Working for birds in Africa

A Birdwatchers' Guide to the Canary Islands

Sat, 12/29/2012 - 13:16 -- abc_admin
Tony Clarke and David Collins. 1996. Prion Ltd., Perry. 110 pages, 15 line drawings, 48 maps.
page 141

The Canary Islands are ideal for this type of book: the area covered is relatively small, the species list, although short, includes several 'must see species' found in a selection of well defined sites. Does this guide live up to expectations? The bulk of the book deals with the different islands and their most important sites, as well as several minor ones. Thus, Tenerife, the prime island for birding, is covered in 25 pages and 37 sites. Each site is covered by a clear, lucid and easily understood map, largely guiding you to the site in question, but sometimes giving details of the site itself. A minor flaw is that not all maps are shown with north facing upwards. Thus, I was initially confused by the Punta de la Rasca map, which appeared as if it was on the north coast (whereas it is on the Tenerife south coast). Consequently, this map does not recreate the 'feeling' of this great site. The usually short but adequate text chiefly deals with how to get to the site and strategy once there, what time of day and year is preferable, where to walk, to look out for golf balls etc. Birds of special interest are listed and details are given of how to find the more difficult or essential ones. Thus, the book could be characterised as 'rather brief texts but a wealth of localities'. Given the detailed and accurate maps, this is entirely satisfactory. Following the main section, there is a chapter on Selected Bird Species, which gives perspicuous data concerning abundance and on which islands the species in question is found. This is a short and informative summary of the islands essential avifauna. However, I would have wished that the main sites for species such as Blue Chaffinch Fringilla teydea, Canary Islands Chat Saxicola dacotiae and the pigeons were listed in detail, to aid the planning of a trip. Although it could easily be argued that a successful visit requires reading through all of the 110 pages of this booklet, such a list would be handy. A full species list, giving details of abundance and seasonal occurrence of all 350 birds recorded on the islands, together with lists of mammals, dragonflies, reptiles, amphibians and butterflies end the book. Introductory paragraphs deal with visa, currency, car hire and similar phenomena, which are generally better treated in other fora. However, the paragraph on the Los Christianos-Gomera ferry, essential for seawatchers, is worthwhile, although the addition of a telephone or fax number would have been appreciated. I have found some of the titles in the Birdwatchers' Guides series 'adequate'. The Canary Islands volume, however, deserves the greatest praise. Although there are a lot of privately published Canary birding reports around, it would be inadvisable for anyone to visit these fascinating islands without Tony Clarke and David Collins' book. Nice line drawings by Phil Jones cover most of the Canary specialities. The chat drawing is actually excellent!

Magnus Ullman

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