Below are reviews for products that British Garden Birds has been occasionally asked to do.
Reviewed August 2007
There are 3 essential items that a birder should not be without: binoculars, field guide and a notebook. All are very personal choices but the latter more so, with people choosing notebooks of different size, feint ruled or plain, and using them to make either lists of birds or detailed observational notes. Alas, my preferred notebook for noting the species seen and occasionally making a sketch is a policeman’s notebook, but these have become increasingly difficult to purchase and disappointingly less robust for fieldwork. The Birder’s Pocket Logbook is advertised as being the essential handy pocket size logbook designed by birders for birders. But is it?
Within the luxurious dark green covers, this 9cm x 14cm notebook has 160 pages for keeping field trip notes. First, there are 50 double pages to record the details of the trip including location, date and time. I would have also liked provision for noting the weather too, but that’s being pernickety. Towards the back of the notebook there are additional pages, including blank pages, for more detailed notes, sketches, etc. A nice touch is that all the pages have rounded corners so they shouldn’t become too dog-eared.
There is a British Bird List for recording your life, year and local patch lists, or whatever other lists you want. Thankfully, although the list reflects the recent changes to the taxonomy of birds, such as Cyanistes caeruleus instead of Parus caeruleus, the popular English names have been kept.
Other pages include useful information on the main bird parts and feather tracts, bird watching code of conduct, bird magazines and popular bird books, though one could argue these pages would have been better used for additional field trip notes.
My policeman’s notebook has a very useful elasticated divider to stop pages flapping about and the Birder’s Pocket Logbook does too. This is perhaps where I have too high an expectation for notebooks, because I would like them to have two dividers so that neither the pages at the back or the front flap about. Anyhow, this minor dilemma is easily solved by recycling one of the many red rubber bands that are discarded by postmen. Another feature that is missing is a holder for a pen or pencil, either down the spine or along the opening edge of the rear cover. This is perhaps understandable, however, in that pens and pencils come in all sizes.
The logbook is described as being tough and hardwearing – this will be tested only after it has been used for several months in all weathers, but it does appear very well-made.
So, at £8.50, is it worth having? Brushing aside my quibbles, this is a fabulous, little logbook for birders out in the field and it will be replacing my policeman’s notebook.
Buy Birder's Pocket Logbook from Amazon
Reviewed February 2009
The nest box is delivered already assembled and is made from 15mm thick timber, which the web site states is from FSC Forests, which are responsible sources that support the conservation of forests and wildlife and help people lead better lives. The box is robust and very well finished; for example, there are no splinters to get in your fingers and it is attractively stained on the outside only, which reduces the risk of any harm coming to the birds, although the web site states that this is bird-friendly wood stain.
With all the connections made, power turned on and the TV tuned to the “Ext” channel, an image of the inside of the box appears on the screen. In bright daylight, illumination levels are sufficient for the colour camera to produce a clear, colour image.
When light levels fall, the camera switches automatically to infra-red mode and illuminates the box with a set of infra-red LEDs (light-emitting diodes) situated around the camera lens. Although the images will appear as black-and-white, it does allow you to watch the goings on in the box all day long. Further, unlike systems that use “white light” for illumination, infra-red is invisible to most animals, so it isn’t going to disturb the birds and neither is the light escaping through the nest box hole going to attract predators.
Would I buy one? Definitely, at its current price it offers extremely good value for money and could provide you with a fascinating new experience, watching birds rear their young. Read the full review... (Adobe PDF)
Buy from Bird Box Cameras
Reviewed March 2009
The Birdwatcher's Pocket Guide to Britain and Europe will be published on 6th April 2009, and is the result of collaboration between the renowned ornithologists Peter Hayman and Rob Hume.
This hardback guide has 320 pages, the majority of these covering the 430 species of birds that live in or regularly visit Britain and the rest of Europe, the remainder including a guide to parts of the bird, contents and index. Further, its claim to being pocket-sized is right, fitting into either my shirt, jacket or trouser pockets.
As you flick through the guide it is easy to dismiss the relatively small illustrations, but these really do deserve closer scrutiny – the detail in each one is tremendous. Peter Hayman’s superb paintings are based on many hours’ research and have ultimately captured the essence of each species, showing the different sexes and ages, winter and breeding plumages, and also birds at rest and flight, and comparison with confusion species.
Accompanying the many pictures, annotations highlight key identification features. The typical habitat of each species is shown using symbols, some are obvious while others will become more so with use. Underneath the pictures, short and snappy text provides further guidance, including notes on discriminating between confusion species, and descriptions of their songs and calls.
Unlike older books, the birds do not appear in the well-known order, starting with Divers, instead they follow that of the latest systematic list, which lists Swans first; this may or may not be to everyone’s taste, but it’s something we shall have to get used to. The list is broken down into families, each prefaced by a general introduction to the species that includes a stunning two-page photograph.
Past editions did not include the scientific names, or sizes and weights of the birds but, after listening to feedback from birdwatchers, this edition does. The omission of distribution maps, which would assist in identifying the most likely species in a region, has also been a complaint in the past, and could remain so as the authors decided to continue to exclude maps in preference for illustrations of birds.
In conclusion, the authors have pulled off something special – the task of deciding what to include is one of compromise and an unenviable one at that, but overall they’ve got it right. If you travel around Europe this is the bird guide to have in your pocket.
Buy The Birdwatcher's Pocket Guide to Britain and Europe from Amazon
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