Working for birds in Africa

A Sound Guide to the Birds of North-West Africa

Sat, 22/12/2012 - 11:33 -- abc_admin
Jean C. Roché and Jerome Chevereau. CEBA Sound Guides. 71-minute CD with booklet in French and English. Available from Wildsounds, Cross Street, Salthouse, Norfolk NR25 7XH, UK.
page 82

This sound guide to birds of north-west Africa is a corrected and enlarged CD version of the gramophone records produced by Jean Roché in 1967. It covers 52 species, most of them typical of the Maghreb region, whilst a few that also occur in Spain (e.g. Dupont's Lark Chersophilus duponti, Rufous Bush Robin Cercotrichas galaclotes), but which could be thought of as being Maghrebian are included. The distinctive songs and calls of a number of north-west African forms of more widespread taxa, for example Blue Tit Parus caeruleus, Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs and Tawny Owl Strix aluco, have wisely also been included. It is, however, rather disappointing that it has not been possible to include recordings of Bald Ibis Geronticus eremita, Arabian Ardeotis arabs and Houbara Bustards Chlamydotis undulala and Algerian Nuthatch Sitta ledanti.

The recordings vary in length between 31 seconds for Marsh Owl Asio capensis and 2 minutes 24 seconds for that most evocative of desert species, the Hoopoe Lark Alaemom alaudipes. A five-minute introductory track records the sounds of Merzouga Lake. All recordings are of a high quality and a particular favourite of mine is the flock of thousands of migrating Pin-tailed Sandgrouse Pterocles alchata in the Dra Valley.

The accompanying booklet has both English and French text and includes brief notes on the species typical of the four basic climatic zones in the region, birds' adaptations to climate and variations in population size and annual invasions. The commentaries on the species recordings make interesting reading although I did find the number of typographical errors in the English translation distracting. A scattering of black-and-white illustrations add little and I would question the need for their inclusion here. This sound guide will be useful listening for anyone visiting the region.

Chris Bradshaw

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