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Glossy mag hidden on the bottom shelf!
Birdwatch magazine is a serious magazine for keen birdwatchers, indeed it describes itself as An independent magazine established in 1992 by birders for birders, it has grown to become the leading monthly news and features magazine at the enthusiast end of the market.
The magazine has a very good website here http://www.birdwatch.co.uk/website/.
Each issue currently costs £3.60 with an annual UK subscription rate of £43.20. Each issue normally consists of about 75 pages, with approximately 20 of these pages being adverts. The opening pages list the contents of the mag together with the editorial by Dominic Mitchell and pen pictures of each months main contributors.
The regular features of the magazine are:
Better Birding: a fairly lengthy article (7 pages) which covers things like migration, must see birds specific to the time of the year with hints of how to find them and suggested locations. A general page which is quite diverse covering migration, feeding, habitat, identification and general tips. Also listed are birding events around the country often at nature reserves or RSPB locations. There is a weekend tide guide featured, which I confess to finding particularly useful.
Where to watch birds: usually around 5 pages of the mag, various birding locations are examined around the UK. Recent locations have included Land's End, Flamborough, Lleyn Peninsula, Rainham Marshes, NE Norfolk, Loch Leven, Rogerstown Estuary and Lymington. Each location is covered in detail pointing out why this is a good location, types of birding to do (seawatching etc), species likely to encounter and where within the area to go there is also a small map. In the margins there is information about site access, reading material, maps and other nearby locations.
Letters: about 1 page of reader letters.
News: 2 pages of recent headlines.
Identification: a 4 page section either looking at single species or a closely related group. Recent examinations have covered Blyth's Pipit, Richard's Pipit, Tawny Pipit and Yellow-browed Warbler, Pallas's Warbler, Firecrest. The articles go into alot of detail and unless your are a keen birder will probably be rather dry reading. Myself I enjoy the article, which, includes photographs and diagrams with the most recent sightings if a rarity is being featured. They are a great extension to identification pages from a field guide which do not have room to carry enough detail on those SBJ's (Small Brown Jobs!).
In the frame: by nature photographer Steve Young, a single page feature supposedly about bird photography, but does sometimes go a little off topic...
Listcheck: Useful for the twitchers among us features updates on additions to the BOU's British List and also covers worldwide lists, a single page of the magazine.
Bill Oddie's birding quiz: It's okay, it's just a quiz and sudoku, sponsored by Oddie...
Well, they may not be part of the Regular contents but the themes are the same each month. They are:
Features: There are 3 articles in the mag under this general banner. The total length does vary in each between 6 and a dozen pages. Articles featured in recent editions have included Bird Atlas, the BTO's 4 year survey of birds (see www.bto.org/birdatlas/), London's local patch, about the Lee Valley and Life on the Ocean Wave a pelagic trip from Cornwall to the Bay of Biscay. Previous features include obvious topics of migration and epic journeys.
Reviews: Tucked away towards the back of the mag are the expected product reviews, which cover clothing, photographic lenses, tripods, scopes, binoculars, birding holidays, websites and book reviews. Each article is fairly brief in length and does not carry as much detail as other birding mags I can think of, the whole section is about 4-5 pages.
Reports: At the end of the magazine this section covers a dozen pages and consists of comprehensive reports of sightings of specific birds and regional reports. The specific sightings are very detailed accounts of what happened and often dramatize the difficulty of correct identification. The regional reports are broken down into areas; South-West and South-East, East Anglia and the Midlands, North East and North West, Scotland Wales, NI together, Republic Of Ireland and finally Western Paleartic.
Value for money
The cost is average for a magazine of this size, the paper is glossy and fairly good quality. The contents are informative and interesting and also topical. The amount of detail in some of them will turn-off some birders with a little less enthusiasm for the subject. The amount of adverts is also average. The photography throughout the magazine is very good.
There are some, firstly whilst the Where to watch birds article is good, there is an alternative magazine which features birding walks which would be a welcome extension here. Secondly the magazine is not widely available, most main branches of WHSmith stock it often tucked away on the bottom shelf, but you won't find it in your local Supermarket.
Why you should buy it
Well that's up to you of course, but it is worth pointing out to nature lovers and birders that the magazine has donated more than £49000 to worldwide conservation projects. That can't by a bad reason for buying the occasional copy can it now...