Category Archives: Challenge Series

ANSWERS. To Eider Prize Quiz

Not so easy ūüėČ

Thanks to everyone who had a go at the female Eider prize quiz. Not easy!

Six people named all 4 birds correctly to their taxon/ subspecies level. Well done- they were:

Kent Olsen, Davy Bosman, Liger Alexandre, Mike Buckland, Tony Davison and Hans Martin H√łiby. (if I missed anyone- tell me quick!)

and drawn from the hat (by Abi Garner) the winner is drrrrrrrrrrrrr is :

Mike Buckland

I was heartened that¬†by using new features and what for me is ‘right-now’ learning, these and other female Eider can often be identified to a subspecies/ lowest taxonomic unit level- especially when location and circumstance are taken into account. There’s’ more in the new book of course!

A copy of the Challenge Series: WINTER is on its way to Mike.


female Eider 1 (below) is a female Northern Eider – borealis

female Eider one (1 of 1)

Above. Female Northern Eider, borealis, Sindri Sk√ļlason. Quite a few plumped for faeroeeensis on this one. Many true Faeroes birds are a deep peaty brown colour- e.g. lovely photo by Silas Olofson in new book.


female Eider 2 (below) is a female¬†Dresser’s Eider dresseri

female Eider

Above. Female Dresser’s Eider, dresseri, by Chris Wood.


female Eider 3 (below) is a female Pacific Eider Р v-nigrum

Eider female

Above. female Pacific Eider v-nigrum, Chris Wood

female Eider 4 (below) is a female nominate (Common) Eider- mollissima

female Eider three (1 of 1)

Above. female (Common) Eider  Рnominate mollissima by Martin Garner.

Fanad, co Donegal

Where much borealis discovery and learning happened for me. This pair while late on (June) and the male is a little worn and just beginning moult to eclipse- you can see nostril position looks pretty good for borealis on both- togther with other features. More on this in Challenge series: WINTER.


Eiders MG (1 of 1)


NEW WINTER book NOW Available

To buy the New Challenge series Book

Go   >>>HERE<<<

(N.B. the prelaunch offer is now CLOSED)

“Last year the Challenge Series: AUTUMN was our runaway bestseller at the Birdfair…. we ran out!”

Heather O’Connor (Office Manager & Birdwatch Bookshop)

“Amazing, I think this is better than the first book….”

Brett Richards, keen birder and proof-reader for Book Two: WINTER.

LaunchBF challenge series cover only

The book will be officially launched at the 2015 International Birdfair at Rutland. I hope to be speaking on Friday 21st August in the morning at 9:30 am in the Authors’ Marquee. Ray Scally (all artwork) and Andrew Chick (web and QR codes) also hope to be there. It’s a special extra length, double bill with Andy Roadhouse (or stand-in) on ‘The Birds Of Spurn’.¬†


BIRDWATCH magazine

We are delighted to be working again with the Birdwatch Team. There will be a full article on the new book in the ‘September’ edition (the Birdfair edition). I hope to be signing books on the Birdwatch stall as well as at Wildsounds. The Book will also be available at some smaller outlets.


About the Book

Book two: WINTER follows the same format as book one. There is an overview of the general ethos and reasons for layouts in each chapter. You can read all about them in Book One HERE.

Then to read lots of information on the chapters for Book Two: WINTER go HERE.

Book One: AUTUMN – and other offers.

To keep things simple there will be one offer at a time. After this pre-launch offer, the new Book will be available at the (still great value!) normal price. Sales of Book One: AUTUMN will also subsequently resume and do look out for offers eventually on buying both books together. For now most emphasis will be on the all new Book TWO!

PRIZE QUIZ – now closed!

Don’t forget the prize quiz can win you a FREE copy of Book Two: WINTER. All entries must be in by 12:00 noon tomorrow (Friday 13th August). All the details HERE.


and Eiders are, after all- NEVER boring! Contributors to the NEW book include¬†Sindri Sk√ļlason, Phil Palmer and Chris Wood,¬†who provided some stunning Eider pics. These males might even help you ID some of the females in the quiz… ūüôā

Eiders SS 2 (1 of 1)

Eiders P Palmer 2 (1 of 1)

Common Eider

Pre-launch OFFER on NEW Book

NEWS on The Challenge Series: WINTER

BF challenge series cover onlyJust to let our readers know…

Tomorrow morning, Thursday 13th August, the new book will become available. There is a special pre-launch offer Р£2.50 off the normal cover price.

This is only available to Birding Frontiers readers for the first 200 books on a first come, first served basis. We hope these will be delivered prior to the 2015 Rutland Birdfair.

The special offer price is £15.49 plus post and packaging (please make sure you choose the correct P&P).

The full book price¬†will be ¬£17.99. We have worked very hard to make this a book ‘by birders, for birders’.¬†Increased costs which were not present in Book One: Autumn mean we have had no choice but to increase the book’s price in order to keep the project viable. We hope you find¬†it’s still great value- page after page.

Thanks very much!

Martin and Sharon Garner


Click HERE for lots more info on what is in the new book!

The New Book PRIZE Quiz

Challenge Series: WINTER

N.B. This QUIZ is now closed. Answers and Winner to be announced…

A little fun. Five Eider taxa are covered in the new book. So why not a quick QUIZ!

 4 female Eiders to identify

You need to name each one correctly. Anticipating we will receive more than one correct answer. The first name ‘out ¬†of the hat’ (and we use a real hat) will receive a FREE COPY of the brand new Challenge Series: WINTER.

When you have made up your mind just email:¬†martin’at’ with your 4 answers. Latin names are probably best. To choose from you have ‘nominate mollissima’, faeroeensis, borealis, dresseri and v-nigrum¬†¬†ūüôā

Four Eider taxa in female plumage. Four answers: 1,2,3 and 4

Good Luck! P.S. if you are on the ‘team’ for Eiders or editing – ya cannot enter!

Final entries must be in by 12:00 noon on Friday 14th August.


female Eider 1 is…?

female Eider one (1 of 1)

female Eider 2 is…?

female Eider


female Eider 3 is…?

female Eider


female Eider 4 is…?

female Eider four 4 (1 of 1)




ANNOUNCING! New BOOK Special Pre-Publication Offer (coming soon)

Preview: The Challenge Series: WINTER

Dear Birding Frontiers readers,

Thanks as ever for tuning in. Here is a quick preview of the NEW book: WINTER. There will be a special pre-publication offer available from early next week. Just wanted to give you a small taste of the content and plates. Hope you like it!

Cheers Martin

Over 40 taxa are covered in 15 Chapters, cram -jammed with information, some of it ‘hot off the presses’. Most especially, we have worked hard to make it simple¬†to follow by using inspiring narratives, key ID points and high quality artwork and photography.

BF challenge series cover only


Three Broad Themes

Broadly three themes can be recognised in the 40 plus taxa covered.

1) A desire to dig further into locally occurring birds which are clearly being overlooked.

The likes of Icelandic Redwings are woefully lacking from county avifaunas.

Snow Bunting while often eminently approachable are rarely recorded to subspecies level. We are just starting to learn new and fascinating things about their movements. They may yet prove to be travelling much further to winter in NW Europe than appreciated. The Siberian Snow Bunting indeed becomes a credible vagrant.

And the gorgeous Bullfinch. Identifying somewhat enigmatic ‘Northerns’ (there are still unresolved questions) which can¬†turn up well inland, as well as coastal lairs, is now hopefully made easier.


Icelandic Redwing (1 of 1)


2) Those tricky ID challenges.

Can you really do¬†Br√ľnnich’s Guillemot¬†in flight? YES! We have been overlooking some simple truths about Common Guillemots¬†and Razorbills for far too long.

Saker¬†and (dark morph) Gyr Falcons. Both surely vagrants to¬†NW Europe away from their¬†usual spots. Let’s get away from ‘large Falcon sp’ into some more robust identifications!

Then there are the Redpolls- everyone’s favourite. ūüôā We have included a new feature:¬† THE REDPOLL CODE. A different¬†approach to redpoll ID. All 6 taxa are covered in detail.

Heirofalcons intro (1 of 1)


Greenland Redpoll (1 of 1)

3) Potential new ‘species’.

Our work on Water Pipits¬†(published in British Birds magazine in early 2015) also revealed the genetic distance between the American Buff-belled Pipit and its Siberian counterpart ‘japonicus’ make them easily separate entities at the level of ‘species’ to us. Siberian japonicus has reached close enough to the UK to cause¬†an intake of breath. Close enough to where I bloomin’ live! The gen is all here.

Siberian Pipit (1 of 1)


The Grey Shrikes of the North (not including the southern group) divides into two distinct¬†groups. The ‘Northern Grey Shrike’ in its Siberian (sibiricus) and North American (borealis) forms has already reached the Western Palearctic. As well as striking ‘browner’ examples, some can be easy to overlook- a potential¬†new species for the prepared mind. Details of what to look for are laid out,¬†¬†plus all those Great Grey Shrike variants with various amounts of white in the wings (galliae/homeyeri/leucopterus) are given a¬†fresh overview.

1cy American Northern Shrike by Bruce Mactavish

1cy American Northern Shrike (borealis) by Bruce Mactavish


Of course there is a lot more! All the Eiders, Large Pipits, Turtle Doves, Arctic Peregrines, Mandt’s Guillemots etc. etc. But then you’ll have to get the book to find out… ūüôā


Black Guillemots (1 of 1)

Challenge Series extra bits

QR codes and Multi-sensory Learning

Martin Garner

It’s just under 5 Months since¬†we launched the first of the Challenge Series entitled AUTUMN. one of my own ambitions was to accommodate different learning styles.

Sandwich and Cabot’s Tern ID

This video is from QR code material which accompanies the Terns chapter in the book.


I have been¬†delighted by the overall response. I realise not everyone has entered into the material in the QR codes, and a few have struggled to access them (due to technologies we don’t necessarily have control over).

I am pretty passionate about, for example, the video material, as a means of learning and taking on the material for those less inclined to read.

Sample Videos

Here are the QR codes pages for Snipe and Lesser Whitethroats. The plan has always been to provide a means to adding new material which can also be done here.



We have had lots of lovely encouragements on the book itself. I can’t reproduce all the comments- here’s couple of recent ones especially re the QR code material:

A Letter on multi-sensory learning:

Roger wrote recently and gave permission to reproduce his comments:

“Hi Martin,

I bought your book a couple of months back and only got around to checking out the QR codes to the video links etc over the Christmas holidays. I just wanted to say a huge thank you!

I’m very much a visual (spatial) learner and the book/photographs are great but I think I’ve absorbed more information through the videos than anything. You may or may not be aware but studies have shown that 10% people retain information through reading, 20% through what they hear and 30% through what they see. When formats are used in combination that increases by a huge leap to 50% who retain the information, so in my opinion you and your team have nailed it by using this combination of formats to showcase your studies.

I thought it might be of interest to provide a little more info on the subject to help qualify my previous points (I’m no expert by the way but being married to a teacher who specialises in Specific Learning Difficulties, I‚Äôve picked up an understanding of how these things work and how it explains my own visual stress issues). For me personally reading is exhaustive. I have to read a page over and over just to take it in (quite a common problem for many people), after one or two pages I’m tired enough to sleep – even if I was wide awake just a few minutes before. This is a visual stress issue and relates to tracking difficulties from line to line on a page of text. Likewise if you‚Äôre weaker in the audio sensory learning skills it may actually be impossible for you to hear subtle differences between similar bird calls, for example you could be an excellent birder who just can‚Äôt differentiate between goldcrest and firecrest calls or even to retain bird calls to memory. There‚Äôs a huge overlap between learning skills and nobody relies on just one learning style but many people tend to be stronger in one area or another and that’s where using a multi-sensory learning approach comes into its own. Add a sonogram with a bird call and then even those who can’t hear any difference between two calls can see the difference and that can be enough to help them ‘hear’ the difference. The videos reinforce the information through visual and auditory learning. And that’s where I found your book so incredibly useful, you’ve covered all those learning styles – in fact I probably didn’t need to waffle on as you clearly have an understanding of this already. By covering the subject strategically in a multi-format way you are reaching out to far more people and making the subject accessible to them ‚Äď job done!

Thanks again though, it’s a breakthrough birding book on so many levels.¬†Can‚Äôt wait for the next one and I sincerely hope you retain the videos, they are a fantastic learning tool and resource, especially for us visual¬†learners.


Roger Harris, Chard, Somerset

How to get a copy

If you’ve bought a copy of the book, I hope you’re enjoying it. If you haven’t got a copy yet- all the info to get one is here. Click on Challenge Series: AUTUMN.


Message from Austria

Thanks to from Christian Schano Austria who recent wrote in:

“Purchasing the ‚ÄúChallenge Series: Autumn‚ÄĚ is definitely a choice I will not regret. I am highly satisfied with the amount of information packed into such an assessable book. Reading not only makes you want to immediately grab your binoculars and practise the newly acquired information but also teaches the modality of extending your personal skill-set. The book does not leave you in despair with meticulous information you cannot even use outside, but provides details that really are helpful in the field. Some (at least to me) really complex taxa are unravelled absolutely straightforward and led me to several ‚Äúoooooooohhhhhhhh‚ÄĚ-reactions.
Thank you for sharing decades of field-experience of many experienced birders with a more general public, Martin. I am absolutely sure your Challenge Series do affect birders of all skill-levels not only in the United Kingdom, but all around Europe.”




“Bird Book of the Year 2014” – Sunday Express newspaper

Challenge Series: Autumn

Martin Garner

Team. As I meet with Ray Scally and Chris Gaughan in Challeneg-series-covera few days, and plan some tweaks to web stuff with Andrew Chick I celebrate the fact I get to work with people like these. As I remember all the folk I have learned from and who contributed in varying degrees to the first of the Challenge Series; I celebrate them.

Nominated in a couple of places for ‘Bird Book of the Year 2014’ ¬†we made joint top place with Mark Avery¬†in the Sunday Express Newspaper:

Here’s what top birding journalist, Stuart Winter¬†said:

“The thrill of watching nature’s most vibrant creatures provides not only entertainment but a wealth of information for conservationists.
Charles Darwin wrote about the “extraordinary pleasure in pure observation” and his fascination with nature has sculpted the way we view our planet and why we must save the forms that have evolved over countless millennia.
Two of today’s eminent birding figures must be applauded for producing standout works that fully deserve sharing the Sunday Express Bird Book Of The Year.
Martin Garner and Mark Avery’s books illustrate why watching, studying and ultimately preserving birds is both enjoyable and a duty.
Martin is the mastermind behind the Birding Frontiers concept and his new paperback, titled Challenge Series: Autumn, promises to be the first part of an indispensable collection.
This compact book tackles a number of the identification conundrums that avant-garde birders are likely to encounter during the fall migration period.
It is A-level star material but the author’s readable style and knowledge take such esoteric subjects as the reed warbler complex and not only makes them simple but encourages you to make your own observations.
Among the 18 groups covered are lesser whitethroats, shrikes, flycatchers, stonechats and snipes. Concise, informative text, lots of bullet points, a host of excellent photographs and illustrations by Ray Scally make this a must-read guide.
Top marks also go for using QR codes, those signs that can be scanned by smartphones, to allow readers to download a welter of sound and video files”

Not got yours yet?

Need one for best, one for the car ūüėČ

Buy it Here: Challenge Series BOOK.

There is still time for one of these:




Anthony McGeehan kindly reviewed the book on his FACEBOOK page (superb photos as wonderful narrative with each one)

“Martin revels in ‘always discovering’. He has an ornithological knack of seeing the wood for the trees and distilling enormously complicated subjects into manageable concepts. Around 20 problematic groups of species are covered in the book. Individuals drawn from the selection are most likely to occur in autumn: hence the approach and packaging of the information. Photographs, lovely artwork (courtesy of Irish artist Ray Scally), concise text and – a new development – printed QR codes activated by a scan from a smart phone or tablet linking to dedicated webpages, allow content to be updated online. The book is a breath of fresh air and also breath-taking. Martin has blown away cobwebs and, without exaggeration, his efforts are lifting the veil on birds that most of us didn’t really think existed: inasmuch as they could ever be identified with any degree of certainty. Siberian Chiffchaff (in the photograph) is a nice example of a super warbler that, thanks to Martin’s efforts, is emerging from the shadows and, rather being branded ‘just a pale Chiffchaff from Eastern Europe’ is a long range migrant with a livery (and voice) all its own. Martin is putting fun back into bird-watching. He may tilt at windmills sometimes but his lance is tipped with Kryptonite. Congratulations, sir!”

One of these was in Suffolk, UK a couple of days ago:

Northern Treecreeper, 12th October 2013, Buckton, East Yorkshire. Mark Thomas

Northern Treecreeper, 12th October 2013, Buckton, East Yorkshire. Mark Thomas

and here’s the overview of the on-line QR codes page:

Challenge Series - Book1


to buy the Challenge series: AUTUMN. Just click here