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Keith Betton "Keith Betton" (UK)

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OxyLED Cree 500 Lumen Bright LED Flashlight Torch MD50, Light Lamp for Emergency / Safety / Security (Adjustable Zoomable Focus, 3 Brightness Levels plus Strobe, Battery Included)
OxyLED Cree 500 Lumen Bright LED Flashlight Torch MD50, Light Lamp for Emergency / Safety / Security (Adjustable Zoomable Focus, 3 Brightness Levels plus Strobe, Battery Included)
Offered by Elecsmart
Price: £15.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Lightweight, bright, rechargeable, 17 Nov. 2014
This torch is excellent value for money and easy to operate. On delivery to me the rechargeable battery was ready to work immediately. It is small enough to fit into a pocket. Everything comes with a plastic container which is sturdy yet light. I'm very pleased with it.

Smart Weigh 500 x 0.01g Digital Pro Pocket Scale with Back-Lit LCD Display, Tare, Hold and PCS Features (2 Lids Included)
Smart Weigh 500 x 0.01g Digital Pro Pocket Scale with Back-Lit LCD Display, Tare, Hold and PCS Features (2 Lids Included)
Price: £16.50

5.0 out of 5 stars Great for weighing eggs!, 13 Nov. 2014
I have to weigh birds' eggs to work out when they will hatch (they get lighter as the hatch date gets nearer) .... not a lot of people know that!

This machine allows for accurate reading, and by putting the plastic lid on top and setting the sensor to zero I am able to weigh eggs carefully - even in a muddy field. I tested it again and again and got good results.

It fits into my coat pocket and it is easy to use. A great product that meets my needs exactly.

Wings Over the Western Front: The First World War Diaries of Collingwood Ingram
Wings Over the Western Front: The First World War Diaries of Collingwood Ingram
by Ernest Pollard
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.00

4.0 out of 5 stars although he is perhaps better remembered as a horticulturalist, 8 Nov. 2014
Collingwood Ingram lived from 1880 to 1981, and was an ornithologist, although he is perhaps better remembered as a horticulturalist, through which he was popularly known as ‘Cherry’ Ingram. To birdwatchers he is perhaps best known for his book Birds of the Riviera (Witherby 1926). An occasional contributor to British Birds, he published most of his notes in Ibis. At the time of his death he was the longest-serving member of the BOU, having still attended meetings of the BOC at the age of 93.

His diaries were given to Ernest Polland for safe keeping as he is married to Ingrams’ grand-daughter. Now he has joined forces with wartime specialist Hazel Strouts to publish the bird content of these fascinating war diaries.

During the First World War, Collingwood Ingram served initially in the home defences around the county of Kent, and he then joined the Royal Flying Corps as a Compass Officer. It was in this role that he arrived in northern France in December 1916 shortly after the Battle of the Somme had ended.

The term “Western Front” was used to describe the contested armed frontier between lands controlled by Germany to the east and the Allies to the west. He spent much of his time in the area around St Omer, about 20 miles east of Calais – moving regularly between various military locations in northern France and Belgium, always trying to record the birds that he saw.

Despite the misery of war, he was able to move around with enough freedom to enjoy birdwatching in the rural areas of this flat region until the war ended late in 1918. Entries are given for most months, giving a feel for both the changing seasons and the extremes that weather can bring.

On his off-duty walks around the countryside he met and talked with local people, often sketching them at work. But mostly he sketched birds, and this book is full of the sketches – although sadly at a small scale. There were also opportunities to shoot birds for his private collection.

Collingwood Ingram was an astute observer of all that happened around him. These diaries bring to life the daily challenges of wartime life contrasted against a backdrop of nature just carrying on as usual.

Birds of the Serengeti: And Ngorongoro Conservation Area (WILDGuides)
Birds of the Serengeti: And Ngorongoro Conservation Area (WILDGuides)
by Adam Scott Kennedy
Edition: Paperback
Price: £15.56

4.0 out of 5 stars A good photo guide - but not comprehensive, 2 July 2014
This is the latest pocket photo guide in the new series of Wildlife Explorer Guides from Princeton. It covers the area that includes theSerengeti National Park, Ngorongoro Conservation Area and Lake Victoria's Speke Gulf – all of them in northern Tanzania.

The Serengeti is Tanzania's oldest and most popular national park and is a World Heritage Site. In particular it is famous for the annual migration in August of many thousands of Blue Wildebeest as they move in serarch of fresh grazing. It covers an area of 5,700 square miles and is about 200 miles from Arusha, stretching north to Kenya and bordering Lake Victoria to the west. It is a great place for birding at any time, but in order to see the largest variety, a trip in October-January is best because you can see many of the European species that travel there for the winter.
The park has four lodges, six luxury tented camps and camp sites.

The guide is ideal for those with a general wildlife interest rather than hard-core birders, as many species have been left out – it covers just 270 of the 500 plus species that occur in the area. A brief text of up to 100 words per species gives general information on habits and identification tips. The book is divided into seven main habitat types, plus night birds and those found particularly at Lake Victoria. Using very effective photo montages the species grouped together in very life-like situations.

Hard choices have to be made if you are going to exclude half of the birds found in an area, and personally I would have kept a number that did not make the final cut – for example Dark Chanting Goshawk, Northern Red-billed Hornbill, White-headed Barbet, Horus Swift, African Rock Martin, Singing Bush Lark, Flappet Lark and Red-billed Quelea. All of these are relatively easy to see in the area – in fact more so than some of those that are included in the book.

One species that is included is Buffy Pipit. When you refer to your field guide you will notice that this species is shown as only occurring way south of here – mainly in southern Africa. There is an ongoing debate as to whether the “plain backed” pipits in the Serengeti area really are Plain-backed Pipit or Buffy Pipit. It seems amazing in these days of DNA analysis that nobody actually knows. Adam Scott Kennedy has clearly gone for the latter, and time will tell if he is right.

This is an attractive guide that uses uncomplicated text to explain what you are most likely to see and how you might aim to see it. It is not designed to be totally comprehensive.

The Book of Eggs: A Lifesize Guide to the Eggs of Six Hundred of the World's Bird Species (Book Of Series)
The Book of Eggs: A Lifesize Guide to the Eggs of Six Hundred of the World's Bird Species (Book Of Series)
by Mark E. Hauber
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £20.39

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A bit dull, sadly, 2 July 2014
All of us have marvelled at birds’ eggs at some point in our lives – and certainly a few of us have been tempted to collect them at some point! This book takes 600 examples of eggs from the collection in the Field Museum of Chicago and displays them both as life-size photographs and enlarged. This enables the reader to really see the detail on each egg. There is a bias towards species from North America and the Neotropics, although examples are also included from Europe, Africa and Asia. A short text introduces each species, and the egg is also described with measurements. There is also an introductory section which discusses nesting activities and strategies.

The aspect that struck me most from exploring this book was how so many eggs are similar to each other – basically slightly off-white and somewhat dull. However if you get excited about eggs then you will probably enjoy the images.

Hummingbirds: A Life-Size Guide to Every Species
Hummingbirds: A Life-Size Guide to Every Species
by Michael Fogden
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £16.58

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Every species, but some don't get the full treatment, 2 July 2014
Hummingbirds make up the second largest family of birds in the world, and depending on whose checklist you follow (this book follows Howard & Moore, 2013) there are around 338 of them. This book sets out to provide a description of each one together with brief information on distribution, habitat, size and status. A colour distribution map is given for each species.

The main attraction for most people will be the photographs gathered from around 40 photographers. The largest contribution is by Michael Fogden, who with his wife Patricia, has spent much of his life writing about and photographing hummingbirds. Each image is “cut out” and shown against a white background, and while this rather clinic approach reduces some of the natural beauty of the images is allows each species to be compared on the same basis. All are shown at life size, but often just one sex is shown.

The text has been gathered by Marianne Taylor and Sheri Williamson, and this includes 22 pages giving an overview of how hummingbirds live. The main part of the book consists of species accounts in taxonomic order. However 76 species are not included here, but are placed at the end without any illustrations. The text explains that these are mostly rarely-seen species. That is true for some, but not others such as Reddish Hermit Phaethornis ruber and Black-eared Fairy Heliothryx auritus that are widespread and relatively easy to see. In a quick search on the internet I found photographs of many of these very quickly, so for them to be lumped in an “also ran” section is very disappointing and really devalues the book.

Finding Birds in Extremadura - the DVD
Finding Birds in Extremadura - the DVD
Dvd ~ Dave Gosney

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gosney - Extremadura, 20 Feb. 2014
The profile of Extremadura is rising constantly - partly because of the local tourist board’s efforts to reach birders via the British Birdwatching Fair. Those who make the effort to visit the region are richly rewarded, and this is an area that can produce good dividends in any season. Access is easily achieved via Madrid, or you can easily combine add Extremadura onto a trip to Andalucia.

The best-known centre for birding is the town of Trujillo with its narrow cobbled lanes with nesting Lesser Kestrels and White Storks. Meanwhile groups of Common and Pallid Swifts scream around the rooftops and Crag Martins can be found in many places. Not far away the Trujillo plains allow good access and excellent chances of seeing bustards (Great and Little Bustard), sandgrouse (Pin-tailed and Black-bellied), and raptors (especially Bonelli’s Eagle and Montagu’s Harrier). Other sites can provide views of these too, and Dave makes visits to Belen and Caceres for their plains, with Roller, Alpine Swift, Black-shouldered Kite, Purple Swamphen, Rock Bunting and Rock Sparrow all being on offer at the latter.

From here we move about 100 km (60km as the crow flies) to the famous Monfrague which includes great spots for seeing Spanish Imperial Eagle, Bonelli’s Eagle, Azure-winged Magpie, Eagle Owl, Black Stork and all three vulture species. From here it is a fairly short journey to the hills of Las Villuercas, near to Deleitosa. Once again it is a great area for eagles, but also has several reliable sites for Black Wheatear.

The Arrocampo Reservoir is one of the best wetlands in Extremadura. Positioned next to the town of Saucedilla, this offers good chances to connect with Little Bittern, Purple Swamphen, Savi’s Warbler plus Black-shouldered Kite in winter and Great Spotted Cuckoo in summer. Across to the other side of Trujillo is Valdesalor which is another great place for getting close to bustards. There is also the Sierra de San Pedro which has higher densities of Spanish Imperial Eagle and Black Vulture than Monfrague with more sites for Bonelli’s Eagle, Black Wheatear, Lesser Kestrel and Eagle Owl.

Moving away from the core area, to the south-east there is La Serena which offers yet more opportunities to see bustards, sandgrouse plus Cranes in winter. The latter are particularly numerous at Vegas Altas, where the newly-created rice fields are a great magnet for birds. The adjacent sites of Campo Lugar and the Sierra Brava Reservoir are also really important in winter with thousands of wildfowl.

Finally, in the north-east there are the Sierra de Gredos mountains (although incorrectly captioned on the base map). These are just outside Extremadura but worth an excursion to look for Citril Finch, Rock Thrush, Alpine Accentor, Water Pipit and Bluethroat. While the Sierra de Bejar offer a softer option for many of the same birds.

Dave Gosney’s DVDs are well known for their plain-speaking no nonsense approach to bird finding. The habitat and surroundings are shown for each site, and Dave is often in front of the camera giving his own perspective on the best way to see the most birds.

Finding Birds in Morocco: Coast and Mountains [DVD]
Finding Birds in Morocco: Coast and Mountains [DVD]
Dvd ~ Dave Gosney

5.0 out of 5 stars Gosney - Morocco, 20 Feb. 2014
Following on from his DVD and book combination for the deserts of Morocco, Dave Gosney has selected some great sites along the coast and nearby mountains in the north of the country. I visited this area twice last year and combined it with a few days in Gibraltar and nearby Tarifa in Spain – using the ferry to reach Tangier in Morocco.

This DVD starts at Larache where we are taken to the town centre to see breeding Little Swifts in the buildings around the square. Nearby are some great marshes at Loukkos with waterbirds including Purple Swamphen and Moustached Warbler. Keep an eye out for European Reed Warblers here – they are non-migratory and have a different song...... a new race or perhaps species yet to be described.

Further south we are taken to Merdja Zerga. This place was once famous as the wintering site for a few Slender-billed Curlews, but they are long gone – but Marsh Owls can still be seen if the local children have not flushed them. A boat trip here gives terrific access to see birds. When I visited last February the numbers of waders was outstanding. For example a flock of 2000 Avocets, next to a flock of 200 Greenshank!

Dave also reveals some out-of-the-way marshes called Khaloufa, Barga and Oulad Sgher. Lac de Sidi Bourhaba is next as we head south and here we are shown close-up views of Red-knobbed Coot, Marbled Duck and White-headed Duck.

For those who value their Western Palearctic lists there is Sidi Yahya where Double-spurred Francolins can be seen with a lot of luck. Dave provides the inside track on where to go. From here we are taken to Oualidia and on to Sidi Moussa and then Zemamra lakes where more waders and wildfowl can be seen in winter.

The town of Essaouira and Wadi Ksob are famous for their Eleonora’s Falcons in summer, at other times there are also chances of Brown-throated Sand Martin (also called Plain Martin), Black-crowned Tchagra and Western Reef Egret. Two more terrific wetlands are Oued Sous and Oued Massa.

Released Bald Ibises can be seen in Spain, but if you want to see the real wild birds then you must visit the Tamri estuary – our next locality. The colonies here at Souss-Massa National Park fledged 148 young in 2013, bringing the total population at the end of the breeding season to 443 birds. How great it is to see a rare bird responding to protection! Nearby at Cap Rhir there is a good seawatching lookout – particularly in spring and autumn.

Finally we head towards the High Atlas mountains looking for Tristram’s Warbler, Levaillant’s Woodpecker and Bonelli’s Eagle. Near to Marrakech there is the ski resort of Oukaimeden where Crimson-winged Finch and Alpine Accentor can be seen with relative ease. In spring there is a chance to see the local seebohmi race of Northern Wheatear. This is not considered a true species by most, but work continues on its plumages and song, with some people referring to it as Seebohm’s Wheatear. We also visit the Middle Atlas mountains where the recently-split Atlas Flycatcher can be found in the pinewoods.

Dave Gosney provides a good commentary throughout the DVD and employs a great combination of practical birding knowledge a familiar friendly approach. The habitat and surroundings are shown for each site, and Dave is often in front of the camera pointing out the local features.

Birduder 344: A Life List Ordinary
Birduder 344: A Life List Ordinary
by Rob Sawyer
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Birduder, 20 Feb. 2014
Are you a birder or a dude? Rob Sawyer clearly is undecided, but given his approach to life he clearly sees the funny side to everything, hence putting himself down with the “Birduder” monicker. And 344 – well that’s his life list total.

This is a thoroughly entertaining book in which Rob – a Southampton birder – recounts his own personal journey to accumulate those 344 species. It could be said that for someone who has been birding since the 1960s a list of 344 is a bit on the low side (I guess Low-Lister 344 might not have sold many copies!) but as you start reading you realise that Rob’s birding involves more pubs and restaurants than some other books of this nature. Also he has a habit of being greeted by the phrase “Ah, you should have been here thirty minutes ago!”.

Those of you who were inspired by Richard Millington’s “A Twitcher’s Diary” in 1990 will immediately recognise Rob’s own parody of this in the middle of the book. He gives us a regular (sometimes daily) account of his birding in 1984/85. He concludes that the final score was Richard Millington 1, Rob Sawyer 0!

Much of the birding is in Hampshire – my own county of choice – and comes to a climax with the White-tailed Eagle that wintered in 2010/11, and an epilogue in 2012 with Rob reaching 346.

Rob shows that there is more to life than birds, and for once we have a bird diary that doesn’t involve through-the-night twitches to the back end of nowhere.

Grouse Of The World
Grouse Of The World
by Richard Sale And Roald Popatov
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £20.40

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Grouse of the world, 20 Feb. 2014
This review is from: Grouse Of The World (Hardcover)
The jacket description of this book announces that it is “the first comprehensive English-language guide to this unique family of birds”. Clearly that is incorrect, as anyone interested in this family will already own The Grouse of the World by Paul Johnsgard which was published by Croom Helm in 1983. Indeed that book is listed in the bibliography! Putting aside that anomaly, this book does provide a very detailed account of the nineteen species of grouse from around the world.

An opening chapter discusses the many adaptations that these birds benefit from. This is a fascinating family of birds which is restricted entirely to the northern hemisphere. Each species is supremely designed to live in environments where the changing seasons present major challenges to survival. For example they have feathered nostrils and feet, and all but one have pectinated toes which grow flanges for the winter months to double the surface area of the feet. This latter adaptation is unique to the grouse family.

The species are then segmented into eight groups and are assessed in detail. Information is provided in a standard format on colouration, dimensions, distribution, subspecies, habitats, population structure and density, territoriality, nutrition, wintering and breeding seasons, and hunting, recreation and conservation.

The male and female of each species have been illustrated in colour by Jackie Garner. Having seen her paintings at a recent exhibition I know that these do not represent her best work and being on a buff background they simply do not come across as fresh and new – or indeed particularly sharp. There are many diagrams to illustrate data – and while these provide a wealth of information, some would have benefited from a redesign – as they are clearly based on work published 40-50 years ago. The choice of photographs is, however, very good and for each species there are useful images.

There is a colour distribution map for each species, with subspecies ranges being indicated somewhat vaguely through the use of numbers or letters. There are also a number of errors – such as the brunnescens subspecies of Ruffed Grouse being shown in Newfoundland. The maps are also inconsistent in the way they illustrate latitude and longitude. The authors’ choice of subspecies is often at variance with other authorities. Taking Ruffed Grouse again, they follow taxonomy dating back to 1943 and so recognise twelve rather than fourteen subspecies.

This book describes a fascinating family of birds, and its value is in the wealth of information that is presented. My only disappointment is that the style of presentation could have been much better.

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