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Keith Betton "Keith Betton" (UK)

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Larousse Wine: The World's Greatest Vines, Estates, and Regions
Larousse Wine: The World's Greatest Vines, Estates, and Regions
by Librarie Larousse
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 38.16

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Be aware that this is the US version, 21 April 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
IMPORTANT: I bought this book and apart from the cover it is the same book exactly as "Larousse Wine" which has purple on the cover and is the UK edition - and quite a lot cheaper. Both were revised in 2011. Amazon accepted the book back with a problem.

A great book that explains everything you want to know and examines each region. Not as detailed as some of the wine atlasses, but enough information for most people.


The Birds of Panama: A Field Guide (Zona Tropical Publications)
The Birds of Panama: A Field Guide (Zona Tropical Publications)
by George Richard Angehr
Edition: Paperback
Price: 26.95

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Birds of Panama: A Field Guide, 24 Jan 2012
A recent survey of UK birders showed that of those who take regular overseas trips, 22% had been to Costa Rica but only 6% had visited Panama. This is also reflected in the number of holidays offered by bird tour operators. Panama really has a lot to offer, and while it is not quite as safe as Costa Rica it has a fairly good road system and air access. At the other extreme, a trip to the remote Darien region is a must as it puts you in the middle of an area with no roads and very few villages. My visit there remains one of my very best birding memories - even though I came back with Leishmaniasis! A three week trip can bring you a haul of over 500 species and importantly there are 107 regional endemics on offer (although mostly shared with Costa Rica or Colombia).

Since 1989 the only dedicated field guide for the area has been A Guide to the Birds of Panama by Robert Ridgely and John Gwynne. In common with so many books from that period, it contained a wealth of information but no maps, and the plates were all grouped together in a rather crowded format with sixteen species on each page. Also there were relatively few flight illustrations. It served me well on my trip, but for use in the field this new guide moves us much further forward.

George Angehr created the text having also written the Annotated Checklist of the Birds of Panama and A Bird-Finding Guide to Panama. Each species is described with bold type emphasising the key points. Brief notes are also given on distribution and calls. The distribution maps are clear, with colours to indicate seasonal occurrence, and where the range is small the scale is enlarged to give more detail.

The book generally uses the AOU as its authority for species limits, scientific and English names, and the sequence of families and species. However differences are the recognition of several non-AOU splits: Galapagos Shearwater (from Audubon's Shearwater), Brown-backed Dove (from Grey-headed Dove), Azuero Parakeet (from Painted Parakeet), Escudo Hummingbird (from Rufous-tailed Hummingbird), Blue-throated Toucanet (from Emerald Toucanet), Coiba Spinetail (from Rusty-backed Spinetail), and Canebrake Wren (from Plain Wren).

Over 950 species are shown with text and a colour map on the left page and a named illustration on the right page - and importantly there are only 4-6 species per spread. About 30 extreme vagrants are not illustrated. The majority of the paintings by Robert Dean are taken directly from his previous work Birds of Costa Rica (written by Richard Garrigues in 2007), but illustrations of around 150 species have been created solely for this book. His work in the Costa Rica guide suffered from rather faint colour printing, but that is not a problem this time. Male and female plumages are shown where it matters and in a small number of non-passerines there are immature plumages too. However only a few birds are shown in flight, and I was left wanting more images of many of the raptors and half of the nightjars.

This guide is actually not much smaller than that created by Ridgely and Gwynne and I recommend having both with you for the wealth of information in the latter. Being a softback it will surely suffer from wear and tear in the field, but it offers a much better solution for rapid use, putting all the essential information in the same place.


The Jewel Hunter
The Jewel Hunter
by Chris Gooddie
Edition: Paperback
Price: 18.95

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Jewel Hunter, 24 Jan 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Jewel Hunter (Paperback)
Chris Gooddie gave up a successful job in order to satisfy his dream to see every one of the world's 32 pittas in a single year. It is needless to say then that he spent most of his time travelling in Asia, but he details his quest to find African Pitta Pitta angolensis and Green-breasted Pitta P. reichenowi in two chapters, and those who have tried to see these two skulking species will recognise the scale of his challenge! His writing style is clear, with his self-deprecating sense of humour making the book enjoyable to read.

To satisfy his quest to see all of the pitta species, Chris travelled more than 200,000 kilometres through Thailand, Malaysia, Taiwan, Sabah, Vietnam, the Philippines, Indonesia, Australia, Sri Lanka, Manus Island, the Solomon Islands, Uganda and Zambia. The task cost him nearly 30,000. Despite being a keen runner he lost 13 kilograms in weight during the challenge!

To find Green-breasted Pitta Chris travelled to south-west Uganda and allowed himself ten days to locate the bird, and he succeeded on 25 July in Kibale Forest where he managed to photograph it too. For the African Pitta he travelled to Zambia and headed to the river beds near Siavonga, in the Lower Zambezi Valley close to the border with Zimbabwe. Finally on 10 December he managed to see it - but not before a large amount of effort and perhaps the same amount of personal risk. Sadly on this occasion his camera failed to work as the bird posed in full view for ten seconds. As I read this I felt Chris's mixed emotions of failing to get a picture, but realising that he had finally seen every pitta in the world.

Although the focus of the book is pittas, Chris gives plenty of detail on the other birds he saw on his travels - in fact he saw almost two thousand species. It is an interesting and enjoyable read and made me want to get up and go out birding, which is a good benchmark for any bird book.


Loire Valley: Loire, Brenne and Sologne (Crossbill Guides)
Loire Valley: Loire, Brenne and Sologne (Crossbill Guides)
by Dirk Hilbers
Edition: Paperback
Price: 15.48

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Loire Valley (Loire, Brenne and Sologne, France), 24 Jan 2012
Some people visit the Loire Valley for its impressive chateaux or world-class wines and as a result it has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. What most people don't realise is that it is also a great region for wildlife. This book covers three areas - the Loire-Anjou Regional Park between Angers and Tours, the Sologne just south of Orléans, and the Brenne to the east of Poitiers.

The Brenne and the Sologne are peppered with hundreds of marsh-fringed lakes and here you can find good populations of Purple and Night Herons, Little Bitterns, Whiskered Terns and Black-necked Grebes. Up to ten pairs of Ospreys breed in the Solgne, while to the north is the Forest of Orléans where as many as 30 pairs are to be found. But the habitats also include heathland and unimproved grassland. Here you can find Hoopoes, Bee-eaters (and recent colonist) and Short-toed Eagles, while Little Bustards are in the drylands of Meron and Rock Sparrows are at Fontevraud.

This book follows the same style as others in the Crossbill series - and introduction to the landscape, geology and habitats followed by sections on each of the flora and fauna groupings. Then there is a range of 17 routes to explore, two of which are designer for cyclists. Throughout there are maps and photographs and helpful notes to maximise enjoyment of the area.

Four pages are used to provide a bird list, which in common with previous Crossbill guides is a bit brief and lacking in detail, but points out locations for the main target species. The thing to remember is that this book is for all naturalists and not just birders! However there is an extensive list of all species of animal and plant mentioned in the book - but unfortunately not as an index. That small gripe aside, once again Crossbill have created an excellent guide book.


Birds of New Zealand, Hawaii, Central and West Pacific (Collins Field Guide)
Birds of New Zealand, Hawaii, Central and West Pacific (Collins Field Guide)
by Ber van Perlo
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 29.99

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Collins Field Guide: Birds of New Zealand, Hawaii, Central and West Pacific, 24 Jan 2012
Given that this book has to cover 780 species in twenty political entities, you might imagine that it is substantial. However it is incredibly small - in fact too small. Measuring just 20 cm by 13 cm (the same as Collins's recent volumes on the Palearctic by Norman Arlott), up to ten species are featured in each double page spread, with text and maps on the left-facing colour illustrations.

The area covered is so enormous it is hard to contemplate. The distance from Palau at the western extreme across to the Pitcairn Islands in the east is 11,500 kilometres, which is even further than the distance from Palau to the UK! Needless to say there are plenty of endemics on offer across the range with New Zealand and Hawaii hosting 65 and 33 respectively. A further 87 endemics are to be found in the other areas covered by the book. In declining order of endemism these are Fiji (28), French Polynesia (24), Micronesia (15), Palau (10), Samoa (8), Cook Islands (6), Pitcairn Islands (5), Tonga and North Marianas (2 each), Kiribati and Guam (1 each), while American Samoa, Marshall Islands, Tuvalu, Tokelau, Niue, Wallis and Futuna have none.

Once again Ber Van Perlo's has painted pictures of all the species. Certainly his illustrations are better than in some of his earlier books but for me they still lack detail and they are crammed in too tightly onto the small pages. The main plumages for each species are illustrated, with both sexes usually shown when they are different. Juveniles are also shown for a selection of species, but these are far too few. Similarly only some are shown in flight. The text gives very brief information on identification features, habitat, and vocalisations. For some species these really don't help much. For example Killdeer is described as follows: "Unmistakable. Note rufous rump and long tail." The maps are miniscule - 18mm x 12mm (smaller than the smallest UK stamp). As many of the species have quite restricted ranges these have been designed only to show the area where they occur. However this sensible move is completely undermined by the small size. Use of codes allows for the distribution of each species to be conveyed accurately without wasting space. A good decision was to repeat illustrations for all of the endemics together for each country or group of islands in the introductory pages.

New Zealand is already well covered by field guides which offer more detail than this, so I can't see this book being used for a trip there. Similarly visitors to Hawaii are still well served by The Birds of Hawaii and the Tropical Pacific (published in 1987 by Princeton University Press and still available). That book covers the other species seen across the various island groups, but it does not offer distribution maps so it could be argued that this new book is more user-friendly by marrying up the text and illustrations. However most people will want the more extensive information in the Princeton book.

My disappointment is that this book could have been so much better. The inclusion of New Zealand has used up valuable space and the whole production could have been spread over more pages and perhaps a bigger page size. Sadly because of these limitations, and because there is an adequate book available already, it is hard to see this book attracting a lot of interest.


Birds of Hawaii, New Zealand, and the Central and West Pacific: (Princeton Illustrated Checklists)
Birds of Hawaii, New Zealand, and the Central and West Pacific: (Princeton Illustrated Checklists)
by Ber van Perlo
Edition: Paperback

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Collins Field Guide: Birds of New Zealand, Hawaii, Central and West Pacific, 24 Jan 2012
Given that this book has to cover 780 species in twenty political entities, you might imagine that it is substantial. However it is incredibly small - in fact too small. Measuring just 20 cm by 13 cm (the same as Collins's recent volumes on the Palearctic by Norman Arlott), up to ten species are featured in each double page spread, with text and maps on the left-facing colour illustrations.

The area covered is so enormous it is hard to contemplate. The distance from Palau at the western extreme across to the Pitcairn Islands in the east is 11,500 kilometres, which is even further than the distance from Palau to the UK! Needless to say there are plenty of endemics on offer across the range with New Zealand and Hawaii hosting 65 and 33 respectively. A further 87 endemics are to be found in the other areas covered by the book. In declining order of endemism these are Fiji (28), French Polynesia (24), Micronesia (15), Palau (10), Samoa (8), Cook Islands (6), Pitcairn Islands (5), Tonga and North Marianas (2 each), Kiribati and Guam (1 each), while American Samoa, Marshall Islands, Tuvalu, Tokelau, Niue, Wallis and Futuna have none.

Once again Ber Van Perlo's has painted pictures of all the species. Certainly his illustrations are better than in some of his earlier books but for me they still lack detail and they are crammed in too tightly onto the small pages. The main plumages for each species are illustrated, with both sexes usually shown when they are different. Juveniles are also shown for a selection of species, but these are far too few. Similarly only some are shown in flight. The text gives very brief information on identification features, habitat, and vocalisations. For some species these really don't help much. For example Killdeer is described as follows: "Unmistakable. Note rufous rump and long tail." The maps are miniscule - 18mm x 12mm (smaller than the smallest UK stamp). As many of the species have quite restricted ranges these have been designed only to show the area where they occur. However this sensible move is completely undermined by the small size. Use of codes allows for the distribution of each species to be conveyed accurately without wasting space. A good decision was to repeat illustrations for all of the endemics together for each country or group of islands in the introductory pages.

New Zealand is already well covered by field guides which offer more detail than this, so I can't see this book being used for a trip there. Similarly visitors to Hawaii are still well served by The Birds of Hawaii and the Tropical Pacific (published in 1987 by Princeton University Press and still available). That book covers the other species seen across the various island groups, but it does not offer distribution maps so it could be argued that this new book is more user-friendly by marrying up the text and illustrations. However most people will want the more extensive information in the Princeton book.

My disappointment is that this book could have been so much better. The inclusion of New Zealand has used up valuable space and the whole production could have been spread over more pages and perhaps a bigger page size. Sadly because of these limitations, and because there is an adequate book available already, it is hard to see this book attracting a lot of interest.


Antarctic Wildlife
Antarctic Wildlife
by James Lowen
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 15.41

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Antarctic Wildlife, 24 Jan 2012
This review is from: Antarctic Wildlife (Hardcover)
For those who are contemplating that once-in-a-lifetime trip to the Antarctic this book provides a handy photographic guide to the birds and mammals that you are likely to encounter. In fact it even includes several flowering plants.

The introductory chapters explain how a typical tour works, what to expect, and how to prepare. Three short sections then outline the typical species you are likely to encounter in the Beagle Channel, the Drake Passage and finally the Antarctic Peninsula itself. Lists of species are given with references so that the main text for each can be located quickly. The peninsula is divided up into a further three sections (north-west, north-east and the South Shetlands/Elephant Island) and checklists are shown for no less than 32 points that a tour might visit. These are also shown on a map on the inside front cover (although the cartographer clearly became confused about west and east when adding the longitudinal data).

The main part of the book provides text on each species against photographs on the facing page. In an attempt to help with quick assessment these are divided into the three groupings mentioned above. These are indicated by a subtle colour change to the top of the pages. This colour scheme is also used in boxed area to indicate each species' status within the three zones together with other data. Where a species often occurs in more than one area (such as Gentoo Penguin) there is a cross reference to help explain this. However if (like me) you saw a Snowy Sheathbill in the Beagle Channel you'd end up looking for it in the wrong part of the book as there is no reference to it away from Antarctica.

The photographs are excellent and were mostly taken by the author. Using digital imaging most have been superimposed onto a common background to show similar species in flight together. This practice is proving to be very popular in a number of recent books although Wild Guides were pioneers in developing this technique several years ago. A specific section on penguins gives an insight to their lifestyle using a selection of attractive and interesting images.

Once you've mastered the layout of this book it would be invaluable on deck. It provides more than enough information to satisfy the general visitor, and would serve very well as a field guide for birders.


Birds of Melanesia: Bismarcks, Solomons, Vanuatu and New Caledonia (Helm Field Guides)
Birds of Melanesia: Bismarcks, Solomons, Vanuatu and New Caledonia (Helm Field Guides)
by Guy Dutson
Edition: Paperback
Price: 33.92

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Birds of Melanesia: Bismarcks, Solomons, Vanuatu and New Caledonia, 24 Jan 2012
Melanesia is one of those regions that most experienced birders would have some trouble pinpointing on a map. In fact before I picked up this book I did not realise I'd visited the area already! It covers some 108,000 sq km with many islands, although dominated by the Bismarcks and New Caledonia. Most of these arose from submarine volcanoes and are generally steep and bird-rich, although some are coral atolls and are relatively poor in birds.

This book is the first field guide to cover all of Melanesia and it features 501 species, of which 377 are resident. Significantly 204 of these are endemic to the region. Helm did produce a much smaller field guide in 1999, but that just covered the Solomons, Vanuatu and New Caledonia - so this new work covers an additional 139 species.

In pure geographical terms, Melanesia often includes continental New Guinea, but this book just covers the islands which could perhaps be referred to more precisely as Island Melanesia. A series of maps clearly shows those areas that are included: Admiralty, St Matthias and Bismarck islands off New Guinea, the Solomon Islands including Bougainville and Temotu (Santa Cruz), Vanuatu and New Caledonia.

The layout is the typical Helm format of text facing illustrations by Richard Allen, Adam Bowley, John Cox and Tony Disley. These are absolutely superb, and although there are around eight species per page, the book does not feel crowded. Many of the plates are arranged by island group for convenience, although this takes a while to get used to at first. The text here simply describes the main identification features, although ignores voice. Sub-specific differences are also noted here.

I am often disappointed when field guides do not include maps, but here the author uses a series of 14 distribution bars in six different colours to indicate status on each island grouping. This is a great idea and works really well. Only extreme vagrants don't benefit from this. The same information is displayed in the introductory chapters by use of a very useful table that spans 14 pages. There is also a five-page gazetteer.

The back half of this book is devoted to more advanced information on each species, with detailed descriptions, comparisons with similar species, voice, habits, conservation status and range. The author uses the IOC names as his framework, but also gives alternatives, as well as the French name and a local name where the species has a very restricted range.

Additional chapters provide useful information about each of the island groups, together with background on the habitats and climate and conservation. One might imagine that being remote, these islands would face few conservation threats. In fact 13% of the resident bird species are listed as globally threatened - and importantly that relates to 23% of the endemic species. The main problems that need to be addressed are forest loss and the introduction of alien predators.

This is one of the best field guides I have seen in recent years. Given the significant challenge of being comprehensive (for example the Solomon Islands archipelago consists of over 900 islands!) it makes everything really easy to understand. It incorporates all of the features that you need and has been produced at a price that compares very favourably.


Birds of Seychelles (Helm Field Guides)
Birds of Seychelles (Helm Field Guides)
by Adrian Skerrett
Edition: Paperback
Price: 21.19

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Birds of Seychelles, 24 Jan 2012
Seychelles lies in the western Indian Ocean. The land area is small at just 458 sq km, but in total there are 155 islands spread across an area of ocean covering 1,374,000 sq km.

This book is a condensed version of that of the same name published by Helm in 2000. That field guide (which was co-authored with Ian Bullock) was the only modern book to cover every species recorded in the Seychelles. It is still available and provides a huge resource of information.

Once again all species are included in the new volume, but the main difference is that the text has been considerably reduced and rewritten. This highlights key identification features, including habitat, distribution, status and voice. The original plates have been repeated but many have been resized and a number of new images have been added, with 12 extra plates. In total there are around 1000 illustrations.

Every species is given an English name following the traditional Voous order (used by the African Bird Club for many years until its recent decision to follow the IOC List). Creole and French are both official languages of Seychelles, along with English, and all names in each language are listed in an appendix.In addition, there are brief notes on each of the main islands and Important Bird Areas. There are no range maps but the author uses a table of 16 distribution bars in four different colours to indicate status of each species on each of the islands. This is a good idea and works really well.

This is a handy book that will take up very little room in one's bag. It really is designed for field use but I expect many people will still want the original book to read in their hotel room.


The Kittiwake (Poyser Monographs)
The Kittiwake (Poyser Monographs)
by John Coulson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 45.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Kittiwake, 24 Jan 2012
If you were asked to name the most numerous gull species in the world I doubt very much that you would suggest the Black-legged Kittiwake. With about 9 million adults (and as many immatures in addition) it easily outnumbers the Herring Gull and is the commonest gull. By contrast the Red-legged Kittiwake is much less common, with a population of just 300,000 birds. Not only that, but both species are the most oceanic of seabirds breeding in the northern hemisphere. These gulls are tough and much more interesting than you might first imagine.

Despite its title, this latest Poyser Monograph is actually about the two species, the latter being restricted to west Alaska on the Pribilof and Aleutian Islands where both species can be seen nesting in the same colonies. To date no mixed pairs have never been recorded. They have plenty of similarities, but this book shows how different they are too. While both have sub-arctic and arctic breeding distributions where the seawater temperature is cold, the Red-legged Kittiwake is a specialised feeder, adapted for nocturnal or crepuscular feeding.

The author demonstrates how both species have adapted well to nesting on almost sheer cliffs. For example, when copulation takes place the female does not stand like other birds do, and instead she sits. Unlike other gulls the chicks do not run when threatened by a predator, they sit facing towards the cliff. However interestingly the adults lack the ability to recognise their own chicks and will feed any chick on the nest site.

The book has chapters covering all key aspects of the birds' lives. There are sections on feeding methods and food, distribution in winter, interactions with humans, and moult, but the majority of the book explains every possible aspect of the breeding process - spread across eight chapters. I was particularly interested in an appendix which described the author's work at a North Shields colony since 1949. Indeed his contribution to our understanding of these tough seabirds is immense - indicated by the 47 papers in which he was the lead author.


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