Four years ago, in August 2016, I reviewed the first edition of “Britain’s Birds,” an identification guide to the birds of Britain and Ireland. I also praised a paperback version of the book in a 2019 blog.
This is how I began the 2016 review:
“The best field guide to the identification of birds that I’ve ever seen is, unfortunately, of limited use to North American birders. That doesn’t mean you should overlook it. On the contrary. Find it. Page through it. Use it when you can. You might even buy it as a piece of bird-publishing art.”
Well, the second edition now is available, and everything I said in 2016 can be said again. The book even has been improved. (The lady not only is beautiful, she is intelligent as well.)
An edited version of that review is in order. The book, by the way, has been published here by Princeton University Press, source of many of our best books about birds (press.princeton.edu).
This is a beautiful book, useful, complete, and extremely well designed. It is well done, right down to cover stock and binding.
If you have a Sibley guide, open to any page. No criticism meant here for this is my go-to book, but his pages are almost sterile. Well-drawn birds on white backgrounds, with minimal text.
Pages in the Britain guide are filled with photos, background images, and text, no white space. Not filled-busy. Filled by design. The pages are visually warm. The information here is more than complete. Necessary information and textual enhancements obviously have been well considered. Much is done within the limitations of a page.
The book simply is beautifully designed. It also is highly functional.
Authors are Rob Hume, Robert Still, Andy Swash, Hugh Harrop, and David Tipling. Robert Still has the design background, as co-founder and publishing director of WILDguides, publisher of this book.
How is this guide, focused on the British Isles, useful here? Well, some of “our” birds have ranges that extend to Britain and Europe. There always are stray species, wanderers who make it west across the Atlantic to North American shores.
Minnesota readers will be familiar with many birds in the waterfowl, shorebird, seabird, gull, and tern sections. Commonality continues into doves, pigeons, owls, and raptors. There are far fewer shared species once the book gets to songbirds.
This book treats vagrant species, particularly those from North America, in a very clear and handy fashion. There are pages throughout the book devoted to strays in particular family groups. There is a master page listing all of the families from which North American vagrants come, the number of species in each of those families, and a page-number guide.
There are 576 pages and 3,591 color photos. Price is $35. An ebook version is available.