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There are many guide books showing where to watch birds in Britain, but very few describe sites in either Northern Ireland or Eire. This is an understandable omission but for many people living in Scotland, Wales and North West England, the shores of Ireland are closer to home than is London.
'Where to Watch Birds in Britain and Ireland' redresses the balance, with thirty eight sites across the whole of Ireland described and the wonderful birds that they hold revealed for people interested in visiting these two countries.
Overall, the book covers over 300 birdwatching sites across the UK and Ireland including far flung places such as the Scilly and Shetland Isles. Packed into its 176 pages is a huge amount of information on how to get to these places, and what to see once there.
With 300 sites covered in less than 200 pages, it's obvious that the site guides are not going to be the most comprehensive ever written. This is not the point of the book, however. The book's aim is to give the reader all of the pertinent information on the best birdwatching sites in the area to help select places to visit, rather than a hide by hide guide of each nature reserve.
The book is separated into sections covering regions of the UK and Eire; South East England, Scotland, the Midlands etc. Each section starts with a map with all of the sites located and numbered on it. This excellent feature allows sites to be selected on location first of all.
Each site is then given a brief description. Although brief, the information given is fairly comprehensive and covers the key birds to be seen and when to see them. Access information, any site facilities, and a summary of the type and size of habitat found there is also shown. The access information includes details of relevant OS maps and coordinates.
There are a few sites given a more extensive treatment such as the RSPB Reserve at Leighton Moss in Lancashire, and the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust's Slimbridge Reserve. These are large, popular reserves and the extra information given is useful.
Guides like this can become outdated as the species the sites hold change, access details are modified, and new facilities made available. They can also suffer from the author knowing very little about the sites and including erroneous information. Having reviewed many of the sites in this book that I know well, it appears that the information given is very accurate. This edition was published in March 2006, so should still be well up to date.
At the back of the book is a species index. Birdwatchers looking to find a specific bird, golden eagle for example, can turn here and look for sites where these birds are found: a very useful feature.
Some potential buyers might be put off this book by its lack of comprehensive coverage (and there are more extensive site guides available). This book, however, succeeds brilliantly at what it is trying to do which is to give the birdwatcher a guide to many of the great birdwatching sites across the UK and Eire.
To get all of the information contained in this book elsewhere, at least two books would be needed. This makes this volume excellent value for money particularly when it's available from Amazon for only £7.99.
Finally, the book is published in conjunction with the Wildlife Trusts; a charity which aims to protect our countryside and wildlife for future generations to enjoy. Presumably, some of the profits of this book go to the Wildlife Trusts which gives another good reason for buying it.