I’m the first to admit that I’m very keen on birds… and that perhaps my bias is reflected at times, both here and on the Ireland’s Wildlife page on Facebook. I’ve been a birder since I first picked up a pair of binoculars more than 30 years ago, and while I have a profound fascination for all things wild, birds will always have a special place in my ever evolving relationship with nature.
For an aviphile like me then, “Freshwater Birds of Ireland” by Jim Wilsons and Ireland’s Wildlife Facebook regular Mark Carmody is an absolute delight. Published by Collins Press, it offers a visually stunning feast from cover to cover.
Barring a few exclusively marine species with adaptations to cope in a saltwater environment, pretty much all of the world’s birds make the regular pilgrimage to fresh water. Here in Ireland our varied freshwater habitats attract a diverse array of bird species numbering into the hundreds. With the possible exception of remote coastal headlands at the height of the spring and autumn migration, these habitats offer perhaps the most exciting and accessible birding Ireland has to offer for beginners and experts alike.
They are, in short, as much of a Mecca for birders as they are for the birds themselves. In this follow-up to their debut partnership on “Shorebirds of Ireland”, Jim Wilson and Mark Carmody manage to capture that beautifully.
Firstly, to avoid potential confusion, let me point out that this is not a field guide. It’s not a book you’re likely to tote along to your local wetland to help identify the birds you see there. This is a book to enjoy at home, to browse through at leisure, to be picked up again and again. It offers insight into the various habitats and the birds that live there. So while it’s not an identification aid, it will almost certainly enhance your understanding of freshwater birds and where they live, which will in turn improve your birding experience the next time you find yourself in a freshwater habitat.
The text , to Jim Wilson’s credit, is written in plain English with a broad audience in mind. It’s clear, concise and, with the possible exception of the occasional clunky paragraph, is easy and enjoyable to read. It’s also impeccably researched, and reveals some astonishing facts about what you might think are familiar birds.
Take the shoveler, for example: did you know that this extraordinary duck is so efficient at feeding on high-energy zooplankton that it can increase its bodyweight by up to 10% per day in the right conditions? I certainly didn’t – and that’s not a fact you’re likely to encounter in your average field guide.
The species profiles are full of these interesting titbits. They cover a wide selection of species spanning the major groups of birds that occur on, in and around fresh water in Ireland. From swans, geese and ducks through grebes, herons and rails to the warblers, finches and buntings that frequent the waters edge, you’ll find all kinds of birds covered with equal diligence and attention to detail.
As I mentioned earlier, this is a visually stunning book, and it’s the photography that really makes this volume stand out. Pin-sharp and wonderfully exposed for the most part, you’d be hard pressed to find a more visually compelling collection of freshwater bird photographs. More than just portraits, they complement the text perfectly, illustrating the behavioural traits and features of the birds, often in exquisite detail.
“Freshwater Birds of Ireland” is a great read, that offers real insight into freshwater birds and their environment – but it’s also a book that you’ll pick up again and again just to look at the pictures.
”Freshwater Birds of Ireland” by Jim Wilson and Mark Carmody is published by Collins Press. You can buy it online using the links below, or… pardon the cliché… you’ll find it in all good bookshops.
|Freshwater Birds of Ireland
Jim Wilson, Mark Carmody