By Sara McMahon and Nigel Hudson

Published by Buckingham Press (in association with Swarovski Optik)
Softback, pp 208, price £17.50.

ISBN 978-0955033-95-7

There can be few birders who have not added a lifer to their British list in Cornwall or the Isles of Scilly and even fewer who have not visited the county. The arrival of this book will therefore be, no doubt, welcomed by many and find its way into the glove compartment of many a birder’s car.

And why not? McMahon and Hudson know their stuff and if you’ve driven all the way to Cornwall, then you’d be a tad dim not to have invested the few quid necessary to bird the best sites. Swarovski are to be congratulated for sponsoring yet another great product.

Author Sara McMahon has worked incredibly hard to provide accurate, in-depth information about all of the county’s most famous sites and some of those overlooked corners, so that you can make the best use of a visit whatever time of year it occurs. Nigel retired to the Scilly Isles in 2001 and soon became the local recorder; giving this duo the perfect credentials.

The book is split into a number of sections covering the birding year, sea-watching around the Cornish coast, followed by detailed information on 52 sites in Cornwall plus each of the five main islands.

Just how good is this book? Well look at page 79 and the map of Lands End. Note the comment “Boarded up house. Garden often good for tired migrants. Check for Wrynecks.“ The same day I first read that note, the news services buzzed “Wryneck, Lands End, garden of the boarded up house”. Now how’s that for pin-point accuracy!

Each site has at least a two-page spread listing the target birds and the likelihood of seeing them, other possible species, birding tips including where the best birds have been found in the past, plus highly detailed maps with a wealth of further information on where to look for target species. A ‘key points’ bar down the side of each page covers important issues such as parking, access, dangers, hides and wheelchair access. OS map references are provided across the top of each page. Each site is listed alphabetically making quick reference easy. You’d be surprised how many other site guides ignore this basic rule.

More impressive still every site has been visited in 2007-08 making this site guide bang up-to-date - although this might explain the odd error. Flocks of ‘fixed’ finches would certainly make winter birding a tad easier and a Pallid Wheatear would be a mighty fine record!

The guide finally finishes with a check-list for both Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. Perhaps a hostage to fortune, such a guide without a check-list would however probably raise more questions.

As a birder who has spent many an hour in the West Penwith valleys but, as with so many other visiting birders I suspect, paid little attention to the rest of the County, this guide will open up sites that rightly deserve more time. Golitha National Nature Reserve on the edge of Bodmin Moor is surely one such gem.

So enough from me. Buy the book and get back down to Cornwall as soon as you can. Click here to buy this book through Amazon.

Martin Birch
1st December 2008