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Europe's Birds: An Identification Guide (2 Viewers)

Andy Adcock

Well-known member
England
A tweet from the publishers tells me that the publication date is next week (Thursday I think) so whoever you got it from is being rather naughty! As usual, I've got mine on order from WildSounds.
See post 35 on 29th Sept where Nicola writes

'Showing as 'In stock' now on NHBS '

and post 38 where S Dog has had his / hers since Thurs last, from Wildsounds

I regularly find that titles are available with some vendors, before the official release date, no idea of the mechanics or rights and wrongs of it but don't think there's anything 'naughty' going on?
 
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John Cantelo

Well-known member
See post 35 on 29th Sept where Nicola writes

'Showing as 'In stock' now on NHBS '

and post 38 where S Dog has had his / hers since Thurs last, from Wildsounds

I regularly find that titles are available with some vendors, before the official release date, no idea of the mechanics or rights and wrongs of it but don't think there's anything 'naughty' going on?
There's plainly "something naughty going on" as you and others have a copy & I haven't!
 

John Cantelo

Well-known member
You've clearly upset the bibliophilic gods, didn't you complain of getting one of the Lynx titles very late too?
Yes, I waited ages for 'Seabirds'. I wish I knew what I've done to offend. Perhaps I ought to offer up a prayer to St George., the patron saint of reading and books. I guess, though, that he's just too busy as he also looks out for lepers, knights, Crusaders, soldiers, archers, armourers, equestrians and shepherds plus, of course, England, Georgia, Ethiopia, etc., etc.
 

John Cantelo

Well-known member
A very comprehensive section on vagrants too which I wonder, if they've stretched the bounds of Europe to include the Western Palearctic e.g where have Diederic Cuckoo, Black-crowned Tchagra, Plumbeous Water Redstart and a few other species in this section, turned up in Europe? Also wonder why they didn't keep each, with it's own family in the main section?

Ther's a very useful section too on 'estsblished introductions', many of which, birders now count on their lists.
Diederic Cuckoo is on p584, Black-crowned Tchagra is on p605, Plumbeous Water Redstart is on p593 and the index starts on p628, Andy. My prayers to St George obviously worked as my copy's just arrived. I'll peruse it in detail and will probably post a review anon.

First impressions are very favourable and I'm surprised that the dimensions are the same as Britain's Birds (despite the extra 64 pages it may even be a couple of millimetres slimmer). I thoroughly approve of sticking Macaronesian endemics and European vagrants in two appendices in the back. As with Britain's Birds the book's Achilles heel seems to be the maps which, although almost exactly the same size as those in the Collins Guide, I find much more difficult to use and harder to see small details. Some are also inaccurate with, for example, Little Swift not shown breeding in Spain (although it is noted that Plain Swift is a "very rare breeder/migrant Iberia" which is surprising as the discovery on a population on mainland Portugal is very recent). The introduced Spanish population Bald Ibis isn't shown either. Another Iberian omission is (as far as I can see) the lack of any mention of cirtensis Long-legged Buzzard and the tricky 'Gibraltar Buzzards' in SW Spain. I also reckon that the labels on the headshots of Crested & Thekla's Lark have been switched (and the latter not given its now customary apostrophe). This, though, is nit-picking as overall the book maintains the standards of the series.
 

nkbj

Niels Kristian Bech Jensen
Denmark
Diederic Cuckoo is on p584, Black-crowned Tchagra is on p605, Plumbeous Water Redstart is on p593 and the index starts on p628, Andy. My prayers to St George obviously worked as my copy's just arrived. I'll peruse it in detail and will probably post a review anon.

First impressions are very favourable and I'm surprised that the dimensions are the same as Britain's Birds (despite the extra 64 pages it may even be a couple of millimetres slimmer). I thoroughly approve of sticking Macaronesian endemics and European vagrants in two appendices in the back. As with Britain's Birds the book's Achilles heel seems to be the maps which, although almost exactly the same size as those in the Collins Guide, I find much more difficult to use and harder to see small details. Some are also inaccurate with, for example, Little Swift not shown breeding in Spain (although it is noted that Plain Swift is a "very rare breeder/migrant Iberia" which is surprising as the discovery on a population on mainland Portugal is very recent). The introduced Spanish population Bald Ibis isn't shown either. Another Iberian omission is (as far as I can see) the lack of any mention of cirtensis Long-legged Buzzard and the tricky 'Gibraltar Buzzards' in SW Spain. I also reckon that the labels on the headshots of Crested & Thekla's Lark have been switched (and the latter not given its now customary apostrophe). This, though, is nit-picking as overall the book maintains the standards of the series.
My copy arrived Yesterday and I agree with you on the maps. Denmark is small on any map, but it is quite a lot easier to see details on the maps in Collins. I think it is because the map outline is thinner in Collins and water (sea) is kept white.

Other than that I like it sofar. The really great thing for me is the comparison pages like the one for immature gulls in different plumages on pp. 132-133.
 
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Jonno52

John (a bad birdwatcher)
Supporter
United Kingdom
I won't attempt a review, but having had my copy for only an hour, it is simply stunning. I didn't already have Britain's Birds, so didn't know what to expect. My earlier photographic guides have long been given away or binned: they might have been worthy pre-digital attempts but were of no practical use. OK, there are a few errors in this new book, and it's not going to replace Collins, but it came as a revelation (and extremely good value for money).
 
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John Cantelo

Well-known member
A review of this here.

Regards

Owen
As always an interesting read and I find myself in agreement with you (or at least partially so) on several points although I think you're overly harsh in your judgement (as you probably guessed I would be!) In a bird guide, there will always be compromises regarding size/weight vs detail/coverage and to be realistic the fuller coverage of gulls and American vagrants that you suggest would mean an overly large and cumbersome book. It may not be perfect but for the overwhelming majority of users 'Europe's Birds' will do an excellent job.
 

Pariah

Stealth Birder
As always an interesting read and I find myself in agreement with you (or at least partially so) on several points although I think you're overly harsh in your judgement (as you probably guessed I would be!) In a bird guide, there will always be compromises regarding size/weight vs detail/coverage and to be realistic the fuller coverage of gulls and American vagrants that you suggest would mean an overly large and cumbersome book. It may not be perfect but for the overwhelming majority of users 'Europe's Birds' will do an excellent job.
I'd like to think I've been fair and honest (many people these days find honesty jarring, probably more so when it comes to reviews). Would you agree with my assessment that, if you are already a seasoned birder or bird finder, that this is perhaps not the reference you pull off the shelf when you have that tricky ID on a headland in autumn?

I guess I just expect something a little more informative when titled an identification guide Vs a field guide.

Regards

Owen
 

John Cantelo

Well-known member
I'd like to think I've been fair and honest (many people these days find honesty jarring, probably more so when it comes to reviews). Would you agree with my assessment that, if you are already a seasoned birder or bird finder, that this is perhaps not the reference you pull off the shelf when you have that tricky ID on a headland in autumn?

I guess I just expect something a little more informative when titled an identification guide Vs a field guide.

Regards

Owen
Having read many posts of yours over the years, not being honest is just about the last thing I could imagine accusing you of. I wouldn't accuse you of being 'unfair' either (it feels far too judgemental) but I do think your expectations are unfeasibly high within the constraints of a single volume, reasonably sized book that aspires to cover all European birds plus a tranche of essentially Asiatic ones and hundreds of vagrants. Since this book will, in my view, allow you to identify with reasonable confidence all the birds you're likely to see within the area I don't find the subtitle "An Identification Guide" unreasonable. I note that Nils van Duivendijk's forthcoming photo ID guide, "Handboek Europese Vogels", comes in two volumes and 900 pages; if that fails to deliver then you'd have reasonable grounds for complaint. If I was faced with a really tricky ID my preferred option would be to check in a specialist guide covering relatively few species (like "Birding Frontiers") or a relevant paper in a journal rather than a more wide-ranging general guide (whatever it might be called). However, if it was to hand I might well look in this book as whilst it may not be 100% comprehensive, the 'last word' or infallible, it frequently offers, particularly in tabular form, a quick, readily understood and digested resume of the key points. Despite misgivings in some areas, I'd certainly be happy to recommend it to someone on a birding trip to Europe.
 

Pariah

Stealth Birder
Having read many posts of yours over the years, not being honest is just about the last thing I could imagine accusing you of. I wouldn't accuse you of being 'unfair' either (it feels far too judgemental) but I do think your expectations are unfeasibly high within the constraints of a single volume, reasonably sized book that aspires to cover all European birds plus a tranche of essentially Asiatic ones and hundreds of vagrants. Since this book will, in my view, allow you to identify with reasonable confidence all the birds you're likely to see within the area I don't find the subtitle "An Identification Guide" unreasonable. I note that Nils van Duivendijk's forthcoming photo ID guide, "Handboek Europese Vogels", comes in two volumes and 900 pages; if that fails to deliver then you'd have reasonable grounds for complaint. If I was faced with a really tricky ID my preferred option would be to check in a specialist guide covering relatively few species (like "Birding Frontiers") or a relevant paper in a journal rather than a more wide-ranging general guide (whatever it might be called). However, if it was to hand I might well look in this book as whilst it may not be 100% comprehensive, the 'last word' or infallible, it frequently offers, particularly in tabular form, a quick, readily understood and digested resume of the key points. Despite misgivings in some areas, I'd certainly be happy to recommend it to someone on a birding trip to Europe.
Well here's the thing with this reasoning on a scale. You point to a forthcoming 900 page/2 volume opus, but this is over 620 pages in one, fairly large, bulky and heavy format (of course we live in the digital age and the argument can be made to bypass a hardcopy book forevermore, though I like having a book in my hands, call me old fashioned).

However, from another point of view, all things considered, why would you recommend this large, bulky, heavy book, at 600+ pages and with it's limitations (we can agree to disagree over the number and severity of them, but there are some) at the price tag of 25 euro...when the Collins guide (granted a little dated now) can be picked up, off the shelf of virtually any decent bookshop, in a handy 450ish page, pocket size for about 10-12 euro? 🤔(You can of course tell someone to get both)

As I said, I think the main problem for me was the lack of consistent approach across the book. I'm prepared to pay for a 900+page identification guide that, (hopefully) doesn't suffer from those kind of issues, rather than a 600 page book that stops just short of the ideal, that just almost makes it.

As I said, there's seeds of greatness there. It will be interesting to see if a second edition ever appears.

Regards,

Owen
 

Prestdj

its good to be back
Supporter
United Kingdom
for me it doesnt have the 'wow' factor of collins, a photo is of one bird at a moment in time, to me thats why i like an artists drawing which can enscapulate the all the detail in a drawing, therefore being a an unbiased depection of a bird, and despite owning a camera i prefer artists over photos for identification...........i think owens review is spot on
 

John Cantelo

Well-known member
I've now thoroughly gone through the book and have some preliminary observations. First off, it's wrong to see it as a potential replacement for the Collins Guide and I don't think it would pretend to be so but I think regarding it as such rather misses the point. Although many of us prefer the aesthetics of a guide with good quality artwork and embrace the advantages of such works (when done well), it remains the case that many prefer photoguides. In this context, Europe's Birds stands head and shoulders above its rivals. It will allow you to identify the birds you see with confidence (unless mega rarities). Even those of us who love the value of top quality paintings can still enjoy and get value from a comprehensive collection of good photos of birds married to a helpful text. The text is minimalist but functional and the comparative tables, pioneered in the earlier book, remain an excellent way in which to communicate key ID facts. For vagrants originating from beyond Europe Britain's Birds often provides the better account (e.g. stonechats) and also does so for commoner but highly variable species (e.g. Dunlin & Ruff). The only clear error I've found is that a headshot of Thekla Lark actually shows a Crested (and vice versa). Some vagrants (esp. American passerines) and introduced species get minimal treatment. Naturally for continental species, the new volume is far better. Keen listers will be disappointed by the "lumping" of redpolls, stonechats, etc. (but pleased the Cyprus Scops Owl is 'split'). It would probably have been a better book had it been faithful to the promise of its title and stuck to European birds. Stretching beyond the conventional limits of Europe merely makes it harder to fulfil its brief (and very few users will get the chance of seeing some of the species in the extreme east). The selection of many new photos is largely (but not always) an improvement. Strangely, some of the useful annotations to photos have been discarded. Overall, passerines are less generously treated than ducks, waders, etc. The maps are the biggest disappointment being less easy to read than similarly sized ones in other books and, at times, surprisingly inaccurate.

Bottom line - If I was birding by and for myself, I'd opt for the Collins Guide but if leading a walk for tyro birders the larger sized images of this guide would tempt me even if I had to carry it in a rucksack. Yes, the second edition will probably be much better but this one's certainly worth getting and unless it sells well there won't be that second edition anyhow!
 

Pariah

Stealth Birder
I've now thoroughly gone through the book and have some preliminary observations. First off, it's wrong to see it as a potential replacement for the Collins Guide and I don't think it would pretend to be so but I think regarding it as such rather misses the point. Although many of us prefer the aesthetics of a guide with good quality artwork and embrace the advantages of such works (when done well), it remains the case that many prefer photoguides. In this context, Europe's Birds stands head and shoulders above its rivals. It will allow you to identify the birds you see with confidence (unless mega rarities). Even those of us who love the value of top quality paintings can still enjoy and get value from a comprehensive collection of good photos of birds married to a helpful text. The text is minimalist but functional and the comparative tables, pioneered in the earlier book, remain an excellent way in which to communicate key ID facts. For vagrants originating from beyond Europe Britain's Birds often provides the better account (e.g. stonechats) and also does so for commoner but highly variable species (e.g. Dunlin & Ruff). The only clear error I've found is that a headshot of Thekla Lark actually shows a Crested (and vice versa). Some vagrants (esp. American passerines) and introduced species get minimal treatment. Naturally for continental species, the new volume is far better. Keen listers will be disappointed by the "lumping" of redpolls, stonechats, etc. (but pleased the Cyprus Scops Owl is 'split'). It would probably have been a better book had it been faithful to the promise of its title and stuck to European birds. Stretching beyond the conventional limits of Europe merely makes it harder to fulfil its brief (and very few users will get the chance of seeing some of the species in the extreme east). The selection of many new photos is largely (but not always) an improvement. Strangely, some of the useful annotations to photos have been discarded. Overall, passerines are less generously treated than ducks, waders, etc. The maps are the biggest disappointment being less easy to read than similarly sized ones in other books and, at times, surprisingly inaccurate.

Bottom line - If I was birding by and for myself, I'd opt for the Collins Guide but if leading a walk for tyro birders the larger sized images of this guide would tempt me even if I had to carry it in a rucksack. Yes, the second edition will probably be much better but this one's certainly worth getting and unless it sells well there won't be that second edition anyhow!
Just to be clear, I wasn't commenting/viewing through the lens of a book being a replacement for any given existing book, but merely it as an "identification guide".

By virtue of previous publications in the identification guide genre setting the bar fairly high, I didn't feel this quite made it, or at least clipped the bar if you want to be generous.

Owen
 

John Cantelo

Well-known member
Just to be clear, I wasn't commenting/viewing through the lens of a book being a replacement for any given existing book, but merely it as an "identification guide".

By virtue of previous publications in the identification guide genre setting the bar fairly high, I didn't feel this quite made it, or at least clipped the bar if you want to be generous.

Owen
I wasn't suggesting that you did but you're right that the bar is set high. I think "clipped the bar" gets it about right but that means that it's still a very useful book which many (most?) will find very helpful. For me, the critical thing is that it tries to do too much and a book without the pretension of being "comprehensive" even if that means covering species that you have a near-zero chance of seeing, is less useful for most users most of the time.
 
ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Columbia
ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Columbia
ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Columbia

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