28 Nov 2010

My Favourite 40 Books about Birds, Birding and Bird Photography (Part 1: The First 10)

These are the first ten of my favourite books either about Birds, Birding or Bird Photography. They are in no particular order of favouritism as I find on some days I am more interested in one particular book than another.

1. Birds of Europe by Lars Jonsson
To my mind the most beautifully illustrated Bird guide in the world. Lars Jonsson has to be one of the finest bird illustrators there is. One day I intend to go to his museum in Sweden and buy one of his illustrations.

2. Thorburn's Birds by James Fisher
This was the book that started it all for me. I was given this book as a 5th birthday present by my paternal grandfather. The illustrations by Archibald Thorburn are quite superb, he is definitely one of my favourite bird artists. I have a couple of signed prints one is a pair of Nuthatches and the other a Woodcock. Unfortunately the cover on my book disintegrated years ago. So below is one of the plates from the book.

3. Readers Digest Book of British Birds
This would have been my first guide book, which not that I knew it at the time was seen to be a breakthrough in bird guides in that era (Early 70's).  It was illustrated predominantly by New Zealander Raymond Ching for the main plates and Robert Gillmor for the line drawings. It has been well thumbed over the years.

4. The Eye of the Wind by Peter Scott
This is Sir Peter Scott's autobiography. He was one of the founding fathers of modern  conservation and bird painter. He founded the Severn Wildfowl Trust , which is now The Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust

5. An Eye for a Bird by Eric Hosking
For forty years from the beginning of the 40's Eric Hosking was Britain's most renown bird photographer. This is his autobiography. He photographed 1800 species of bird in his life and don't forget this was prior to digital photography. Up until the 60's he was using medium format before changing to 35mm. In thirty years he said he took around 150,000 photographs. Nowadays a full time bird photographer would be taking that amount in a year or two. In 1949 he took this photo of a hovering Nightjar. Even nowadays you wouldn't find many bird photographers being able to take a shot like that.

6.  The PEREGRINE Falcon by Derek Ratcliffe
I bought this signed edition in the last few years off someone from Birdforum it was published by T & AD Poyser in 1980. It is a fascinating book which covers the Peregrine's biology and the effect that pesticides had on their decline in the UK. It was later updated in the 90's. Derek Ratcliffe's most important legacy was the National Nature Reserves and Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSI's) set up when he was the chief scientist of the Nature Conservancy Council

7. Finding Birds in Ireland by Eric Dempsey and Michael O'Clery
If you are visiting Ireland and want to go birding I reckon this book Finding Birds in Ireland and the Birds of Europe by Lars Jonsson are all you need. It covers every County in Ireland and is very detailed. For example one of my local patches is the Quoile Pondage. It gives you good directions how to get there, the species of bird you are likely to find year round and then a list of the seasonal birds as well as a list of the rarities that have been found there.

8. The Shorebird Guide by Michael O'Brien, Richard Crossley and Kevin Karlson
This is mainly a photographic guide from America that relies on looking at the birds size, structure, behaviour and colour patterns at different stages in their life cycle. The photography is quite superb. I have a number of shorebird guides and this is definitely one I would turn to first. Richard Crossley is publishing the Crossley ID Guide in April which will be a very different photographic ID book to those in the past.

9. Bird News Vagrants and Visitors on a Peculiar Island by E. Vernon Laux
This book is about a year in the bird life of Martha's Vineyard, an island off the coast of Massachusetts. I lived on Martha's Vineyard on and off for nearly five years in the eighties and was sent this book when it came out. I have read it a few times and reminisce what I might have seen. At the time I wasn't quite as fanatical about birds and even though I saw Cardinals,  Blue Jays and Common Grackle and even at one time killed four Northern Bobwhite when they flew in front of the van I was driving. I look forward to going back there one day.

10. The Birds of the British Isles by Bannerman and Lodge
This is a series of twelve volumes completed during the 50's and early 60's. They belonged to my grandparents only two still have their original cover. The illustrations were all done by George Edward Lodge one of the finest bird artists at that time.


James Marchington said...

Lovely to see some of my old favourites in your list.

I always enjoyed the irony in the title of Hosking's autobiography; the loss of an eye to a tawny owl gave his career a real boost!

And Peter Scott - so misrepresented now by the WWT he founded.

The Readers Digest book was my most prized possession back then.

Look forward to seeing the others on your list!

Unknown said...

birds of south east asia ? nice blog page and birds photo.