Tag Archives: Kindle

Raptors- specialist guides

A library for ornithologists…

 

Raptors

When I used to go regular ‘Birding’ in the 1980s and 90s, there were few specialist guides generally available on one of the most exciting groups of birds to be seen- Raptors, or birds of prey.

My pals and I were especially taken with one particular volume- there had never before been anything like Flight Identification of European Raptors by Porter, Willis, Christensen and Nielsen and there was nothing else like it being produced either. Most guidebooks showed their raptors sitting on a branch, but that wasn’t how we saw them. Walking the North Kent marshes, the reedbeds and floodplains of southern England or the East Anglia coastline, it was invariably a Merlin skimming low over the ground, a Sparrowhawk shadowing a murmuration of Starlings, a Hen or Marsh Harrier quartering the phragmites or the sudden appearance of a Peregrine that put a thousand waders to flight, that was how we saw our raptors. The monthly journal British Birds is to be congratulated for having persuaded the authors to produce a series of eight articles on the identification of European Raptors, which subsequently formed the basis for the first edition of this book.

Birdwatching on the North Kent Marshes in winter meant fervent hope that a Rough Legged Buzzard may have wandered over from Scandinavia. Flight Identification of European Raptors was invaluable for pulling these birds out of the more commonly encountered Buzzard

Birdwatching on the North Kent Marshes in winter meant fervent hope that a Rough Legged Buzzard may have wandered over from Scandinavia. Flight Identification of European Raptors was invaluable for pulling these birds out of the more commonly encountered Buzzard, especially with the considerable variations in plumage encountered with the latter species

All of the bird monographs produced by Poyser are excellent, but I especially like those they published on raptors. The volume on population ecology puts to bed the nonsense spouted by those who persecute birds of prey, either for taking Grouse on the shooting moors, or the many idiots who blame the reduction in song birds numbers in their garden on the resident Sparrowhawk.

The Raptors of Europe and The Middle East by Dick Forsman is a momentous stepping stone in the publishing of effective field identification guides. Still containing good information on each species, the book is beginning to show its age with the photographs included

The Raptors of Europe and The Middle East by Dick Forsman was a momentous stepping stone in the publishing of effective field identification guides. Still containing good information on each species, the book is beginning to show its age with the photographs included

Flight Identification of Raptors of Europe, North Africa and the Middle East by Dick Forsman

Flight Identification of Raptors of Europe, North Africa and the Middle East by Dick Forsman

In 1999, one of the leading raptor experts produced a new ‘definitive guide’. Dick Forsman included colour photographs in his The Raptors of Europe and the Middle East (above), a vast improvement on the fuzzy black and white photographs that accompanied the drawings in the previous book from Poyser, twenty-five years earlier. Forsman included a lot of perched birds, as well as in flight, in his book. Probably due to a lack of decent available sharp images.

Digital photography has changed everything though and seventeen years later, Forsman again approached the question of identification of raptors with his Flight Identification of Raptors of Europe, North Africa and the Middle East published as a Helm Identification Guide by Bloomsbury Publishing in 2016. This is a superb volume and, I believe for the first time, there is good coverage of sub-species too.

I never did get to Falsterbo or the Straits of Gibraltar to observe mass migration of birds over that narrow bit of sea but have continually missed having a decent flight I.D. guide to raptors every year when I holiday and walk on many of the islands in the Mediterranean and elsewhere. These various tomes are simply too heavy and bulky to cart along with me. Hence my moving slightly away from adding another volume to my bookshelf.

Three Points of the Compass purchased the Kindle edition of Dick Forsman's The Raptors of Europe, North Africa and the Middle East and uploaded to my android phone. This also offers the facility to zoom in on images

Three Points of the Compass purchased the Kindle edition of Dick Forsman’s The Raptors of Europe, North Africa and the Middle East and uploaded it to my android phone. This also offers the facility to zoom in on images

 

 

Books in featured image:

The Kestrel, Andrew Village. T & A.D. Poyser, 1990. ISBN 0 85661 054 2

The Sparrowhawk, Ian Newton. T & A.D Poyser, 1986. ISBN 0 85661 041 0

The Peregrine Falcon, Derek Ratcliffe. T & A.D. Poyser, second edition 1993, first published 1980. ISBN 0 85661 060 7

The Population Ecology of Raptors, Ian Newton. T & A.D. Poyser, 1979. ISBN 0 85661 023 2

The Raptors of Europe and The Middle East, A Handbook of Field Identification. Dick Forsman. T & A.D. Poyser, 1999. ISBN 085661 098 4

Flight Identification of European Raptors, R.F.Porter, Ian Willis, Steen Christensen, Bent Pors Nielsen. T & A.D. Poyser. Third edition reprint 1992, first published 1974. ISBN 0 85661 027 5

Wildflower Keys

A library for botanists…

Wild Flower Keys

A week ago, I had pulled a photographic guide to flora off my bookshelf to share with you. However for those who want to take step into botany proper, and identify with accuracy, not only botanical specimens, but possibly sub-species and variants too, a good wildflower key is required.

Pages from the Francis Rose- Wild Flower Key

Pages from the Francis Rose- Wild Flower Key

In The Flora of the British Isles Clapham, Tutin and Warburg (later Clapham , Tutin and Moore) produced one of the finest keys ever produced, the descriptions are excellent but knowledge of botanical terms is required to work the key otherwise this volume is virtually impenetrable. It is a large volume though and my copy has lost its dust jacket and some point in its life. More suited for field use is The Excursion Flora of the British Isles, again by Clapham, Tutin and Warburg. This has a reduced content but, again, knowledge of terms and descriptions is required. Every couple of years I have to reacquaint myself with them as I use the books too infrequently to consign the essentials to indelible memory.

Also good is ‘Stace’ as it is often simply referred to- The New Flora of the British Isles is a more up to date book than the two previous ones mentioned and Clive Stace covers all natives, all naturalised plants, all crop plants and all recurrent casuals- 2990 species and 197 extra subspecies are covered in full together with mention of a further 559 hybrids and 564 marginal species. No wonder I cannot consign much of this to memory. Mine is the original 1991 edition. Looking at the third edition (2010) it appears to have been considerably updated and now includes a revised taxonomy as result of recent DNA sequencing work. Put my ‘Stace’ and The Flora of the British Isles together though and there is no better combination of wild flower description available.

Then we come to ‘the daddy’- The Wild Flower Key by Francis Rose has almost 1400 species covered assisted by over 1050 illustrations. It is still a portable book, if not for hiking with, however I do struggle with the keys. That is completely due to my continual lapse of memory as to biological terms, give me a good couple of weeks though and I am back up to speed with this volume.

Nailing down just a few of those strange, green flowered, Spurges with the Francis Rose Wild Flower Key

Nailing down just a few of those strange, green flowered, Spurges with the Francis Rose Wild Flower Key

I do wish that there were a decent version of one of these books, or a similar, updated version, available as an ebook/Kindle purchase. Such an item, provided I could navigate through it well and easily, would be of immense use in the field.

Books shown in featured image:

The Flora of the British Isles, Clapham, Tutin and Warburg. Cambridge, 1952

The Excursion Flora of the British Isles, Clapham, Tutin and Warburg. Cambridge, 1959

The Wildflower Key, Francis Rose. Warne, 1981. ISBN 0-7232-2418-8

The New Flora of the British Isles, Stace. Cambridge, 1991. ISBN 0-521-42793-2

Older books in my natural history library

A Library…

Three Points of the Compass seldom carries any book, beyond a journal, when hiking. Instead I keep a small library at home; to be dipped into on a whim, or referred to when trying to nail down that ‘something’ seen, or in a vain attempt to educate my failing memory in the hope that I can identify with what I see on my travels. Any walk is vastly improved and enjoyed all the more when I can put a name to some of that around me, or at least understand the relationship, the ecology of the environment through which I am hiking.

Collins have periodically renewed and refreshed their most popular natural history books. I have certainly never purchased every one, but every few years am tempted to the shelves of the nearest Waterstones to buy the latest version of a favourite

Collins have periodically renewed and refreshed their most popular natural history books. I have certainly never purchased every one, but every few years am tempted to the shelves of the nearest Waterstones to buy the latest version of a favourite

I have always purchased books. I believe a fairly well stocked, carefully chosen, library of books on the natural sciences and the people who have helped define it, should be the aim of any inquisitive mind and especially anyone that hikes on a regular basis. Those shown at the top of this page are from ‘secondary’ shelves in my house. They are a small sample of those volumes that have been relegated off of my first division shelves that sit nearest my desk.

As a young lad I bought a number of the thin volumes in the Jarrold Nature Series. I never had a lot of money and would frequently buy one or two with the extra ‘holiday spending’ I would be given on family holidays. Far better spent on these little booklets than ice creams and fairground rides I felt. The Birds of the Mountains and Moorlands shown above (volume 4 in the Jarrold Bird Series) would have been bought when we visited some such area, I forget where, when I believed these would help me in my identification of the local wildlife.

I have little regard from where my books are obtained. I have purchased new, remaindered, second-hand (and third, fourth et al) volumes aplenty. I have scoured second hand shops, libraries selling off volumes, perused dealers typewritten catalogues and, increasingly, I turn to eBay and Amazon. There are virtual spaces on my shelves too, some books I have lent, never to be returned and only infrequently replaced.

The Caterpillars of the British Butterflies volume shown above was a companion to The Butterflies of the British Isles in the Wayside and Woodland Series published by Warne. It is a second hand copy, withdrawn from the Westminster Public Libraries and sold off by them in one of their periodic clear outs and would have already been very old when I got it. This reflects a particular period of my childhood when most weekends I went out from dawn til dusk (or until hunger struck) to scour the undergrowth of woods near my home, or go fishing in the little stream or local canal, watching dragonflies, Kingfishers, Water Boatmen or catching White Clawed Crayfish in a time before the American Signal Cray invaded our waters. Caterpillars, and a clump of whatever herb I found them on, were kept at home to see what wonder might emerge from the chrysalis.

A page from the AA/Readers Digest book- The Birds of Britain

A page from the AA/Readers Digest book- Book of British Birds

Collins were the publisher of many of the Field Guides I have purchased over the years. Some volumes reflect another era. I am almost ashamed to admit that, in common with most of my pals, we would go out ‘bird-nesting’- collecting birds eggs. I had stopped by my mid-teens and it never advanced further than the few eggs from songbirds. I am so thankful that oölogy lost its interest for me. I became far more interested in learning what came out of an egg rather than the ‘prize’ itself.

Instead, I learnt to stalk animals through the undergrowth and stream edges and went through a period of carting along packets of Plaster of Paris, purchased from the local chemists. I would make paper rings and, with the heavy contents of my rucksack, make impressions of tracks of deer, fox, badger and the great prize, water vole.

I have shown a couple of older Collins volumes in the featured image above, my shelves also groan under the weight of many a later edition, but as to getting rid of older volumes, the horror.

The Readers Digest Book of British Birds was read on many an evening when I was a boy. There were probably few bookshelves down our street that didn’t carry a copy of this particular volume with its superb painting of a glaring Tawny Owl on the front cover. I read how a roosting owl could be located by following up noisy parties of smaller birds such as Jays, Blackbirds and Chaffinches who would mob the predator. On probably hundreds of occasions I have dived into the neighbouring thick woodland, having heard the ruckus from within, in the hope of finding a roosting tawny owl, never once with any success. I still do on occasion…

The small volumes that formed the Observer's series have been much loved by generations

The small volumes that formed the Observer’s series have been much loved by generations, my own included, and available for pocket money too. Despite the huge number of titles available I never had more than a dozen or so of these little books

Other books on natural history on my shelves are a little more eclectic. I went through a phase of no more than a year or two where I determined to learn everything I could about slugs, snails and the shells on the beach, well, who wouldn’t!

Over the next few weeks I shall blog daily on just some of the books, or sets of volumes, that sit proudly on my shelves. Some are seldom pulled out, others can be left in situ for a year or two and then sit on my desk for a month or so to be reacquainted with. Others, are works of pure reference to be consulted when bafflement descends. One or two may be deemed a classic, whatever that is and I am sure that many reading this may shake their head in dismay over my woeful choice. These will not, in any way, be book reviews, simply a brief glance at some of my favourite volumes that frequently have and often continue to make my walking experience all the greater. There are many that have not made the cut, I will not be showing my lovely old, battered (and slightly smelly) set of The Handbook of British Birds by Witherby, Jourdain, Ticehurst and Tucker for instance. And just a slight tease, my definition of ‘Giants‘ will, no doubt, raise hackles in some readers.

 

Books shown in featured image:

The Caterpillars of the British Butterflies (including the Eggs, Chrysalids and Food-plants), R.South. Frederick Warne & Co. Ltd. 1944

The Pocket Guide to Wild Flowers, David McClintock and R.S.R.Fitter. Collins, 1956

A Field Guide to the Mammals of Britain and Europe, F.H.Van Den Brink. Collins, 1967

Collins Pocket Guide to Nests and Eggs, R.S.R.Fitter and R.A.Richardson. Collins, Reprinted revised edition, 1969 (First published 1954)

Book of British Birds, Readers Digest/AA, Second Edition 1974 (first published 1969)

Identification of the British Mollusca, Gordon E. Beedham. Hulton Group Keys. Pitman Press, 1972

Birds of the Mountains and Moorlands, text by Reg Jones. Jarrold, 1974

Power

“More power”

Jeremy Clarkson

While I am no Luddite, I have never tended to carry much in the way of electrical equipment with me on hikes. An ipod usually goes unlistened, camera battery is supplemented by a spare battery. I have broken more Kindles than I am happy with and until recently, a simple pay-as-you-go mobile has been sufficient to carry as emergency back-up, never required thankfully. I don’t carry a SPOT device but may reconsider this decision.

However I do realise that I am in a period of transition. I am looking at purchasing a new Android phone, I have my eye on a particular ruggedised one. While I will continue to put my faith in map and compass, I am certainly looking to also start using Viewranger or similar. The phone I am considering can be charged via mini USB.

Another small change I recently made was in choice of headlight. I now have the superb Black Diamond ReVolt. This can run on three AAA batteries, alternatively it can be recharged via mini USB as can the Kindle.

There is a pattern emerging, that of devices that can be charged via USB. It was time to look at power banks. The interesting Brunton Core doesn’t seem to have permeated the market sufficiently well to make it a viable option. Solar chargers just don’t cut it in the gloomy UK. Likewise, putting all my faith in a wood burning BioLite stove would be equally as daft.

I could have gone down the traditional route (traditional!) and simply purchased the latest, greatest external battery power bank, the Ankers seem to be what everyone is raving about. However these also need to be recharged at some point, there remaining the requirement to hook them up to someone’s plug point. Not something most tents come supplied with. So I remained on the lookout for an alternative.

That was when I came across an intriguing project on Kickstarter. Launched by German geniuses  eXelleron Inc. in January 2015, the Kraftwerk mini fuel cell looks as though it may provide what I am after. It converts lighter gas into electricity. Weight and size are easily comparable to battery packs. Kraftwerk weighs 160g empty and 200g full. It is filled in three seconds from one of the small lighter-gas cylinders you can buy in just about any supermarket and other shops. A single charge is advertised as providing enough power to charge an iphone 11 times. I have done the math and if I am right a charged Kraftwerk will provide enough power to recharge a 2600mAh 3.7v battery 5.8 times, optimum conditions I realise. Or in other words, an 8oz gas bottle providing 32.7 charges of the same battery. Enough to separate me from the grid for a while.

Each cell measures 3.94″ x 2.95″ x 1.18″ and has a single USB outlet. There are loads of other stats and I am sure that there will be faults that remove some of the gloss. Likewise, the next generations will also likely provide more power with more ports, but nonetheless, I am sufficiently intrigued by the project to have become a backer. Even though it means that I won’t get my own ‘Pioneers’ edition delivered until February 2016.

I am only one of over 10,000 backers, the project is funded so will proceed, there is only a week to go, I am just a tad excited…