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WorldTwitch Book Awards 2002

This was another banner year for books of interest to world birders. Here are the winners. Further comments and additional awards may be added. I wish to thank the authors, artists and editors who have toiled to make these fine bird books available, usually for minimal financial gain.


WorldTwitch 2002 Best Bird Reference Book

Handbook of the Birds of the World: Jacamars to Woodpeckers Vol 7Josep Del Hoyo, Andrew Elliott, Jordi Sargatal (eds.) Handbook of Birds of the World, Volume 7. Lynx Edicions. This series is of very high quality in all respects and seems to improve with each volume. Volume 7 opens with a special, well-illustrated section on extinct birds. The species covered in the text of this volume include woodpeckers, barbets, toucans and honeyguides.

Volume 7: US | UK | DE | FR | CA


WorldTwitch 2002 Best Site Guide for Birders

Neil Glenn. Best Birdwatching Sites in Norfolk. Buckingham Press.Neil Glenn. Best Birdwatching Sites in Norfolk. 224 pages. B/w illustrations by Alan Harris. Cover illustration of Marsh Harrier by Jan Wilczur. Buckingham Press, buck.press [at] btinternet.com. 2002. ISSN: 0144-364. Review by Dave Gosney. This outstanding site guide provides detailed information, including telephone numbers, entrance requirements, maps, and birding highlights for 73 reserves in Norfolk, which probably is the most intensively birded county in the world. While not in the "where to find birds" style, it probably will be more useful most of the time because visitors are likely either to go out with local birders who know their way around or to follow directions to vagrants reported on the birding information services.

Purists may object, but my favorite bird seen in Norfolk was a fine cock Golden Pheasant, an introduced species that is nearly as difficult to see well in England as in China. I feel especially fortunate, after reading in Glenn that "there are horror stories of people visiting [the Wolverton Triangle] more than 100 times without success." US | UK | DE | FR | CA


WorldTwitch 2002 Best Bird Book - Europe and the Middle East (2 Awards)

Collins Bird Guide: The Most Complete Guide to the Birds of Britain and EuropeComplete Guide to the Birds of Europe. (UK: Collins Bird Guide.) Large paper edition of the Collins Bird Guide. Killian Mullarney, Lars Svensson, Dan Zetterström & Peter J. Grant. HarperCollins (2000) & Princeton University Press (2002). This book actually first appeared in the UK in 2000, and receives the WorldTwitch award belatedly because it was released in the US in 2002. I consider this to be the world's finest single-volume bird book and the field guide version to be the world's finest field guide. The color plates are magnificent, and space is particularly well utilized to provide essential identification details. Furthermore, there is such striking similarity in the styles of the two artists, Mullarney and Zetterström, that it is almost impossible to distinguish their work. US | UK | DE | FR | CA
[A German Language Edition is also available.]

Eric Dempsey. Illustrated by Michael O'Cleary. The Complete Guide to Ireland's Birds. 262 pages. Details. Gill & Macmillan 2002. This attractive guide, well illustrated by the designer of the WorldTwitch logo, presents updated distributional and conservation information on the birds of Ireland. Of particular interest are the comparative illustrations of Irish, British and Continental races of Coal Tit, Dipper, Jay and Red Grouse. I associate Ireland with Corncrake more than any other bird, and it is consequently distressing to read that the species continues to slide toward extinction due to changes in farming practice. US | UK | DE | FR | CA

WorldTwitch 2002 Best Bird Book - Africa (2 Awards)

Guide to the Birds of Western Africa by Nik Borrow & Ron Demey.Nik Borrow & Ron Demey. A Guide to the Birds of Western Africa. The first comprehensive field guide to the birds of West Africa. 147 color plates depicting over 1200 species. 816 pages. Helm & Princeton University Press 2002. US | UK - PUP | UK - Helm | DE | FR | CA

Reduced, paperback field guide edition (2004): US | UK | DE | FR | CA

The publication of Birds of Western Africa represents the greatest ornithological achievement of 2002. Although West Africa is rich in birdlife and endemics, this is the first modern field guide covering the preponderance of the area. Furthermore, the color plates are a one-man tour de force by Nik Borrow. Bird books usually are more appealing to the eye when the plates are all by same artist or by artists with very similar styles, and this is no exception.

Twitchers will appreciate the authors' decision to highlight in red on the facing plate notes the status of birds on the endangered species list. However, those species represent only a fraction of the endemics that are rare and undoubtedly threatened in the foreseeable future by Africa's unending population explosion and the resultant wholesale elimination of natural habitats.

There is excellent coverage of the birds of the Gulf of Guinea Islands -- São Tomé, Príncipe and Annobón, all of which hold interesting and  endangered endemics. See the detailed review by the late G. Stuart Keith in Birding, 35(1): 86-88 (February 2003). Birders heading to West Africa should also take along the recently published (2003) compact guide by Ber Van Perlo, which might be carried in the field while this volume remains in the car.


Sinclair, Hockey & Tarboton, Illustrated Guide to the Birds of Southern Africa

Ian Sinclair, Phil Hockey & Warwick Tarboton. Illustrated by Peter Hayman & Norman Arlott. Birds of Southern Africa. 464 pages. Struik & Princeton University Press. 3rd Edition, 2002. Covers 31 species not in the second edition. US | UK | DE | FR | CA

In addition to major taxonomic updates and coverage of additional species, the newest edition of the SASOL guide features enhanced usability that makes it one of the world's best designed field guides. In fact, it is so appealing that I would recommend that anyone writing a field guide obtain this book and copy the format. The text and illustrations are the best of any African bird field guide to date.


WorldTwitch 2002 Best Bird Book - Asia

Craig Robson, Birds of ThailandCraig Robson. Birds of Thailand. 272 pages. New Holland & Princeton University Press, 2002. Fine color illustrations and abbreviated text from Robson's Guide to the Birds of Southeast Asia. This field guide is much easier to use in Thailand than Robson's more comprehensive book and more up-to-date than Boonsong & Round (1990). It is one of the most successful spin-off guides and should be followed by a similar country guide for Malaysia. One technical complaint is that non-experts may have difficulty matching the illustrations to facing plate text. This could be resolved in a subsequent printing by inclusion of dividing lines and bird names on the plates, as was done in the extremely user-friendly Birds of Southern Africa. US | UK | DE | FR | CA

WorldTwitch 2002 Best Bird Book - Australasia

HANZAB Volume 6Peter J. Higgins & John M. Peter (eds.) Handbook of Australian, New Zealand & Antarctic Birds (HANZAB). Volume 6: Pardalotes to Shrike-thrushes. 1225 pages. 37 color plates. Details. Oxford University Press 2002. US | UK | DE | FR | CA

The latest volume of HANZAB covers many species of little brown birds of considerable interest to twitchers such as gerygones, thornbills and whitefaces, along with distinctive species such as the bristlebirds, logrunners, quail-thrushes, whipbirds, and Crested Bellbird. More information has been gathered in one place on each species than in any prior publication, and a detailed bibliography follows each species account. There are maps and color illustrations of every species and sonograms for most.

HANZAB Volume 6 goes far beyond the fine Australian field guides, not only in its detailed descriptions of the birds' behavior, distribution, movements, and conservation status, but also on many points relevant to field identification. Thus, for example, there is more than a full page on the voice and vocal behavior of Western Whipbird. Extensive descriptions of similar species and how to distinguish them are particularly useful for trip preparation. In sum, this set is the essential reference on the birds of Australia and New Zealand.


WorldTwitch 2002 Best Bird Book - South America

Guide to the Birds of Venezuela, by Steve HiltySteven L. Hilty. Birds of Venezuela. Second edition. 878 pages. Completely new, except for the color plates by Guy Tudor, John Gywnne and Larry McQueen (1 - swallows) from the first edition and Birds of Colombia. Authoritative text by Steve Hilty, 31 new color plates by John Gwynne, Sophie Webb (5 - nightbirds) and Alejandro Grajal (2 - cracids), and 44 color photos of habitats. Princeton University Press & Helm. Dated 2003, but released in December 2002. US | UK | DE | FR | CA

The new edition of Birds of Venezuela is about twice as large as the first edition, with a vastly improved text and replacements for the most problematic plates. From published and unpublished literature and his own and others' personal observations, Steve Hilty has compiled comprehensive field identification notes for each species, along with detailed distributional information and range maps. He also has incorporated the latest taxonomic revisions, for example, the split of Hepatic Tanager into four or five species.

The  color plates by Guy Tudor remain among the finest field guide paintings every published. Unfortunately, due to varying color quality control of the reprinted plates, some illustrations came out too light, distorting field marks that could be seen in the well-printed first edition, such as the red iris of Rufous-tailed Tyrant (plate 45). However, a few of the paintings are sharper than in the previous volumes -- compare, for example, the bright Laniisoma on plate 50 with the original reproduction in Birds of Colombia.

If you don't have the first edition, pick up a library copy for the fine color printing and the snappy facing plate notes by Guy Tudor. But the new second edition is the guide to use in the field in northern South America. US | UK (PUP) | UK (Helm)


WorldTwitch 2002 Best Bird Book - Oceans and Islands

Hadoram Shirihai, A Complete Guide to Antarctic WildlifeHadoram Shirihai. A Complete Guide to Antarctic Wildlife: The birds and mammals of the Antarctic Continent and Southern Ocean. Illustrated by Brett Jarrett. Edited by Guy Kirwan. 512 pages. 35 plates. 600 photographs. Alula Press & Princeton University Press 2002 (Brochure - pdf). US | UK | DE | FR | CA

In a very short time,  Hadoram Shirihai with editorial assistance from Guy Kirwan, has produced two of the finest recent natural history books -- the current volume and Sylvia Warblers, winner of a 2001 WorldTwitch award and the best bird family volume to date. The Antarctic guide is an incredibly comprehensive book that is useful for both broad and narrow purposes. This is the place to begin to understand the natural history of the Antarctic region, yet it is also is useful in preparing for a trip and probably is the best available field guide for most areas covered. The book has been printed entirely on glossy paper, since nearly every page includes color illustrations and maps.


WorldTwitch 2002 Best Bird Families Books (3 Awards)

Lester Short & Jennifer Horne. Illustrated by Al Gilbert. Toucans, Barbets & Honeyguides. Oxford University Press 2001.Lester Short & Jennifer Horne. Illustrated by Al Gilbert. Toucans, Barbets & Honeyguides. 526 pages, 36 fine color plates by Albert Earl Gilbert. 17 color photographs. Oxford University Press 2002. US | UK | DE | FR | CA

This is one of the finest books on a bird family published to date. The authors have condensed their encyclopedic knowledge of the toucans, barbets and honeyguides into a highly readable volume, with great emphasis on characteristics and behavior observed in the field, including associations with other species.

Steve Madge & Phil McGowan. With Guy Kirwan. Illustrated by Norman Arlott, Robin Budden, Daniel Cole, John Cox, Carl D'Silva, Kim Franklin & David Mead. Pheasants, Partridges and Grouse. A Guide to the Pheasants, Patridges, Quails, Grouse, Guineafowl, Buttonquails, and Sandgrouse of the World. 488 pages. 72 color plates. Christopher Helm & Princeton University Press 2002. US | UK - Helm | UK - PUP | DE | FR | CA

The bird families covered by this authoritative guide are of particular interest to twitchers. Many of the largest and most brilliantly plumaged species skulk in dense forest or scrub, rarely allowing more than a fleeting glimpse. The text includes details relevant to field identification that sometimes are more useful that the plates, many of which appear to have been painted without field experience with the birds. Thus, for example, both the Black Wood-Partridge of Malaysia and Long-tailed Wood-Partridge (Tree-Quail) of Mexico are likely to be seen with tail cocked up -- the former resembles a rail and the latter a rooster -- and not as illustrated with tails down.

Malcolm Ogilvie. Illustrated by Chris Rose. Grebes of the World. Bruce Coleman 2002Malcolm Ogilvie. Illustrated by Chris Rose. Grebes of the World. 112 pages. [Sample plate.] Bruce Coleman 2002. UK | DE | FR | CA

This is a beautifully illustrated, large format survey of the grebes of the world, with narrative text by the waterfowl authority Malcolm Ogilvie. Each full-page plate shows a grebe species in its natural habitat. The artist's depiction of water, especially reflections and shadows, is as interesting as the birds themselves, and brings to mind the illustrations in the Birds of Greenland.


WorldTwitch 2002 Best Bird Art Book

Lars Jonsson. Birds and Light: The Art of Lars Jonsson. 224 pages. Details. Superb "coffee table" book. The life story of Lars Jonsson, with many field sketches, previously unpublished paintings, and plates from his field guides. Helm & Princeton University Press 2002. US | UK | DE | FR | CA

Lars Jonsson is one of the world's finest bird artists, best known for his series of European field guides, culminating in Birds of Europe, the brilliant field guide that nearly everyone used in Europe prior to the publication of Mullarney & Svensson. This is a classic gift book for anyone interested in birds or fine nature art.


WorldTwitch 2002 Best Birding Adventure Book

The Ghost with Trembling Wings, by Scott WeidensaulScott Weidensaul. The Ghost with Trembling Wings: Science, wishful thinking, and the search for lost species. Online excerpt: "In search of the phantom tanager" [Cone-billed Tanager - Mato Grosso, Brazil.] North Point Press, June 2002. 352 pages. US | UK | DE | FR | CA

Paperback reprint: US | UK | DE | FR | CA


WorldTwitch 2002 Best Bird Distribution Book

Monterey Birds by Don RobersonDon Roberson. Monterey Birds. Status and Distribution of Birds in Monterey County, California. Second edition 2002. Errata. Completely revised and expanded version of the 1985 book. 544 pages. Covers 482 species, 55 more than the first edition. 60 color photos of vagrants and regional endemics on 16 plates and 60 b/w photos in the text. Details from Don's website. US

Monterey is the U.S. port with the largest number of scheduled pelagic birding trips. Consequently, most serious North American and world birders visit Monterey, often repeatedly. While in the area for a pelagic trip, there are many possibilities for land birding in the great variety of habitats within Monterey County.

Don Roberson has produced a book of the same high quality as his Creagrus website. I used the first edition so often that it is now falling apart. The new second edition is about twice as thick as the first, and is packed with information helpful in choosing the time of year for a pelagic trip, planning your trip and finding and identifying wanted birds.


WorldTwitch 2002 Best Value Natural History Book

Sweringen, J., K. Reshetiloff, B. Slattery & S. Zwicker. Plant Invaders of Mid-Atlantic Natural Areas. National Park Service and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Washington, D.C. 2002. 82 pages. Color photos. Details. Free.

WorldTwitch 2000 Book Awards
WorldTwitch 2001 Book Awards
WorldTwitch 2003 Book Awards
WorldTwitch 2004 Book Awards


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