The Crossley ID Guide Britain and Ireland by Richard Crossley and Dominic Couzens 

Love a good book?

Love birds and birding?

What about some great illustrations of birds where they are meant to be?  

The reality that this new "field guide" is not really a field guide, rather it is a teaching resource! It will primarily serve 'newbies" to birding in so many ways but that's not to say the more experienced birders wont benefit from having a copy handy.  

You wont always see so many birds in the one spot as you will on the pages here, however you will enjoy working your way through the images on the pages as you come to terms with birds in all their guises. The introduction and how to use sections are helpful in explaining terminology in all it's forms and allow you to form your own opinion. At least you wont be left looking at images on the web and wondering what first cycle or juvenile, first or second winter mean! The book tries to work with the simplest explanations and this of course helps anyone learning anything!

The authors are two of the more respected people in todays birding world: Dominic Couzens as a contributor to the magazine Bird Watching in Britain, tour leader and a prolific wildlife writer and commentator to boot and the exiled (to the US) Richard Crossley whose other guides started the trend epitomised in the Crossley ID Guide series with the books Eastern Birds and Raptors being the first two published over there.

I've had the pleasure of working with Richard too as part of The Pledge to Fledge Team of which he is a founder and keen advocate. Pledge to Fledge is a global initiative inspiring seasoned birders to take a new person out birding (fledging) and s a big feature of Richard's life. The Crossley ID Guides are proving invaluable there too with their simplistic layout and form. This one surely will become very popular in Britain & Ireland as it as different as Roger Tory Peterson's ground breaking Peterson Identification System did in 1934 when he used such subtle features as arrows to point out what to look for in a bird in his new guides!

Unlike traditional guides with birds in the dreaded taxonomic order new birders will find the format easy to come to grips with. That is if you're standing by a lake, then look for swimming waterbirds or if the bird is in the bush behind you singing look under songbirds. Some birds will of course end up under the category of "it's not in my book" but if it's one of the common and likely birds to be seen then it is. The book shows "more than 300 regularly occurring species" so there is still some scope for finding one which isn't in the book! Sections include Waterbirds; Swimming, Flying and Walking. Landbirds; with Upland Gamebirds, Raptors, Miscellaneous Larger and Aerial Landbirds and of course Songbirds. Older birders will of course find this order as confusing as new birders find "standard taxonomic orders".

Having been in exile myself for nearly 40 years, one of the outstanding features of the guide is the scenes depicted on the plates. Images of rural Britain and Ireland are on every page and if you had the time it would be good to put a place name to a plate each time you look. See if you can find Flamborough Head for example. I'm not sure every page has an actual location but it's fun to try and find your own patch.

The overlying feature of the book is how to simplify what you are looking at. Keep it simple, look at browner younger gulls or brighter adult ones. What size are they? Are they in between and how does that fit with what you can see? Great stuff all around for the novice birder. Warning, do not attempt to figure out why every Buzzard looks different, that's a trap for older players with bigger books! 

If you read this in time, the Princeton University Press website has a live event with Richard and Dominic on Nov 21st, check for web broadcast times in your area.

Price wise too, it's a very handy baby tome with a good stocking filler price of around £16.00, ideal for Christmas as they say.