Book review: Discover Shetland’s Birds

Posted by Brydon Thomason on Friday 27th November 2015 | Reviews

There are few years that pass without exciting new publications being written about Shetland. We are so very fortunate here to have such an fantastically rich, renowned and fascinating cultural as well as natural heritage. It might be surprising then that since the late Bobby Tulloch published A Guide to Shetland’s Breeding Birds in 1992, such a sought after guide hadn’t been updated for over two decades. Of course The Birds of Shetland, published in 2004 was an outstanding but very different book.

Discover Shetland's BirdsClearly a photographic guide was well over due and the recently published Discover Shetland’s Birds: A Photographic Guide to Shetland’s Breeding, Wintering and Migrant Birds has gone way beyond expectations to bridge that gap. Published by ‘Shetland Heritage Publications’ the guide concentrates on about 180 of the 450 species recorded in Shetland. With this the authors Paul Harvey and Rebecca Nason target the species visitors are most likely to see throughout the seasons in the Isles.

Few are better placed to write such a book. Both authors are widely respected ornithologists but the collaboration of Paul’s outstanding in-depth knowledge of the islands birds and Rebecca’s gifted artistic approach to her photography has come together to achieve much more than a field guide. Indeed its physical size and shape wouldn’t really be practical to have in the car or in your rucksack but so engaging and beautifully put together it is that you simply wouldn’t want to take it out the house!

What they have achieved with this book is a modern and simple approach to a bird ID guide that anyone from a garden birdwatcher, lover of wildlife or even the experienced birder can enjoy and learn from. The book begins by introducing the islands birds through from the breeding; wintering and migration season. The focus is then systematically on over 150 main species that are most likely to be seen. Each of these is covered in depth, from how to identify and key features to look for, with images covering different plumages, through to an eye catching and easy to use colour-coded calendar bar to show the months to see them. There are even a few of the scarcer and rarer species to look for, compared alongside the common counterparts.

Following the systematic species guide, which is obviously the main body of the book, they cover a very useful insight and guide into Shetlands birding hotspots and where to watch birds.

Without reservation this is a book that I am thrilled to recommend and to own a copy of myself, which several weeks after receiving I am still lifting off the shelf to enjoy or show friends!

The book is £19.99 in paperback and also available in hardback at £24.99 and can be ordered through Rebecca’s website or the Shetland Heritage Shop.