20/11/2007
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The Birds of Essex

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The Birds of Essex by Simon Wood


The Birds of Essex is a 656-page tome. It covers all 384 species to have graced the county up to and including 2004, many of which are examined in great detail with a wealth of graphs and tables accompanying the highly comprehensive text. The content is thorough and systematic and, for the most part, painstakingly detailed.

The introductory chapters provide an overview of the ecology and climate of the county, and descriptions for several wetland sites, including the Thames and Blackwater Estuaries, for which Essex is important on both national and international scales. The ornithological history of the area is also traced back beyond this book's original predecessor (Christy's The Birds of Essex, published in 1890), as far as the 10th century. And for those wishing to delve further, a chapter on fossil birds covers the last 55 million years! But for most of us it is the (slightly) more recent records of Naumann's and Red-throated Thrushes, as well as the now 'de-gripped' Hadleigh Marshes Cream-coloured Courser, which will have you flicking the pages.

The book is beautifully produced, with some excellent line drawings (largely by Alan Harris) and a collection of glossy photographs. The latter are somewhat disappointing, however. Although brilliantly reproduced, there are a great deal of site and habitat shots illustrating, for example, 'farmland' with a half-page photograph. To me this seems somewhat wasted space when Ian Lycett's famous Courser photograph is reduced to a mere thumbnail. But this is my only real qualm.

Following the systematic list are appendixes detailing the eight Category D species, a lengthy list of recorded escapes (Category E), and finally, in Appendix 3, such bizarre 'uncorroborated' records as Swallow-tailed Kite and Passenger Pigeon.

All in all, this book is a triumph for those Essex birders patiently in wait of a thorough county avifauna. It is a great compilation of material and surely essential for all birders living in the county, not only for an enjoyable thumb-through, but also for future reference. For those of us not particularly linked to Essex and its birds, however, the interest is obviously more limited.

Hardback, pp 656, ISBN 978-07136-69398

To buy this book click here or ring MDL on 01256 302699.

Written by: Jack Wylson