Wednesday, 24 August 2016


IF you really want to learn about birds and their plumage, try writing an identification manual!

That was the tongue-in-cheek advice from Paul Stancliffe, Norfolk-based author of two relatively recent titles, Collins BTO Guide to British Birds and Collins BTO Guide to Rare British Birds.

In compiling the text, he studied birds not just  in the field but as depicted in thousands of photographs to find if  he could new 'takes' on identification - particularly on plumage.

The work involved many meetings - invariably harmonious and productive, though they  did not always see eye-to-eye - with expert Hampshire-based photographer Paul Skerry.

The collaboration certainly proved fruitful and both volumes would make worthy additions to the bookshelves of any birder.

The  titles are particularly valuable when it comes to differentiating between similar-looking species - for instance, willow/ marsh tit, collared/ oriental pratincole,  European/ blue-cheeked bee-eater.

Paul said he remained a great fan of many guides where the illustrations come in the form of artwork, but he said the advent of digital photography made this method of depicting species both more reliable and more authoritative.

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