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on 6 August 2009
Sadly Pakistan is in our newspapers for all the wrong reasons these days. Terrorist attacks in major cities and kidnappings of tourists do nothing to encourage you to put it on your wish list for future holidays. But, as is often the case, it is rarely reported that many people travel to Pakistan on trekking holidays and have a safe and wonderful time. Fantastic places such as the Kaghan and Naltar valleys offer brilliant summer birdwatching and with the incredible Karakoram Highway you can reach breathtaking locations and see some really good birds.

Once again Helm have taken the decision to take the plates and text from the hefty Birds of the Indian Subcontinent and create a pocket-sized book that concentrates solely on one country. They have done this before with great success for Nepal and Bhutan and it really makes a lot of sense.

An introductory chapter describes the habitats that are found through the country from the Indus Basin to the tops of the Western Himalayas. The book covers over 670 species in 93 colour plates, and for the 600 regular visitors and residents there are also small colour distribution maps. The layout is similar to other field guides with about 100 words of text per species with the map, facing a page of illustrations.

Working with WWF Pakistan and Tom Roberts (author of The Birds of Pakistan) the original authors have brought together in one place the essential information that you need. A selection of 28 species which offer identification challenges (particularly the warblers) are also assessed in more detail with useful comparison tables describing the main features to look for.

So what is there to see in Pakistan? The reality is that some of the most exciting birds (like the Western Tragopan on the cover of this book) are well out of the range of any tourists, and you simply won't see them unless you are prepared to camp in the remotest of places for days on end. However what you can find with relative ease is a wide range of leaf-warblers, flycatchers, chats and tits, while on the higher slopes a number of rosefinches.

An Urdu edition of this book has also been produced and the whole project has been assisted by The World Bank, Netherlands Partnership Programme and Birdlife. I personally think that creating and distributing books like this is a very important step forward in engaging people with the birds in their country. If you were a student in Pakistan and you were given this book it might just be the first step into a lifelong interest in birds. For that reason alone, regardless of whether you are ever likely to visit Pakistan, you should buy this book.
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on 19 October 2012
This is a condensed guide of the same authors guide to the whole subcontinent with just the birds relevant to the country. The artwork will be familiar to anyone who owns one of their other guides. Two nice maps begin the book with one for geographical features and one for the districts and towns. Then information about the book, habitat types, important bird species and some nice information on birding areas. Information on national and international groups, acknowledgements, glossary and bibliography follow. The next section is one familiar from other books by these authors and that is the family summaries. Brief descriptions of each of the families concerned in this book are given with typical characteristics and habits and page references. Each of the families is represented by one small piece of artwork depicting a typical member of the family.

The main body of the book begins on page 48 with the first of 93 plates. Each plate has good illustrations with a little crowding on a few plates and a few species represented with small illustrations but on a whole most are easy to see and detailed for identification. The text faces each plate with a good color range map. Four colors for summer breeder, year round, winter resident and passage migrant are shown. Most maps cover the whole country for those species spread across the range but if a species range is smaller, a regional map is used showing only the area of Pakistan where the species range is, a very good idea and one I wish more guides would do. The descriptions cover several plumages and subspecies where relevant and notes on habits, habitat, voice and range are all included though not separated by bold titles so it all flows together, a common theme with the authors.

The book concludes with a list of vagrant and extirpated species as well as tables for comparison of nightjars, phyllosocpus and acrocephalus warblers as well as wagtail subspecies and rosefinchs. This is a handy feature when trying to separate some of the more similar species you will encounter.

Overall I like this guide in that is has the more modern style with range maps, text and plates all together. It is small and portable so will be easy to carry in the field. For more thorough text you might want to reference Roberts, The Birds of Pakistan Volume I and II, though this is a stay at home pair and one I doubt you'd take with you even to leave back in the hotel.

The Birds of Pakistan: Volume 1: Regional Studies and Non-Passeriformes
The Birds of Pakistan: Volume 2: Passeriformes: Pittas to Buntings
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on 28 February 2015
a light but useful firldguide
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on 11 June 2015
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on 4 February 2016
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