Sunbirds and Wrens – two more must have Helm guides
Sunbirds and Wrens – two more
must have Helm guides.
Sunbirds - A Guide to the
Sunbirds, Flowerpeckers, Spiderhunters and Sugarbirds of the World
Wrens, Dippers & Thrashers
It was an interesting departure for me to look at these two volumes in conjunction with each other – something that re-enforces their strengths whilst revealing any weaknesses.
First let me admit that I am an inveterate collector of these guides in all their guises (Helm, Pica and their new re-conjoining). The birding bibliophile`s year is punctuated by their publication; each one arrives to whetted appetite. They are good to own just to look at on the shelf but their great delight is as reference before and after overseas trips. Before I go away I paw over the local field guide and then try to ensure that I have difficult species nailed by reference to the helm guides lining the study. When I return I quiz them again trying to decide whether and which birds I saw. It might be a matter of deciding which of the two northern-collared sunbirds, I saw in Kenya, or was it both?
So, I not only love these books as object d`art but use them regularly as references. One of my projects lately does lead to one small weakness being revealed in all, a lack of reference to who originally collected, named or described the species.
But the new comparison of the two new guides has re-enforced my conviction that the descriptions are the best. The layout logic is right and the rubrics spot on – I know where to look for what and am happy that they tend to follow identical formulas. The maps are good, but the description of the distribution of races even better. Whilst we wait for dna devotees or Dutch birders to split species along racial lines its good to have noted what race I saw and when and where. So the written material in both volumes does not disappoint – brilliant as expected. As an aside I also want to say what a pleasure it is to behold the production quality of the print too. My oldest friend is a paper maker and he pointed out long ago that the most expensive and best quality product is often used for the most inane purposes – packaging, whilst poor quality paper often ends up between the covers of books. This cannot be said of these guides, top quality paper gives them a great feel and make quite small print easy to see and the information on small but detailed maps shine through.
Just one factor disappointed me, not sufficient to spoil their use but a niggle nevertheless. That is the illustrations of the wrens. This is not a group I know much of having hardly dipped my toes into the neo-tropics nor North America. So, going by those few species I have seen I found the pictures not to do justice to the birds. Our own favourite jenny wren known as the winter wren in the US seems a scruffy shadow of its real self. Maybe us Brits are used to having to find beauty in the nuances of LBJ`s but the wren is a favourite of mine – it`s a cracking little tapestry not a scruffy brown rag. So, whilst the book has some wonderful pictures I cannot tell if they are good impressions of the birds I don`t know and some, like the European dippers are excellent, but Troglodytes troglodytes is poorly shown here.
If you celebrate Christmas hang out your stockings but make sure that they are large enough to accommodate both these Fatbirder recommended tomes!
Created: 6th Dec 2001
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