Category Archives: Books and Product Reviews

Challenge Series pre-publication offer has gone live

Lots more with sample pages and chance to buy now

Don’t hang about . A special pre-publication offer is now live. To read more about the book and to buy it go here.

The book will be launched officially on 15th August at the Birdfair, Rutland at the price of £14.99. More info on that coming soon.

To buy the book: Click HERE

or go to the Birding Frontiers HOMEPAGE and click on NEW BOOK in the top menu line

juvenile female Northern Harrier. Ireland by Paul Kelly

juvenile female Northern Harrier. Ireland by Paul Kelly

What’s in the Book?

and How do I buy the book?

Details of how to buy the book will be posted on here  very soon (next couple of days). Just setting up the page. There will be options for UK, Europe and Worldwide purchasers.

Around at Phil and Sue’s house this evening. I asked Phil what tricky Identification challenge from the new book Challenge Series : AUTUMN he wanted me to post.

These he said IMG_1454something about these being a great and new ID challenge in the autumn:

So the new book covers 8 different types (taxa) of Stonechats which occur either as  residents, migrants or vagrant in Europe.

Here then (for Phil) is another taster. Part of the stonechats chapter covering Siberian Stonechats look like this. There are also sections on Stejneger’s, North and South Caspian and the 2 two European Stonechat taxa.


Siberian Stonechat pages


Plenty more information to come in the next few days– just putting it together.

Cheers Martin

New Birding Frontiers Book

The Challenge Series: AUTUMN

Martin Garner

Dear Birding Frontiers…  readers, followers and friends

This is a little note on Tuesday evening to give you some advanced information. I have been working on a book with a remarkable team of people. It will be available from 15th August 2014 when it will be officially launched as part of the new Authors Wildlife Forum  at the Birdfair, Rutland Water (scroll down a bit to find us ).

More information will be coming each day (pretty much) up to the Birdfair to give you a taste of the book and its contents.

Most importantly we will be making a pre-publication offer of £3:00 off the price of the book limited to 100 copies. First come, first served basis. That offer will appear on here in the next few days.

For now a sneak preview into the layout to give you a taste of how it will look:

………………………….‘The Challenge Series’


A chapter introduction page:

Subalpine Warblers introduction spread



A two page spread for one taxon:

Wilson's Snipe 2 page spread



The Contents Page:


contents page



to be continued…  🙂


Britain’s Dragonflies

A field guide to the damselflies and dragonflies of Britain and Ireland

by Dave Smallshire and Andy Swash. Third Edition. Fully revised and updated.

Published by WILDguides (Princeton).

Book review  by Dan Lombardcov BD3

The authors Dave Smallshire and Andy Swash require little introduction to the enthusiastic dragonfly hunter, weathered naturalist or keen beginner alike. Their latest instalment acts as an update to the two previous field guides to the damselflies and dragonflies of Britain and Ireland, produced by wildguides. The book keeps a similar structure to its two predecessors, with an introductory section which covers subjects including ecology, biology, habitat preferences and where to watch dragonflies. Then the book turns into what it was essentially written for, an up to date field guide on the identification of dragonflies and damselflies, with individual accounts for the 56 species likely to be encountered in Britain and Ireland, with additional attention given to vagrants and potential vagrants.

BD3 p48

A detailed identification key precedes the species accounts with detailed identification characteristics for each species. This can be especially useful in the field whilst cross-referencing different species. Systematic species summaries including notes on identification, behaviour, breeding habitat and population and conservation make up the majority of the book. These are excellently written with annotated photographic plates of dragonflies in their natural resting positions, showing the key identification criteria for that given species. Importantly this book pays particular detail to males, females and immatures which can look considerably different in this group even within the same species, it also highlights different ages and colour forms.

BD3 p134

Importantly the identification summary for each species is punchy, with key distinguishing features highlighted in red and regularly cross reference to the photos and other similar species. This is an important character of such guides when a quick reference is required in the field, without reading through reams of text.  Each sex is separated within the main text and is described accordingly.

BD3 p96

A paragraph on behaviour for each species covers important information to aid identification giving tips on how one would expect the dragonfly to behave in the field as well as notes on mating. The section on breeding habitat is relatively brief and acts more to aid identification rather than as a detailed account of species habitat preferences. Population and conservation rounds off the text for each species account and includes some interesting facts about records, recent colonisation events, as well as population outlook for the future.

BD3 p56

On the whole the photographs within the book are excellent, given how difficult this group can be to work with and have been selected to show key identification criteria. Most photographs show adults in their typical resting positions, allowing a clear view of all the important identification features for that given species. Given that we often see dragonflies in flight an excellent addition to this guide summarises identification of dragonflies in flight with some fantastic supplementary photographs.


As someone who spends a lot of time pond dipping and surveying ponds, a section about the identification of nymphs is also invaluable and is much improved on previous editions, with a detailed key aiding field identification.

BD3 p208

Due to the time of year in which this review was undertaken I field tested the book on nymphs. The book is relatively light, comes with a waterproof cover and is small enough to fit into most bags. It is excellent for field work being both light and durable. The keys are straightforward and easy to follow without being over complicated.

On the whole this is a comprehensive guide which beginners and experts alike can take into the field and confidently use to identify any dragonfly or damselfly that is likely to be encountered in the British Isles. I would thoroughly recommend it to anybody wanting a book on these species or wanting to get into what can initially be a daunting group.


Dan Lombard



The Sound Approach to Birding: Now an eBook on iPad.

 Reviewed by Tim JonesCover

I’ve spoke to a lot of birders recently who have at one point thought about sound recording or it’s on their list of things to do. If that’s you then read half a chapter in the Sound Approach to birding and you will be heading over to eBay to buy some sound recording equipment! The Sound Approach guys have a knack of sounding very clever and knowledgeable but at the same time making it sound easy. In the book complex and potentially confusing calls and songs such as the plastic song of Savi’s and Grasshopper Warblers are discussed in a way that makes it very easy to understand.

And if you need more convincing about getting some sound recording equipment…

‘’It’s frustrating to read long-winded disputes about the identity of a particular rarity on the internet with numerous photographs to look at, when a sound recording would have settled the matter in a moment’’

Take for example a large pipit that was recently in Easington. Views were brief and not conclusive so 5 mins work with some recording equipment, get back make a sonogram and job done it’s a Richard’s, okay so it wasn’t quite that easy but that’s because I didn’t have the Sound Approach to Birding on the iPad!

The book p69X.480x480-75covers Pacific/American Golden Plover, Chiffchaff/Iberian Chiffchaff, Richard’s/Blyth’s/Tawny, Siberian/Common Stonechat, Red-breasted/Taiga Flycatcher, long calls of gulls, woodpecker drums, Short/Long-billed Dowitcher, sexing Pectoral Sandpiper on call, Laughing Moorhen, ‘African’ Chaffinches, Booted/Sykes’s Warbler, the mine field that is Crossbill calls and Northern Bullfinch calls.

Whilst also giving you tips on simple song, ,modulation, call shapes, acoustic slum, variation in calls, cracking the code, ageing birds on call, plastic song, crystallised song, mimicry, mixed singers, playback,

And an all round general introduction to sound recording and information that will help improve your sound recording ability!

Having p127X.480x480-75previously read some of the sound approach books using the ‘traditional’ method using a book and CD player to work through the book, I found it somewhat annoying to have to continually press play and pause whilst reading the book in order to listen to the brilliant recordings that accompanied the books on separate CD’s. Now an iPad edition has been launched which allows the ‘reader’ to interact more easily with the book and the recordings.

The pages are the same as the book version but now instead of having to mess around with separate CD’s all you have to do is press on the sonogram and it opens as a video that shows the sonogram, plays the recording and has a little red bar that moves along, showing the stage that the recording is playing at.



Sound recording is a whole new aspect of birding that is really starting to open up, most people already have decent sound recording equipment already in their pockets, smartphones! It’s a subject that there is still a lot to learn about and getting the interactive version Sound Approach to Birding on your iPad is the perfect way to start!

For more info and to buy go >>> HERE<<<



Like a Butterfly – a film by Frank Neveu

review by Keith Clarkson

DVD Salamandre Films


like a Butterfly

Shrouded in mystery, it’s exotic appearance and association with some of the most spectacular and inaccessible mountain landscapes in the world has enshrined the Wallcreeper in birding folklore.

Now, this extraordinary DVD provides a window into the otherwise hidden world of this remarkable bird.

Filmed over a three and half year period, in a variety of exotic locations, focussed on the French Alps, the 150 hours of film rushes have been sweetly edited to produce a 20 minute feature film that follows a year in the life of the Wallcreeper.

Evocative winter scenes including striking images of Ibex and a feeding Goshawk set the scene for the returning male Wallcreeper. We are then taken through breeding season, territorial male aggression and song, nest selection by the female, incubation, hatching, feeding, dust bathing, fledging before the altitudinal migration to the wintering grounds in the gorges near Marseilles.

Throughout we are treated to an array of evocative sounds and beautiful images of the Wallcreeper and their neighbours – Lammergeier, Eagle Owl, Ptarmigan and Rock Thrush, in their natural environment.  Magical – it just made me want to go there and find them for myself.

And yet, however, dramatic these images are it was the accompanying extra –  ‘Like a butterfly – the making of the film’  that completely grabbed my imagination.  The short, subtitled, film captures the remarkable dedication, passion for nature, skill and endurance of the French filmmaking team, Frank Neveu, Christophe Sidamon Pesson and their associates. In the word’s of Sidamon-Pesson ‘‘you push the limits to enter the Wallcreeper’s world’  and that’s exactly what they did.

It was exhausting just watching the pre-dawn start, the ascents and abseil into the most flimsy like a Butterflyand precarious hide, bolted onto a vertical cliff face, oh yes, and, the hour-long roped climb back to the clifftop at the end of the12 hour hide session. I’d loved to have seen the risk assessment.

At the end of the ‘making of the film’  Frank Neveu nonchantly comments about the three and a half years –  ‘It has been a little harder than I thought’.  You are left in doubt that it was but having said that it, it was worth every moment – thank you for the insight into the wonderful world of the Wallcreeper.

Rare Birds of North America: REVIEW

Rare Birds of North America

By Steve Howell, Ian Lewington & Will Russell

reviewed by Mark James Pearsonk10101

As you’ll hopefully gather from the following paragraphs, there are many good reasons to commend the authors of Rare Birds of North America, but perhaps the most pertinent is their clarity of vision. It’s a book which has a very ambitious reach, attempting to play several major roles simultaneously, and could easily have come unstuck if any one of those roles fell short of the mark. Yet its bold remit and clear identity reflect not only the expertise and knowledge of its creators, but also their patent enthusiasm and authoritative attention to detail.


A sturdy hardback unlikely to find a place in the backpack, Rare Birds….. importantly makes no attempt to masquerade as a true field guide, and thus avoids the obvious pitfalls and limitations that would otherwise have hamstrung such an excellent work. The overall design benefits from a lack of those restrictions, and this is reflected by the clear, stylish and pleasingly accessible layout from start to finish. It’s a joy to handle, with high production values and an inherent feel of quality.


The positioning of the book as a companion (as opposed to competitor) to established field guides pays off perfectly in various ways. Take each species’ field identification summaries, for example: suitably concise and straightforward, and yet detailed enough to provide all the relevant points (including notes on similar species), the book works under the presumption that cross-referencing is a given, and is all the better for it. Likewise, there is no rigid template applied to the length of each account or the sections within them, allowing the authors freedom to prioritise and develop themes.


Pleasingly, each of the 262 species accounts lack the sometimes arguably necessary (but supremely annoying) abbreviations often adopted elsewhere; instead, all the information is presented in an easily read and digested style, hopefully setting the bar high for similar works in the future. US states abbreviated into standard two-letter acronyms are thankfully about as esoteric as it gets (and if that’s still too much, think of it as valuable research for your next game of Trivial Pursuit).


Likewise, there’s no need to reduce the illustrations into frustratingly tiny representations, or indeed to cram multiple species onto the same plates; nor, on the other hand, are the plates excessively expansive. Instead, they occupy exactly the right amount of space on  the page, sitting comfortably alongside the accompanying text, with a comprehensive variety of races / ages / variations etc on display for each species.


Of the plates: Ian Lewington has been understandably revered for his (increasingly) superb artwork over the years, but with Rare Birds… he’s clearly excelled himself once again. Enhanced by the high standard of printing and colour representation on display here, superlatives come easily when flicking through these pages; but perhaps the highest (and rarest) compliment a bird artist can be paid is for their work to considered both beautiful and accurate, which is unarguably the case here.


Picking out highlights is virtually impossible – there are too many to mention in any detail here – but it’s hard to look at the buntings, for example, without involuntarily salivating; they look even better when viewed down the hall through binoculars, and I’m half tempted to plant the Pine Bunting page in the bottom of a hawthorn hedge here in Filey, just for the practice.




Primarily aimed at the North American market, the book nevertheless has numerous insights and much relevance to the British and European birder. There are various cases here where a kind of simple ‘reverse’ referencing is easily applied; notable examples include the Sandpipers and Egrets, although the book is littered with solutions to ID problems well known to birders this side of the pond. Faced with an interesting peep this September on your local wetland, for instance, you could do much worse than turning to the illuminating text and plates (primarily concerning Little Stint) here first, before more traditional choices.


Another less important but similarly enjoyable side-effect of the book is how it encourages the British-based reader to look at familiar species through an unfamilar filter. In an extension of the ‘if only it were rare’ game (we all play it on those boring February days, don’t we?), looking at the Fieldfare plates against the additionally spicy backdrop of vagrancy revitalises one’s appreciation of such stunning yet taken-for-granted species.

Similarly absorbing, and in a sense the outstanding feature of the book, is the inclusion of the comments sections within each species account. Delivered with a refreshingly enthusiastic and conversational flavour, these invaluable paragraphs allow the authors to hypothesise and discuss the minutiae of each species’ vagrancy patterns (down to individual records in many instances), bringing alive the reality of occurrence and the possibility of finding your own.


As someone with a worsening weakness for the unique thrill of rarity-hunting (as well as  the good fortune to have birded in the US a fair bit in recent years), I’m doubtless already part of the congregation the book hopes to preach to; drooling over almost unattainable but glittering avian prizes within such pages is practically a hobby in itself, and if you share similarly unhealthy habits, then look no further.


But to confine the book’s appeal to those united by the pursuit of vagrants is to do it a disservice. One of its many strengths lies in its breadth of appeal and accessibility (without feeling the need to dumb down). The extended introductory chapters alone are a pleasure to read, wherever you may place yourself on the birding spectrum. The section on ‘Where Do North American Vagrants Come From?’, for example, is a nerd’s dream, and yet is followed seamlessly by a ‘Topography, Molt and Aging’ chapter that much more generalist and populist works would do well to try and emulate.



This is a book that ambitiously attempts to be many things – part comprehensive identification guide, part commentary, part definitive reference work, part hypotheses reader, amongst others – and impressively succeeds on all counts, without so much as breaking into a sweat. Highly recommended, regardless of where (or how) you enjoy your birding.


Mark James Pearson


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