Working for birds in Africa

Where to Watch Birds: World Cities

Fri, 12/21/2012 - 12:24 -- abc_admin
Paul Milne, 2006. London, UK: Christopher Helm. 496 pp, many line drawings and maps. Softback. ISBN 0–7136–6983–7. UK£16.99
pages 234 - 235

Written primarily for business travellers, tourists with a few hours to spare or birders in transit, this latest edition to the Christopher Helm Where to watch series provides information on sites in or around 61 cities. Unfortunately only six African cities are covered, compared to 20 in Europe and 16 in Asia. The opening chapters provide an overview of urban birding (including public parks, zoos, airports, golf courses, refuse tips, sewage lagoons and wetlands), useful tips (covering local birders, tour guides, internet resources, maps, renting cars etc.), how to use the book and a glossary of geographical features. Interestingly, the author has elected to use two different sources for nomenclature, the British Birds List of Birds of the Western Palearctic for that region and Birds of the World: A Checklist (Clements) for everywhere else. There are a number of other species for which Milne has used names not included in Clements, to recognise names in local usage or recent splits, and these are listed in 'How to Use This Book'. Several of these relate to the ABC region.

The bulk of the book comprises the individual city accounts. In Africa these are: Addis Ababa (seven pages, eight sites), Cairo (eight pages, six sites), Cape Town (eight pages, ten sites), Johannesburg and Pretoria (eight pages, ten sites), Kampala and Entebbe (six pages, eight sites), and Nairobi (15 pages, 14 sites). Given its prominence as a tourist location, it is perhaps a shame that Banjul was not included. Each city account includes a general introduction including details of how to get around and a list of typical species likely to be seen, individual site accounts incorporating directions, key species, for key sites a map, and lists of useful contacts, websites, books and publications. The site accounts start with those closest to the city centre and radiate out, the most distant areas being up to 90 km away. The city accounts have been refereed by the likes of Callan Cohen, Brian Finch and Derek Pomeroy, and provide a good overview of the best sites to visit.

Overall the book serves its purpose as an introduction to the best birding sites in and around major cities. However, from an African perspective I would still recommend that birders visiting Cape Town, Johannesburg and Kampala opt for more detailed guides such as Southern African Birdfinder (Cohen et al.) and Where to Watch Birds in Uganda (Rossouw & Sacchi).

Richard Webb

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