Somewhat to my astonishment that nice postman chappie delivered the new edition of the Collins Guide today! HUGE thanks to Wildsounds for going to a lot of trouble to sort out its delivery - brilliant people! Admittedly I've not really trawled through the text in detail (which I'm sure has many changes) but for what it's worth here are my initial thoughts.
Although the same format the book is now a little plumper due to an increase from 400 to 448 pages with the ‘core’ text rising from 365 to 393 pages. However, it’s still plenty small enough to be taken into the field. The old edition was widely lauded as the best field guide to birds ever produced; well, not any more! This new edition has been extensively re-set, rewritten and re-illustrated. I never knew the original had so many ‘weaknesses’ until I browsed through and found how much had been altered!
The plates, by-and-large, are crisper and more saturated than the original. This works well and is an advance, but a handful of illustrations look a bit too dark (male harriers look too dark and not insufficiently bluish for example). With so much re-shuffling and moving around, despite the greater coverage, many plates are less crowded and the illustrations significantly larger. This has also allowed space for additional illustrations (esp. of new ‘splits’ and more subspecies) and some delightful extra vignettes.
Cackling Goose is in as are a swathe of vagrant ducks (G-w Teal, Lesser Scaup,Redhead, Canvasback, Hooded Merganser & Bufflehead plus two new splits White-winged & Black Scoters). Grebes in flight are shown. Scopoli’s is illustrated (but not split), but Yelkuoan/Balearic is both split & given more detail (inc new illustrations). Other shearwaters & petrels given more space and some new illustrations. Pelicans re-done. Crested (‘Oriental’) Honey Buzzard is now fully covered and many other species given fuller treatment (Y-b Kite ssp., Ruppell’s V., accipters, & cirtensis L-l Buzzard). Siberian Crane is now illustrated as are Macqueen’s & Houbara Bustard (split). The ‘Herring Gull’ complex used to cover 2/3 of a double page spread and now sprawls over almost 3 double pages. American HG, Caspian, Armenian, Heuglin’s and ‘fuscus’ all get full treatment. The ‘Atlantic’ island pigeons get almost a whole plate and superb new illustrations. The owls have been largely re-illustrated and Pharaoh Owl is split.
Amongst the passerines wheatears get a thorough review with many new illustrations and splits – Seebhoms, Maghreb (Mourning) & Kurdish are split (and have some new illustrations – inc ‘Basalt’ race of Mourning). Stonechat, though isn’t split. Rare thrushes (American & Asian) get more space & some new illustrations. Better still the American passerines have been re-illustrated by Killian Mullarney. Many of the warblers have been re-illustrated in part or in full and most are split. (Splits inc. Orphean, Desert, Olivaceous [western = Isabelline warbler], Sykes, Iberian, Canaries & Caucasian Chiffchaffs & Humes). However, Mamora’s /Balearic remain as one (although with a new illustration to distinguish them). Most of the phyloscs have been beautifully re-illustrated. A number of flycatchers have been re-painted and new splits added (Atlas &,Taiga). Madieran Fircrest & African Blue Tit have also been split. Only “Iberian Grey” Shrike has been split from Great-grey. However the text notes that the Great-grey complex could well be split into 2-3 species, but that the taxonomy is not yet clear and needs more study. Isabelline & Brown Shrikes have been re-done as has Woodchat (badius now well illustrated).
Relatively few other passerines have been extensively revised – Iraq Babbler has been added & Corsican Finch split. But treatment of redpolls remains ‘conservative’ and the authors have (wisely I think) avoided delving into the horrors of the crossbill complex. The treatment of waders is virtually untouched (although phalarope underwings get retouched)
Many of the vagrants previously in an appendix have been promoted to the main body of the book (Lesser Scaup, Ruppell’s Vulture, White-eared Bulbul, Hypocolius, Basra Reed Warbler, Brown Shrike, Yellow Warbler & Northern Waterthrush). Some Accidentals have been promoted illustrated and promoted to the ‘vagrants section’ (e.g. Masked Booby) and the list of Accidentals has been updated. There seems to be a gap next to the rarer snipe that suggests missing illustrations. However, presumably to gain space, some species have been relegated from the main text to the appendix on introduced species (e.g. Mandarin & Wood Duck, Rose-ringed parakeet) although odd introduced birds remain (e.g. pheasants, Bar-headed & Egyptian Geese). Chilean Flamingo has also been relegated, but surprisingly perhaps Lesser Flamingo hasn’t been promoted!
The text has obviously been extensively reworked to fit the new layout expanded and additional species (armchair and otherwise) that have been added. Obviously much has been rewritten, but such alterations aren’t as obvious as the changes to the plates. Doubtless they will be discovered with use. The captions on the plates have also been reviewed (partly I suspect as there is now more space!). Another big change is the use of larger scale maps for species confined to the extreme SE, SW and the Atlantic islands. Also, of great use to the myopic, the index is much easier to read; a small point, but one that indicates the attention to detail in this revision.
Essentially, this is a brilliant re-working of an already iconic guide. Only the rank beginner, terminally un-ambitious or incurious birder failed to get the original edition. Similarly, only those lacking these traits might forgo the advantages of this new edition. Go out buy it, wait a while and then buy the large edition … and count yourself lucky to be living in Europe and birding at such a time.
Yes, I liked it a lot!