17/06/2013
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The Birds of Buckinghamshire

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Landlocked and rarity starved, Buckinghamshire is not on the radar of many British birders. This is a shame, as its ancient woodlands, chalk downlands, rich floodplains and Chiltern escarpments host a wide range of breeding and wintering birds in fine south-east English scenery.

This birdlife was described in detail in the first edition of The Birds of Buckinghamshire, published in 1993 and based largely on fieldwork from the New Atlas of Breeding Birds in Britain and Ireland 1988-91. Twenty years on and the 2007-2011 fieldwork for the next atlas has provided the foundation for this second edition.

The book follows a familiar county avifauna format, with introductory chapters detailing a history of birding in the county, the habitats and selected birding sites, and migration. This last section in particular is excellent, based on extensive observations, and is proof there is much still to discover about the birds on your doorstep.

The meat of any such book is the species accounts. Some, such as gulls and terns, are very insightful, and are based on the latest knowledge from active local birders. For most, though, the bulk of the text is taken directly from the first edition, with only minor edits and updated atlas maps. There may be an opportunity for a third edition at some time in the future to capture all the new knowledge amassed over the last 20 years.

Two helpful occurrence frequency graphs replace the atlas maps for county scarcities, showing records by month and year. These have been fully updated with records to the end of 2011. For many species these graphs are the only updates the scarcity accounts have received in this second edition. All records of very rare species are listed, though I noticed that Great Egret and Great Skua were missing.

Most accounts are enlivened by a colour photograph of the species taken in the county. Reflecting the boom in DSLR photography in recent years, these are mainly excellent, if a little small.

Published less than 12 months after fieldwork for the atlas ended, Buckinghamshire has produced the first of many county avifaunas that will be facilitated by the latest findings. Private publication by the Buckinghamshire Bird Club has enabled prompt publication at a very reasonable price.
  • The Birds of Buckinghamshire edited by David Ferguson (second edition, Buckinghamshire Bird Club, Buckinghamshire, 2012).
  • 400 pages, numerous colour photos and distribution maps.
  • ISBN 9780907823940. Hbk, £25.