.com. At occasional intervals I will issue the list as an A4 PDF which can be printed off for storing in/alongside the books. You should be able to sign up for an email which will let you know when this happens.

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Old Thursday 30th August 2018, 20:05   #145
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Global warming, won't be long until we have a Black Coucal on Scilly......
The Scillies will be entirely under water before that happens
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Old Thursday 30th August 2018, 23:33   #146
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The site is at http://thehwpb.wordpress.com. At occasional intervals I will issue the list as an A4 PDF which can be printed off for storing in/alongside the books. You should be able to sign up for an email which will let you know when this happens.

Steve
Well done Steve. It's such a huge effort to get this sort of book over the line that some errors are bound to get missed. These crowd sourced compilations are immensely useful
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Old Friday 31st August 2018, 09:37   #147
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Thanks, yes, I completely agree: much better to get the book out there and let the hive mind pick up the inevitable small errors than delay it for months while it’s given a final final final proof-read, as even the best proof-readers won’t pick up some of the more subtle issues.
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Old Saturday 15th September 2018, 14:12   #148
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Well done Steve. It's such a huge effort to get this sort of book over the line that some errors are bound to get missed. These crowd sourced compilations are immensely useful

Got my copy now. First error I've noticed is the map for Parrot Crossbill: Scotland is shown with a small green blob centred on the Forth bridges area; it should of course be centred roughly on the Cairngorms.


Otherwise, what disappointed me most so far is their failure to take up more modern family circumscriptions like Muscicapidae = flycatchers + chats. That's been known plenty long enough now for them to have rearranged it.
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Old Monday 17th September 2018, 07:24   #149
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Thanks, yes, I completely agree: much better to get the book out there and let the hive mind pick up the inevitable small errors than delay it for months while its given a final final final proof-read, as even the best proof-readers wont pick up some of the more subtle issues.
Then i will wait for a second edition if it ever will happen and when the errors
are corrected?
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