Birds as you really see them...

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Birds as you really see them...

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When was the last time you saw a bird and your view was exactly the same as that perfectly-posed, beautifully lit, fine-detail close up field guide image of the species? I’m struggling to think of the last time it happened to me.

Wouldn’t it be great to have a guide that helped you identify birds as you see them – as you REALLY see them. Well, look no further. The Crossley ID Guide – Britain & Ireland is one of the most "honest" field guides around. It shows you how you will actually see birds, offering a range of images on a typical landscape in which you actually see the species. There are the close-up shots that you'll find in any guide, but you will find "bum" shots of small birds high in the canopy, flight shots of the birds you inadvertently flush off into the distance, those brief views of reedbed skulkers as they scuttle between sedges - and images of the birds the size of the ones you get in your 'scope and binoculars.

I’ve been a fan of the Crossley approach to fieldguides ever since I saw  the North American guides to “Eastern" birds and raptors. I thought how fabulous it would be to have a UK version, so I was delighted when I learned that one was coming out. I was also pleased to see Nature’s Home regular columnist Dominic Couzens involved in the project.

Standing out from the crowd

One of the great things about my job is that I get to see a lot of bird and natural history books. Choosing the four featured books for each issue of Nature’s Home, just four times a year, takes a lot of time and thought. It takes a really special one to jump out from the crowd and I was delighted to see that the Crossley guide to UK birds lived up to my expectations.

I was also really chuffed to be asked to be a part of the Crossley blog tour, especially to given the honour of wrapping up the tour. We’re in the final stages of completition of the second ever issue of Nature’s Home, so it was great to sit back with a good book - for a short while at least!

In the field

To realy demonstrate the inovation that is this guid, have a think about the last time you saw some wild geese. Not the flock of feral greylags or Canadas in your local park, but proper wild winter geese on a windswept coastal marsh with your eyes watering and the wind whistling through your ears.

Let’s take the brent goose page from the book for the perfect example, for me. The location looks very much like one of my favourite goose grounds on the North Norfolk Coast and in fact almost certainly is.  I have enjoyed searching flocks of dark-bellied brents for black brants and pale-bellied brents from this very spot. I've stood on that seawall where those people are gathered and seen all three of the brents depicted on the plate. As an aid to ID, it doesn't come much better than this!

Wild goose chase

Geese are not only some of the most difficult winter birds to ID in the UK, they are also among the very hardest to track down and get good views. Even at traditional goose watching hotspots, including many RSPB reserves, you really have to put in the time and effort to get the sort of views that enable you to scrutinise the birds. That’s why I love them so much!

Not only do I love the way the guides look, the work that has gone in to really think about how birders see birds is truly impressive. The images are not just plonked on the pages; scenes are depicted that are exactly what you see with the birds shown in a variety of poses, including those awkward "sitting down in vegetation" shots when you have no chance of seeing if it is an orange-legged bean or a pink-legged pink-foot! 

Up front approach

I love the way that the white-fronted goose plate really shows just how different Greenland and Eurasian birds are - this is no token drawing of an orange bill to demonstrate the Greenland race. Here you can appreciate the subtle differences in the sturdier structure of Greenland, the larger bill and that darker browner plumage with heavier barring below. Look at the mid-range “line” of feeding birds – exactly as you see these geese in many of their typical wintering hotspots. This is exactly what you would need to have with you when confroted with a flock of white-fronts this winter.

You’ll be able to read a bit more about the book in the January issue of Nature’s Home – but do make sure you buy a copy before that issue comes out  – it 's a brilliant Christmas present for the bird-lover in your life, or a treat for yourself.

Go on tour and win a signed copy of the book!

You can see all the other posts from a variety of other bloggers here and if you'd like to enter the prize draw to win a copy of the book, try your luck by clicking here

You can also enjoy the Shindig event for the book - a live internet video chat presentation to which all are invited. The authors  will discuss the book and take questions from the audience. It is on Thursday 21 November 19.00-20.00 GMT, so don't miss out.

  • Hi doggie.

    Good idea - this is a great book so it would be good to share as widely as possible. I'll post there to add a link to this blog.


  • Hi Mark

    Do you think it would be worth putting it in the book club forum too as the Blogs vanish so quickly off the community homepage