Grebes of the World
Grebes of the World written by Malcolm Ogilvie and illustrated by Chris Rose. Published by Bruce Coleman 2002. ISBN 1872842038. Hardback [was £49.95p Now reduced to £35!] 112 pages including 22 colour paintings and 2 colour ID plates, and distribution maps.
Books in this format used to be called Coffee table books, or even Picture-books. Far too large to be a fieldguide and not just the sort of good read us birders crave that settle on the bedside table for those moments when work is over and its too dark to go birding; it is hard to see who or what this book is intended for. At a few pence short of £50 it is hardly a book one would buy on impulse either.
At that price one might be tempted to see it as a collection of prints that might someday grace your study walls but that would be sacrilege as the text really is very fine too. This should come as no surprise to those of you who already know that Malcolm Ogilvie is just about the tops when it comes to birds that swim. What he doesn`t know about waterfowl is just not worth knowing, and anything not in this book would probably fit on the back of a postage stamp. The intro and appendices are jammed with facts and figures from average weights to the derivation of the birds various names. Each species accounts continue to educate and illuminate whilst being thoroughly readable too.
Not to be outdone Chris Rose excels with the illustrations - they are both things of beauty and in enough detail to be used as ID plates. Accuracy is not sacrificed to art, but artistry is not lost to detail either. As someone who loves artwork of birds and who is no lover of those impressionistic illustrations sometimes inappropriately used in fieldguides, I congratulate him.
So we have a work of art, excellent prose, lots of interesting background facts and figures, distribution maps and a couple of ID plates too… and it dawns on me what this book is; it is, in a word, definitive. This small family is covered in every respect from every angle and in surprising depth.
It could have been packaged
like other family accounts in a bookshelf-friendly format and at a similar price - perhaps 40% cheaper. However, such a format would
have not made it possible to fully appreciate the paintings and their delicious treatment of water giving the supreme users of that
element apposite context. The book is a great work of reference and a thing of beauty too – shame the average birder may not find it
Created: 7th May 2003