SURFBIRDS REVIEW- BY MARTIN SCOTT
A PHOTOGRAPHIC GUIDE TO: BIRDS OF THE PHILIPPINES
TIM FISHER, PHOTOGRAPHS BY NIGEL HICKS
An expanding Asian economy and a growing young population are evident on a visit to the Philippines. With an avifauna rich in variety and endemism new publications are always going to be welcomed to feed the appetite that is emerging. Having just returned from a visit mixing visiting family and birding it was good to keep the Asian momentum going by reviewing this tidy little guide.
This book falls into the small photo guide bracket and is genuinely pocket-sized. Printed on quality glossy paper, one photo per species is the main stay, many filling three quarters of a page, with just one raptor however warranting an additional flight shot: this is a short fall.
Some cracking shots grace the pages – Asian Fairy Bluebird and Writhed Hornbill to name two stunners – but surely a better one could have been found for several species. Brown Shrike, one of the islands commonest and most obvious species could have easily been served better, rather than the published one that appears front on and masked in shade. I managed better with my poor digiscoping attempts on a daily basis when on the islands. A similar argument could be put forward for Mountain Shrike and Philippine Duck (which surely involves a captive bird).
The use of birds in the hand is also slightly contentious. As the captive bird trade is rife in the Philippines it may be that this encourages more people to catch rather than conserve. On a more positive note they do allow close examination of birds that otherwise may have been omitted. Philippine Dwarf Kingfisher and Steere's Pitta are resplendent whether in the hand or in the field.
The text directly accompanies the photo and is short but clear and useful. A brief note of status and range is given with a few lines on identification pointers, which is more than ample combined with the images.
A brief introduction section adds to the where’s and when’s of the archipelagos birding. For more detail interested parties will inevitably search the internet, but this section is concise and useful, even to well travelled birders.
Not as thorough or compressive as the full island field guide this book does have a place for the back packer, business man and general interested individual heading east. Not least by it being a fraction of the size and weight of the alternatives. In combination with the chunkier and heavier field guide many will chose this genuine inexpensive pocket book every time.
The publishing of the book comes nearly a year after the passing of its author, Tim Fisher, and will keep his name alive as key to empowering Philippines ornithology for many more years to come. Hopefully this colourful work will inspire yet another generation.
New Holland Publishers