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A flock of birds inside a book

Birdsong bookThis is a stunningly good idea. Bring together learning birds through visual and aural identification in one container. Sure, you can have a CD and gravitate to the track number whist looking at the book, but trying to constantly replay the track number is a fiddle and a half.

This is perfect. A beautiful photograph of your bird (customary arrangement in families) with text giving further information, AND gorgeous line drawings (for some species) generally showing the difference in male and female plumage, and at the top of the page information about the track number(s) of their song and call. You key that in to the attached player, and birdsong fills the room.

I have a few cavils, one more primary, two fairly minor, though these do not reduce ‘I love this book’ to ‘I like this book’:

Wikimedia Commons

Wikimedia Commons, Common!

I really like line drawings, as well as photos, so would have liked every bird as an opportunity to show the artist’s as well as the photographer’s, skill. Artists can show subtle differences which a photo may not – for example slight colour difference in the depth of grey between the Common and Arctic Tern. Sure, text can explain that the Arctic generally lacks the small black tip to the beak which the Common has, but closely studying a picture imprints this on the mind better.(the example I give IS illustrated, and I’m using it to show the value of such drawings) I just wonder how much more I could have seen had there been a line drawing of a Lesser Black-backed gull to compare with the drawing of the Great.

I prefer to see size of each bird separated out as information under the name, rather than buried in the text, AND to be given for each bird. Occasionally this is missing – e.g. the Whooper Swan ‘roughly the same size as Mute Swans’. After all, sometimes difference in size IS the identification, so a quick flick comparison is helpful (not that one would be taking this chunky book into the field)

Thirdly, aesthetically, I wish that the hard front cover of the book had been extended so that it covered the speaker. This would have looked more appealing, protected the speaker, and, anyway, they did just that for the back cover. After all you wouldn’t be playing a track without needing to look up its number, so the unextended cover serves no practical use (except for making the open book less wide)

I enjoyed this book SO much. Though I admit my cats are a little confused, they don’t respond to the small bird-song, but larger or unfamiliar birds have them searching beneath and behind the furniture. They know where the sound is coming from, as they look at me holding the book with puzzlement, particularly if they are sitting next to me, but obviously the bird is not on my lap, so they rather sensibly look for a place a bird could hide, even if the sound isn’t in the hiding place. Not having a Mute Swan (it hisses!) under the bed is probably quite a good idea, for cat health and safety, all things considered!

Of course, this is not a FIELD guide, unless you like walking whilst burdened down with steamer trunks and a bevy of matching suitcases, but it is a book for the studying of song so that at some future point you will hear, know and recognise!

As this is a very British and Irish Birds Guide and a very heavy British and Irish Birds Guide at that it may not be one to pack in the luggage for your planned visit from abroad walking holiday! I know a similar format exists with North American BirdsI received this originally as an ARC through Amazon Vine UK
Birdsong: 150 British and Irish Birds
The authors are: Jonathan Elphick, Jan Pedersen and Lars Svensson