| Field Guide to the Birds of the Middle East | By Richard Porter & Simon Aspinall | Illustrated by A Birch, John Gale, Mike Langman & Brian E Small | Helm | Edition 2 | 2010 | Paperback | 384 pages | 176 colour plates | 636 distribution maps | ISBN: 9780713676020 | NHBS Price: £29.99 |
Detailed field guide dealing exclusively with the birds of the region. It covers all species found in the Arabian Peninsula (including Socotra), Jordan, Lebanon, Israel, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Turkey and Cyprus. Over 700 species are described, including both indigenous species and migrants, with a concise text describing plumage and voice. All species are illustrated on colour plates (by A Birch, J Gale, M Langman and B Small), with distribution maps appearing opposite the plates, complete with notes on status and preferred habitat. This is a completely revised second edition. For the first time, the text and maps appear opposite the plates. There are more than 100 new species.
I recommend the book in general terms. The layout is much improved on the previous edition and now follows the familiar fieldguide pattern of plates opposite descriptions and distribution maps and is better for it. The illustrations are all acceptable and many of the highest quality but there is an inconsistency which one presumes is due to there being several illustrators involved. Having said that certain groups are slightly odd in shape and one wonders if they have been painted from museum skins rather than from field sketches. Examples are the storm petrels that to my eye are rather long winged and some of the smaller raptors seem the same. The strangest to me are some of the warblers such as the Acrocephalus group that seem rather full-bodied, dumpy if you will, rather than the graceful birds that delight by their very form. Others appear rather dark, of course, many are sub-species I am not familiar with so I may be mistaken. Nevertheless, none of this detracts from what is a useful guide and no doubt a boon to any of you lucky enough to be on business in the gulf or unfortunate enough to be posted there; a compact guide covering a number of countries makes a great deal of sense. My only other quibble is a worry that its soft back might not compensate in lightness what it loses in durability.