The following appeared in Nature, 25 July 1970.
Atlas of Breeding Birds of the West Midlands
Edited by J. Lord and D. J. Munns. Pp. 276. (Collins: London, March 1970. Published for the West Midland Bird Club.) 30s.
The large-scale mapping of plant and animal distributions is really a comparatively recent development. Such mapping has been undertaken in the past for certain rare and/or local species; but now moves are afoot to map all species in most classes at a national level. The movement really began with the well known work of the Botanical Society of the British Isles, whose Atlas of the British Flora was published in 1962. This botanical atlas was based on presence or absence of species in 10 kilometre squares of the National Grid, whose concept has now been adopted generally. Much of the credit for this standardization is due to the Biological Records Centre of the Nature Conservancy.
One project now well advanced is that of the British Trust for Ornithology to map bird distributions over Britain and Ireland. This project is now in its third year of a planned five years of field work and good progress is being made, thanks to the efforts of large numbers of ornithologists and bird watchers, most of them amateurs.
Accurate knowledge of bird distribution is valuable locally as well as nationally, and at the regional level the West Midland Bird Club has been especially active. In 1950 it pioneered a breeding bird survey of Staffordshire, Warwickshire and Worcestershire, based on vice-counties; and with these data, as well as more recent work in preparation for the British Trust for Ornithology's scheme, the broad outlines of bird distributions in these three Midland counties have been worked out and are published in this new volume, Atlas of Breeding Birds of the West Midlands. Let it be said at once that this is an admirable volume, a credit to all concerned, and a model for others. The plan is simple. Each species is given a two-page spread, with a distributional map on the left and with interpretative remarks opposite. The maps are the raison d'etre, of course. These are gridded into 10 kilometre squares, and the editors give their reasons for not using smaller units ("tetrads", or 2 km squares, have been used in some local mappings elsewhere). Map entries are on a presence or absence basis, and three symbols are used to denote (i) presence in summer without evidence of nesting; (ii) probable breeding; and (iii) confirmed breeding. My only criticism concerns the lack of a detailed geological map, which would have helped interpretation by those unfamiliar with the area.
This book is a must for the libraries of all Midlands ornithologists, and may be perused with profit by any naturalist contemplating mapping projects of his chosen group.
Thanks to Wrenaissance Woman and Merv Williams, for their assistance in sourcing this content.
Ornithology in Staffordshire, Warwickshire, Worcestershire & the West Midlands county, since 1929.
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