Rare Birds of Hampshire
- Rare Birds of Hampshire by John Clark (Hampshire Ornithological Society, 2022)
- 560 pages, colour & b/w photos, colour & b/w illustrations, colour tables
- ISBN 9781999309237
- Available at www.hos.org.uk/book
As a sucker for rare birding stats and facts on a local level, I was eagerly awaiting this publication for a while – and it didn't disappoint. In Rare Birds of Hampshire, county stalwart John Clark has produced a wonderful documentation of more than 200 unusual species to have appeared in Hampshire, all with comprehensive detail. Clearly an incredible amount of research has gone into this book – not least regarding historical records – which begins with a short history of rare bird recording in the county.
The main species accounts then follow. I love reading through things like this and at this point found myself unable to put the book down, as I travelled through birding time via gripping yarns, archive photos, mythical records and evocative sketches. Lawrie Chappell's tremendous account of his Lesser Sand Plover discovery is one of the standout finder's accounts. Even though I'm not a Hampshire birder myself I found thumbing through each species fascinating – indeed I think any birder in Britain with some level of interest in local birding would enjoy this tome.
The balance of artwork (a beautiful series of illustrations by Dan Powell) and photos (usually excellent; sometimes nostalgia-twinged retrograde) works nicely throughout the main species account. Powell's Semipalmated Sandpiper painting is especially beautiful, while plenty of images stand out, not least the epic front cover shot by Alan Lewis of the famous Short-toed Eagle that toured southern England in 2014 (visiting the New Forest in Hampshire).
Following the main species account is appendices listing escapes, 'ones that got away', ship-assisted birds, historic records from parts of Hampshire now in Dorset and non-proven records. These sections included some particularly notable sightings, including Masked Booby in 2007 and Lesser Spotted Eagle in 2001. Clark also rightly shines a brighter light on some eyebrow-raising historic records.
Hampshire birders should consider themselves privileged to have such an in-depth and well-collated publication, which brings to life fabled birds and legendary local birders. However, you don't need to come from the county to enjoy it greatly, and I highly recommend having a read.