I’ve spent quite a few hours lately reading and paging through my recently arrived field guide, Birds of Europe. With a planned trip to Germany in October I want to be prepared to identify everything I see and hear…which isn’t too likely but I can dream, can’t I?
Having never birded outside of the U.S. or Canada before I was unprepared for what I would find in the pages of a European field guide. Sure I’d read that Europe’s warblers are not as distinctly-colored as the wood-warblers of the Americas but holy cow! These European birds are absurdly alike!
One example: the Marsh Warbler and the Reed Warbler, two brown birds with dark wing-tips, dark-and-orange beaks, and lighter underparts. If they aren’t singing you have to go to the “off-white tinged yellowish” underparts of the Marsh Warbler versus the “rich buff” underparts of the Reed Warbler. Or how about the “warm brown” back of the Reed Warbler versus the “grey-brown” back of the Marsh Warbler? At least the illustration of the Reed Warbler contains this warning: “note: very similar to marsh.” And the picture of the Marsh Warbler comes with this one: “note: imm. Marsh and Reed Warblers are extremely similar.” Well, thanks for that, Killian Mullarney, Lars Svensson, Dan Zetterstr, and Peter Grant. Fortunately, the introduction to the warbler section breaks them down into genera and helps the ignorant reader (me!) figure out how to do the same. I figure once I get the genus of a bird I’ll just guess the specific species…
You can tell these birds are confusing because it took the four men I thanked above over fifteen years to create the field guide. One of the four, Peter Grant, died during the process.
The guide itself is well laid-out, with range maps and descriptions on one page and illustrations on the facing page. I’m going to go out on a limb and say the illustrations are accurate (at least the ones of North American vagrants are). Who would have thought a Red-breasted Nuthatch could end up in England? Actually seeing the list of North American species that have shown up in Europe was very interesting and makes me wish that the winds over the Atlantic blew to the west!
The guide is small enough to fit into my large pockets and has nicely-coated paper that should make it water-resistant. It includes “722 species found in Europe, 23 introduced species or variants, and 103 very rare visitors.”
Seeing as this is the only field guide of European birds I have ever studied I can honestly say that it’s the best I’ve ever seen. Kidding aside, I think it will be a great resource to help me figure out as many European birds as I can.
I should be able to identify this bird, right?