Top positive review
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Simply a 'must have' for serious birders
on 9 August 2011
In 2010, the ground breaking 'Advanced Bird ID Guide' was published in English for the first time. This was an update of the original Dutch version published in 2002. It was a revelation. No illustrations apart from topography diagrams, and with no maps, there had never been anything quite like it before. Although about the same size as the Collins Bird Guide (but thinner), it contained a huge amount of information regarding identification, ageing, sexing and racing any bird encountered in the field in Europe. The great thing about the book was that it was so portable, and really lent itself to being used whilst out. Many birders (myself included) were so impressed with it that they purchased a second copy to be left on the shelf as a home reference, while leaving the first to become dog - eared by constant use in the field. Now, just a year later we have the 'Advanced Bird ID Handbook'. This is essentially the same book, but much larger, and is indeed intended to be that 'home reference' of the earlier book. So why buy this book, when it is coming so quickly after the first?
The 'Advanced Bird ID Handbook' is larger, so is much more comfortable to use as a home reference book. It has a larger typeface and about 100 extra pages. Size wise it's similar to the chunky (and recently published) 'Crossley ID Guide' to Eastern Birds (USA). It's a softback and also similar in style to the Crossley Guide. There is a 'Bird Family Finder' listed on the cover flaps both on the front and continued on the back for quick location of the bird you are searching for. The design and layout inside are pretty much the same as the earlier book, but more spaced out and easier on the eye. Inside the front cover are the topography diagrams from the first book, and inside the back cover is a map of the Western Palearctic. The book includes 1,350 species and subspecies - that's 50 more than stated on the cover of the smaller guide. It states that there are 'significant updates and additions to 570 species accounts', these would perhaps take a week to find so I'll just have to take their word for it! A more obvious change to the earlier book is the inclusion of '23 tables comparing key features of similar species'. These are simple grey box tables throughout the book and cover pairs such as Manx and Yelkouan Shearwater, Wilson's and Common Snipe, Booted and Sykes's Warbler, and even Marsh and Willow Tit. While checking Table 1: Tundra and Taiga Bean Geese I noticed a bad mistake where the table got the 'Overall shape' the wrong way round. So we had Taiga Bean 'more compact with a thick neck' and Tundra Bean 'larger than Tundra with thinner neck and long rear end. Male nearly size of Greylag Goose' ! This was very disappointing, and with thousands of pieces of information in this book, how many more are incorrect? Another addition to the smaller book is the inclusion (towards the back) of a checklist of the Birds of the Western Palearctic, although only Category A and B species. One feature of the large and small versions of the book that I really like is the inclusion of several species that have not yet been recorded in the Western Palearctic, but could possibly occur in the future. This makes this book so wonderfully comprehensive and forward thinking.
I'm a big fan of this book and the earlier 'field' version. It enables you to take your bird identification skills to a new advanced level. It gets you looking at birds in a new way, and you soon realise that there is even so much more to learn about the more common birds. It's incredible to have a book that includes pretty much all the currently known information required to identify, sex, age and race any bird you could see in the Western Palearctic. Not only this, but it is so easy to read - no trawling through lots of text to get to the relevant information. This book will be a great home reference for checking identification criteria on photos from the internet, magazines, or even personal ones. If you are serious about your birding and especially ID, this book is indispensable. Highly recommended.