Friday, 22 January 2010

The new Bible has arrived!

My long awaited copy of the Bible arrived today courtesy of publishers Harper Collins whose offices are not too far from where I live. My previous copy was given to me in 2003 by my then long-term Slovakian girlfriend who wrote me a note in her native tongue at the front of the book that to this day I have never been able to translate. Any Slovak speakers out there?

The publication of the new Collins Bird Guide was probably the most eagerly awaited birding event in recent history. Well, maybe with the exception of the rediscovery of the Eskimo Curlew or the confirmation of the continued existence of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker. So when the book arrived I spent the next hour going through it page by page looking out for the differences. There were a few differences. There were species included (mostly wheatears funnily enough) that I had never heard of like Seebohm's Wheatear (which I previously knew as a subspecies of the Northern Wheatear), the Maghreb Wheatear and Kurdish Wheatear. Plus I had never heard of a 'Basalt Wheatear' (the black morph of the Mourning Wheatear).

I was very excited to now own a portable fieldguide that had entries for what I term as 'black hole' species like Caspian Gull and American Herring Gull - birds that hitherto were just after thoughts in the bird guides - the kind of birds that you previously had to spend a couple of hours trawling through gull tomes or surfing the net to glean the essential ID features. Staying with the gulls, I was impressed with the detail that the Herring Gull and Lesser Black-back entries had. All helpful stuff in the field.

Of course, I could be pernickety and find faults and moan about things like the Short-eared Owl painting depicting it with far narrower wings than on any I've seen in real life. Or that, in my view, the book follows that completely alien systematic family order that starts with swans. I'm old school, I get nose bleeds if my field guide doesn't start with the divers. No, negativity is waste of time when there are so many positives in this book.

When I was a kid used to read Heinzel, Fitter & Parslow's 'The Birds of Britain and Europe with North Africa and the Middle East' religiously. At home, at school, during lessons, in bed - in fact everywhere. It was my original bible and it's amazing just how far things have come since then. I absolutely love reading and re-reading field guides subliminally soaking up facts and figures that sometimes come back to me when I see particular birds. I will certainly keeping this new Collins Bird Guide by my side at all times. I absolutely love it already, it was worth the wait!

The people at Harper Collins have asked me to mention that they are launching on February 2nd 2010. From what they say it sounds like it will be a very interesting site.

Anyway, it's my bedtime now. Time to read the Bible.


Michael Flowers said...

Bells are ringing! I used to go thro' "The Observers Book of British Birds" again & again. How I managed to ID birds when I learnt half of them from monochrome Victorian art pictures, I'll never know! Then along came an obscure volume called "Bird Spotting", which I thought was great at the time, but now - oh dear! The new ID guides beat these hollow. It's never been so easy to learn to ID birds from scratch. For me, studying books like the new Collins Guide will always be the way to learn to ID birds, rather than from images on the internet. Great to find this blog, will add a link on mine, if that's OK? Cheers, Michael

The Urban Birder said...

Thanks Michael - glad that you like my blog.