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.