In this latest addition to the Birding Frontier 'Challenge Series', the Winter edition, over 40 taxa are covered in 15 chapters, packed with information, some of it ‘hot off the press’. Most especially, Martin Garner and his team have worked hard to make it simple to follow by using inspiring narratives, key ID points and high quality artwork and photography.
Broadly three themes can be recognised in the 40 plus taxa covered.
A desire to dig further into locally occurring birds which are clearly being overlooked:
The likes of Icelandic Redwings are woefully lacking from county avifaunas.
Snow Bunting while often eminently approachable are rarely recorded to subspecies level. We are just starting to learn new and fascinating things about their movements. They may yet prove to be travelling much further to winter in NW Europe than appreciated. The Siberian Snow Bunting indeed becomes a credible vagrant.
And the gorgeous Bullfinch. Identifying somewhat enigmatic ‘Northerns’ (there are still unresolved questions) which can turn up well inland, as well as coastal lairs, is now hopefully made easier.
Those tricky ID challenges:
Can you really do Brünnich’s Guillemot in flight? YES! We have been overlooking some simple truths about Common Guillemots and Razorbills for far too long.
Saker and (dark morph) Gyr Falcons. Both surely vagrants to NW Europe away from their usual spots. Let’s get away from ‘large Falcon sp’ into some more robust identifications!
Then there are the Redpolls, everyone’s favourite. We have included a new feature: THE REDPOLL CODE. A different approach to redpoll ID. All 6 taxa are covered in detail.
Potential new ‘species’:
Our work on Water Pipits (published in British Birds magazine in early 2015) also revealed the genetic distance between the American Buff-belled Pipit and its Siberian counterpart ‘japonicus’ make them easily separate entities at the level of ‘species’ to us. Siberian japonicus has reached close enough to the UK to cause an intake of breath. Close enough to where I bloomin’ live! The gen is all here.
The Grey Shrikes of the North (not including the southern group) divides into two distinct groups. The ‘Northern Grey Shrike’ in its Siberian (sibiricus) and North American (borealis) forms has already reached the Western Palearctic. As well as striking ‘browner’ examples, some can be easy to overlook- a potential new species for the prepared mind. Details of what to look for are laid out, plus all those Great Grey Shrike variants with various amounts of white in the wings (galliae/homeyeri/leucopterus) are given a fresh overview.
Of course there is a lot more! All the Eiders, Large Pipits, Turtle Doves, Arctic Peregrines, Mandt’s Guillemots etc. etc. But then you’ll have to get the book to find out…