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Best Birdwatching Sites: North-East England

Guest Reviewer: Lee G R Evans

Best Birdwatching Sites: North-East England by Brian Unwin | Buckingham Press | 2012 | 2-colour | 308 pages | ISBN 9780956987624

Publishers View: This latest addition to the Best Birdwatching Sites series is the largest yet produced, reflecting the wealth of birding riches uncovered by author Brian Unwin in all parts of Northumberland, Co Durham and Cleveland. Sadly Brian, a founder member of Durham Bird Club and an experienced journalist in North-East England, died in December 2011 before completing the manuscript, after a long battle against cancer. The publishers are grateful to his good friend Ian Kerr for stepping in to complete the book and to John Miles, the author of the Best Birdwatching Sites guide to the Solway region, who also contributed a couple of site reports. Readers will find details of renowned sites such as the Farne Islands, Lindisfarne and the RSPB’s exciting new Saltholme reserve, but Brian also enthuses about many exciting bird walks in inland Co Durham and Northumberland as well as coastal migrant hotspots and the former industrial sites now becoming havens for nature.The Author: Throughout the 1980's and 1990's, the late Brian Unwin was a keen writer for the Press Association and was always keen to get as many stories as possible in about birds and other wildlife and had hundreds of stories and articles published during his career. He was also an extremely keen and capable birder and living in coastal Whitburn (on the notorious Shearwater Estate) was privileged to have several rare species visit his garden, including Bluethroat, Red-breasted Flycatcher, Common Rosefinch and Pallas's Leaf Warbler! Brian became ill in 2007 and fought a long battle with cancer which he lost in December 2011. As a consequence, he was forced to retire from the work he loved and was restricted in his movements. Frustratingly, this incapacity kept him away from the Eastern Crowned Warbler, just three miles away from his house. Brian was the founder of the Durham Bird Club and spent countless hours carrying out Atlas work. He also spent over 30 years working for the 'Northern Echo' writing mainly about nature.Guest Reviewer View: Well what an exciting day it turned out to be. Firstly I received an outstanding Osprey ageing and sexing article written by John Wright for the latest Birdwatching magazine and then the latest offering from Buckingham Press dropped on my desk - the late Brian Unwin's Best Birdwatching Sites: North-East England.

This Site Guide is the latest addition to the Best Birdwatching Sites series and is the largest yet produced, perhaps reflecting the wealth of knowledge author Brian Unwin had in all parts of Northumberland, County Durham and Cleveland (the geographic region covered by the book). Sadly Brian, a founder member of the Durham Bird Club, a long-time journalist and a friend of mine for over 30 years, sadly died in December 2011 after a long battle with cancer, before completing the manuscript. It was left to Brian's good friend Ian Kerr and John Miles to stitch the work together for publication.

Brian used to frequently enthuse about his local birding sites when I was on the phone to him and he would often 'tip' me off about a little-known site, both for scarce passage migrants and localised butterflies. He had an excellent knowledge of the area and this soon comes through in the thoroughness this book displays. It has detailed, up-to-date information on no less than 17 sites in Cleveland, 37 in County Durham and 42 in Northumberland, with useful birding tips for each location, over 100 detailed and easy-to-read and understand maps and target birds to find and see at relevant times of the year.Although in small format, it runs to an astonishing 308 pages and is well produced and aesthetically pleasing. It is crammed full of very useful information for the region, even going into detail about public transport options to sites and those evaluated for wheelchair access. All of the key sea-watching sites are highlighted and from pages 20 through to 26, you can plan your itinerary and diary with a detailed overview of what birds are to be found each month and the best sites in which to see them.

Undoubtedly one of the best regional site guides I have seen and testament to Brian's obsession for detail and accuracy.

This is an essential purchase for any resident or frequent visitor to the area. It is crammed full of exciting locations to explore and check out, particularly at migration times. In fact, I hope to test it out today when visiting the area to twitch the first-ever Stilt Sandpiper in the region.

The book is available direct from Buckingham Press Ltd, 55 Thorpe Park Road, Peterborough, PE3 6LJ, at a cost of £17.95 - http://www.buckinghampress.co.uk

Lee G R Evans - British Birding Association/UK400 Club

Buy this book from www.nhbs.com