15/07/2018
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Waders of Europe

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  • Waders of Europe: a Photographic Guide by Lars Gejl (Bloomsbury, London, 2017).
  • 376 pages, 670 colour photos, 189 black-and-white illustrations.
  • ISBN 9781472947055. Hbk, £40.
  • Bookshop from £34.99.

Waders rank high on the 'favourites' list of many birders, and for good reason. With their multiple intricate plumages, affecting calls, globe-spanning migrations and association with wild open places, they are a special group of birds indeed. Many, however, find them a little inaccessible, 'too difficult' to identify.

This new book is both a celebration of waders and a guide to their identification. It covers all the 82 species recorded in Europe, including the rarest vagrants. Introductory sections look at their ecology, migration, breeding biology, taxonomy, topography (including a glossary), moult and plumages and feather patterning, and include some illustrative jizz silhouettes. The sections on topography and moult are admirably comprehensive and provide a sound basis for the correct identification and fullest possible enjoyment of waders. 

After these preliminaries comes an identification section comprising small side-by-side images of closely similar species, with detailed captions relating to numbered pointers. Covering 26 pages, this is a really useful resource. Next comes a 10-page section of landscape-format images of waders in flocks, just as you see them. Six of these pages show wader groups in flight and contain some wonderful renderings of, for example, Common Snipe, Bar-tailed Godwit and Marsh Sandpiper. The remaining four pages show waders on the ground, including some fabulous densely packed Purple Sandpipers on Norwegian ice. 

Finally come the main species accounts, each following a standard format covering etymology (a nice touch), jizz, plumage and identification, subspecies (where appropriate), voice, habitat, breeding biology, migration and distribution. These texts are woven into the main component of the book: its photographs. Each species is illustrated with multiple images, the overall standard of which is exceptionally high. These range from exquisite pin-sharp close-ups (Little Stint) to more typical 'in the field' images (Pacific Golden Plover among European Golden Plovers). 

There are some truly special photographs here: a Spur-winged Lapwing chasing a Black-winged Stilt, a flock of beautifully lit Collared Pratincoles, a group of migrant Whimbrels alighting on moorland and a Woodcock on a leaf-covered forest floor. Such images are predominantly aesthetic in their appeal, but the rarity-hunter will find much of value here, too. The wonderful pictures of, for example, Semipalmated and Western Sandpipers and Red-necked Stint will repay the closest study. 

This is an excellent introduction to Europe's waders – comprehensive, authoritative and, above all, beautifully illustrated.

Written by: Andy Stoddart