The Birds of Ireland – A Field Guide
By Jim Wilson with photos by Mark Carmody | Collins Press | 272 Pages | Paperback | ISBN: 9781848891791

Publisher’s View: Following the success of Ireland’s Garden Birds, Jim Wilson has teamed up with Mark Carmody for a collaborative work that is in a different mould from their previous publications, Freshwater Birds of Ireland and Shorebirds of Ireland. An important tool of a birdwatcher is a good identification guide. Most cover the birds of Europe and few deal exclusively with Ireland.

This first photographic identification guide to the birds of Ireland has over 1,600 photos of more than 260 species, in an easy, quick-reference format. With eight to fifteen images per species, the key identification features of each bird are shown, with concise descriptions and pointers to indicate important features.

The Birds of Ireland is produced in association with BirdWatch Ireland, Ireland’s leading bird conservation organisation. The purchase of The Birds of Ireland contributes funds to BirdWatch Ireland’s conservation and education initiatives to help protect and promote Ireland’s wild birds and habitats.

The Authors:

Jim Wilson, wildlife writer, broadcaster, tour guide, and former chairman of BirdWatch Ireland, co-wrote Ireland’s Garden Birds (2008), Shorebirds of Ireland (2009), and Freshwater Birds of Ireland (2011). He has been involved in the study and conservation of birds in Ireland for over 35 years, contributing to major surveys and international projects.

Mark Carmody did postdoctoral research in genetics and is currently a trainee Patent Attorney. Co-author of Shorebirds of Ireland and Freshwater Birds of Ireland, his work has featured in the renowned Birding World. A member of BirdWatch Ireland, Mark contributes to surveys and international projects concerning wildlife and the environment.
Fatbirder View: I have mixed feelings about this fieldguide… on the one hand I am sure that there should be one. It can be frustrating, especially for newbies in using a guide full of birds you have a diminishingly small chance of seeing. In the UK the number of Wallcreepers or Dalmatian Pelican turning up are too small to include them in a UK guide but most of us use the best European book available the Collins guide. When starting out you want something that shows you birds you should see and a few you might see but not ones you may wait a lifetime for. So Ireland deserves its own guide, especially when there are plenty of TV shows set in Eire or the north which include sound tracks with species common across the Irish sea but between non-existent or the recently introduced in Ireland (I’ve often heard hoopoes on such sound tracks for the British Islands).

The book is also usefully compact and durable for field use… or as if often the case, so as to survive being stuffed into a car door pocket. I also like the text and the pretty comprehensive introductory pages seemingly designed for new birders and none the worse for that.

What I am less happy with is the use of photographs. Despite what logic would seem to dictate photos are often less easy to use for ID than good line drawings and watercolours. Moreover, these ‘cut outs’ with lumps of turf attached or a puddle of water look unnatural and add no useful habitat context. This is so very different from the wonderful Crossley guide as to fail miserably by comparison.

Don’t get me wrong, the photos are, for the most part sharp and clear, but make it hard to compare difficult species. I really believe that, as birders we first learn to distinguish birds by boiling down the clues to the essentials and photos just do not do that. This is not a reflection on the photographs but on the use to which they are put

I which the authors luck with it and believe it deserves its shelf-room… but in the words of my old maths teacher… “…could do better”.

Fatbirder November 2013

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