Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Book Review: Pipits & Wagtails of Europe, Asia & North America by Per Alstrom, Krister Mild & Bill Zetterstrom

"Pipits & Wagtails" is a bird field guide/reference book on this often difficult to identify group of species. Whilst it contains a huge amount of information it is just about small enough to be regularly taken out into the field in a small rucksack. This publication consists of four main sections; a short introduction covering general aspects of identification, sexing and ageing; 30 colour plates; a hugely detailed set of species accounts; a photographic section. All four sections of the book are extremely useful to ornithologists in the identification of these birds and the photographic section certainly illustrates, very well, how similar many of the species and subspecies covered here are.

The species accounts here are intensely detailed, covering taxonomic status, wing formulas, calls, regional plumage variations amongst other details, making this book suitable for the serious ornithologist and not for those with a casual interest in birdwatching.

Although this book is superbly researched and information is dissipated in a very readable style, this is not a book to read cover to cover, but rather one to dip into as a reference book when one has a query about a particular species. Unfortunatley there are a few minor irritations for the user of this book, particularly that one has to constantly flick between the plates, species accounts at photographic section when reading about a species and the fact that the Yellow Wagtail subspecies are not illustrated in winter plumage. These minor problems aside, this is a superb book for ornithologists throughout Europe, North America and Asia.

Whilst this is an excellent publication for serious birdwatchers and ornithologists, the material within is far too detailed to be of interest to casual bird enthusiasts.

Score: 9/10

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