This book review first appeared in ‘British Birds’ issue 76: (page 104), in February 1983.
Bird and place names were spelt as shown. For their current status, please see our county lists.
The Birds of the West Midlands. By Graham R. Harrison, Alan R. Dean, Alan J. Richards and David Smallshire. West Midland Bird Club, Studley, 1982. 494 pages; 82 black-and-white plates; some line drawings. £15.00.
The West Midlands is one of the most populous areas of the world, yet contains such ornithological treasures as the bulk of Britain's breeding Marsh Warblers and such scenic treasures as Dovedale. The area also has one of the greatest densities of birdwatchers, and a long history of innovative ornithology. It is no surprise, therefore, to find that a book summarising the birdlife of the area is thorough, yet always readable. Taking natural regions in this large area, the first eight chapters deal in detail with the history and topography. The bulk of the book (60%) is, however, not unexpectedly, devoted to the systematic list with, where appropriate, histograms showing distribution of records by months and by five-year periods, tables, photographs and drawings. Breeding distributions (mapped by 10-km squares) are shown in a separate section (space-saving, but, personally, I wish that they had been in the appropriate positions in the systematic list).
A fault of many county avifaunas is the absence of good maps showing localities; that is not the case here. Together with the excellent essays describing the areas and well-chosen photographs, the atmosphere of this heartland of England is brilliantly presented: I feel now that I know many of the areas which I have never visited.
The 2,000 members of the West Midland Bird Club have been well served. Doubtless they will soon make its systematic list out-of-date, and man's activities may modify the habitats, but the next book dealing with the birds of the West Midlands, even if it is not named as a revision of this one, will be based firmly on the work done by Graham Harrison, Alan Dean, Alan Richards and David Smallshire.
J. T. R. Sharrock
Ornithology in Staffordshire, Warwickshire, Worcestershire & the West Midlands county, since 1929.
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