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on 18 May 2017
Superb reference book for beginner and improving birdwatchers. Too heavy to cart around, but good for keeping ready at home,
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on 20 May 2017
A***
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on 28 May 2017
I have never been a serious birdwatcher but I enjoy country walks and am generally interested in wildlife. Recently I took a short course in identifying birdsong which has been a lot of fun and has prompted me to be slightly more serious about my bird identification. I'm a long way from being a twitcher but lets just say I am now more likey to take binoculars with me on a walk, than not.

So I wanted to get a good ID guide to help up my knowledge. There are various RSPB guides, including one for Scottish Birds (and I am in Scotland) but they just didn't seem right to me. I don't seem to respond so well to their artwork.

It was looking very much like I was going to buy the Collins BTO guide. I liked its size, and the fact that it contained really clear photographs of each bird (and not paintings). I had in fact gone to a book store to buy one of these, when I came across the Crossley ID Guide. I ended up leaving with the Crossley.

What I really like about it is not only does it show photos of the birds, it shows lots with variations of them in flight, perching, taking off etc. And critically the images are on top of a background of the actual habitat where you will find the bird. In the case of some woodland birds it shows them on the tree species you are most likely to see them on. For a beginner I thought this was a great addition, because in many cases, where you see the bird is as critical to deciding what it is as its colour and general appearance. Habitat seems key to many of the warblers for instance.

The only downside of this book is that it is just slightly bigger and heavier than you might hope for an item to take into the field with you. I do carry it in my bag and it is doable, but would be nice if it was a bit lighter. It does have nice solid flaps back and front for keeping a place, which I liked.

The most obvious guides are the RSPB and BTO offerings but I would really recommend that you at least have a look at this alternative before making your mind up. I'm very happy that I made the right choice.
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on 20 March 2017
Very good and very satisfied. Cracking!
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on 11 October 2013
I am a big fan of photographic guides - especially Kenn Kaufman's North American series and WILDGuides pioneering UK-centred field guides. I have also enjoyed Crossley's excellent eastern North America guide and love the new Warbler Guide. I've almost worn the cover off my copy of Howell's Hummingbirds of North America. So I was naturally excited when Princeton University Press kindly sent me a review copy of this photo guide to the birds of the UK.

The book is aimed at beginners and intermediate birders. It covers Britain's commonest 300 birds, so beginners will not be confused and daunted by a host of extralimital European species and vagrants. Species are arranged in an order that groups broadly similar-looking birds together to facilitate comparison. Computer-manipulated photographs are the mainstay of the book - those familiar with Crossley's previous work will know what to expect: multiple individual bird images are shown in their typical habitat.

The supporting text is very good: written by an acknowledged expert, it is short and pithy (although to my mind text and plates could be better integrated and more mutually supportive). Population figures are a welcome feature and can help separate commoner species from rarer lookalikes (e.g. Marsh Tit is now ten times more common than Willow Tit in the UK). The accompanying maps are the perfect size and easy to interpret.

At 16 x 24 cm, this is not a field guide - although the authors make no claim that it is: Crossley states that his guides are "a halfway-house between traditional field guides and being in the field". Photographic quality varies from excellent to (occasionally) inadequate, and some images are tiny or blurred. Some common species, like Garden Warbler, do not have a really representative photo and good comparative images (showing similar species under comparable light conditions and in the same pose) are generally lacking. Photo editing is less than state-of-the-art and has left some of the birds at odd angles, in an unnatural perspective, with disconcerting shadow effects, or truncated legs. I wonder how beginners will tackle Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff using these plates?

I find gauging size to be one of the major drawbacks of the book, even though the authors deliberately set out to convey size. The comparative plates in the introduction are confusing, even though they were "carefully measured": oddly the Mistle Thrush looks about the same size as the Nightingale, Coal Tit looks similar to Nuthatch, Woodpigeon appears a bit slighter than Rock Dove, House Martin and Swift have comparable wingspans, and Little Owl is as large as Barn Owl.

A book like this is the product of decades of field experience and years of hard work, and the end result is never perfect, but I think that this book could have been improved by sourcing better photographs, improving the editing and manipulation of images, and by better combining the text with the plates. The Britain & Ireland book is not as well finished as the previous Crossley guides. Perhaps I have been spoilt by the likes of Kenn Kaufman, WILDGuides, Steve Howell, Stephenson & Whittle, and Crossley himself. Nevertheless, with hundreds of bird photographs collected in one place, this is a great book for armchair birding that will undoubtedly help birders hone their skills away from the field.

This "halfway-house" does leave the market wide open for a proper, well-executed photographic field guide to the UK's birds for birders of all levels...

Chris Sharpe, 11 October 2013. ISBN-13: 9780691151946
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on 31 October 2013
Unique in its presentation, this book is not only a joy to behold, it will absolutely improve your birding skills. I highly recommend this book to both birders and non-birders. It is beautiful. The pages truly show birds in their natural habitats and gives ample comparisons which include age, sex, flight and behaviours. All of these combined make it a book you will want to keep, one at home and one in your car!
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on 23 October 2013
I just bought this book and I simply love looking at it. It really makes sense, showing birds in their natural habitats, behaviour and lots of examples of different plumages. To my eyes, it's not really a photographic guide. As Nick Baker says, `it spans the gap between traditional guides with paintings and the newer guides with photographs'. The book is aimed at beginner and intermediate birders and this is who I am. Simply put, I think this will become the main guide for people like me in Britain. Just get it!
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 28 December 2013
This is an interesting book that is a clear departure from the more conventional bird ID books. The general layout of the book is simple, which most species being given a full page that also contains a distribution map, BTO codes and an estimate of population size. The book is of a "this won't fit in your pocket" size, but it won't take up too much space in a backpack.

Each species account uses large numbers of images of a species digitally added to a "typical" habitat shot. While the digital manipulation is not on the same level of much of that which comes from North Korea, very few of the birds seem to look natural. The variation of light on the birds within one picture is just not natural, and the fact that the distant birds look almost as sharp as the in the foreground make the images is look strange. Its like you are looking at some form of hyper-reality show, rather than anything.

Apart from the issues of digital manipulation mentioned above, some of the pictures is simply not that good - and this really takes away from the quality of the book. Equally, within the text other birds, which may be similar to the species on the page, are referred to by a code name rather than a full name, and no page references are given. I would have thought this would be a barrier to most beginning birders.

As you can see from my name here I am no longer based in the UK, but I have had recent experience of what's its like to start birding all over again - when I arrived in Australia I could only identify about 10 of the native birds. I think I am glad I started to grapple with Australian bird ID with a more conventional bird ID guide than this one.

In summary I think this would make a really rather good second ID book to purchase, allowing to act more as a back up than a front line ID guide/book.

As with many things that are new and rather different, my reaction to this book may be a bit of a "shock of the new" experience - but I'm not convinced this is the best ID guide you could buy for a beginning birder.

(I am not up-to-date on this, but I don't think you can go far wrong with the RSPB guide as a starting point for beginners)
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on 20 February 2014
The arrival in 2011 of Richard Crossley’s ID Guide to Eastern North American birds certainly opened the eyes of many UK birders to the way that photo montages could be used to great effect, and similarly his recent book on Raptors had us wanting even more. But were we ready for him to give “our” local birds the same digital treatment? A few people were in for a shock!

Let’s look at the book itself. An active UK birder is likely to encounter at least 200 species in a year, and some will get above 250, so the 330 featured in this book cover exactly what most people need. In this book we have all of the breeding and wintering species, plus all of the regular migrants and a few semi-rarities.

Just like the East North America book the layout mostly allows each of the commoner species a page of their own, while those that are rarer either get a third or a quarter page. Each full page species is described in around 150 words giving ID tips and general guidance on how to see it, plus there is a colour distribution map and seasonal abundance data. The rarer species are covered in about 80-100 words without a map or data.

The decisions as to which species go into each category are mostly sensible, but several less common breeding species have been downgraded to have no map - which is really unhelpful. These include Hawfinch, Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Woodlark and Goshawk - all of which are widespread even if uncommon. Other breeders that really ought to have a map are Honey Buzzard, Quail, Corn Crake, Eurasian Bittern, Stone Curlew, Storm and Leach’s Petrels, Red-necked Phalarope and Dotterel. Among the wintering species that also lack a map are Jack Snipe and Yellow-legged Gull. Abundance data is not given for any of these - and there seems to be no good reason for this.

Much use is made in the text of 5-letter and 2-letter codes (for example COMTE or CT for Common Tern). These were developed by the British Trust for Ornithology for shorthand use in surveys and ringing, but in this book I find them really annoying - especially when used to caption a page of flight shots. In fact the result was to slow down the speed with which I identified the birds - which is surely not what the authors aimed to achieve!

The Crossley Guide approach involves birds standing and flying against a habitat background, perhaps with groups of birds together both near and far. These are very realistic for families such as waterfowl, waders, gulls and thrushes, but less convincing for other non-flocking groups such as warblers. Some pages do look rather cluttered, but I think the secret is to focus in on each individual image rather than be overwhelmed by the page in its entirety.

I think that this book is going to surprise those birders that have not seen Crossley’s other works, but having tested out a few pages on friends the response has been very positive. Personally I like the way that many images have been used against a clear background, although I am less pleased by those that are positioned against “busy” habitat backgrounds where it is less easy to pick out plumage features. Clearly I am not alone in expressing that view, but many people are relaxed about it and feel that the montages really reflect the way that birds show themselves in the real world. Let’s face it, birds often present themselves in a rather unhelpful way - skulking around in hedge bottoms and generally trying not to be seen - so having a book that recognises that challenge is actually helpful.

This book is aimed at intermediate birders and I think it will be well received by most people. Those who like their bird books to present species all facing left as if in a Police identity parade will probably struggle with this new concept - but surely it is the way forward.
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on 22 November 2013
A somewhat revolutionary concept into bird ID. A radical change from the common format of bird guides, be it photographic or artwork. The author states the book should be seen as a 'workbook', the more you look - the more you see, the reader is greater employed with every plate. As another reviewer has stated, a beginner still requires a formal, conventional guide to accompany this publication. The same reviewer states also, it's the best attempt yet, at conveying the all-important 'jizz' of the bird, in that I fully concur. This book I gladly include in my guide book 'arsenal'.
A caveat.
This book relates to birds of Britain & Ireland (only), so why the American spelling of practice with an 'S' - 'practise'? Also, in the text on owls, I note faeces spelt 'feces' - yet more New World spelling. We then go to the plate on the Great Black Backed Gull, its killing of live prey e.g 'AMCO', which is ornithilogical shorthand for bird species, in this case the American Coot. Now dear authors & publishers, where is that relevant to British (Irish) birders? That's a nod to Uncle Sam too far!!*
Try as I may, the right-hand column of page 18 (in the introduction) where the subject of size is to be discussed, its whereabouts makes no sense. I quote, "inside the front cover . . ." Er??? Indeed, that first paragraph reminds me of a cuckoo chick?
Don't let my minor criticisms put you off, an otherwise fine book.
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