In 1999, a few comments were made about Chris Doughty's book "Birds of the
Solomons, Vanuatu & New Caledonia", illustrated by Nicolas Day and Andrew
Plant. At that time there was very little discussion on the book (as
opposed to the discussion when Morecombe released his new Field guide). The
reasons for this lack of discussion would be many.
I lived in Honiara for six years in the 1970s and went birding almost every
day. I also had access to papers written by such people as Mayr, Diamond,
Cain, Galbraith, Wolff, Bradley who had studied the avifauna of parts of the
Solomons. I had personally spoken to at least two of these researchers and
had quizzed them on a number of matters.
In February this year, Deb Everist asked about obtaining a copy of this
guide. I did not have a copy either, so set about obtaining one. My copy
arrived on Thursday and I have been examining it in conjunction with Mayr, a
small guide published by the scouts in Honiara in 1973 and my notes. For
the benefit of anyone contemplating a trip to the Solomons and using this
field guide as their source of identification, I feel obliged to make some
comments. I make these in the knowledge that some changes may have occurred
during the 20 year period since I left the islands but the historical
knowledge base has remained.
Firstly the illustrations. Some of these have colours that would prevent
identification. This may have been printing errors. A number of
illustrations have me scratching my head. They are illustrations of birds I
saw on a daily basis but even after studying them over the last two days,
they are still unrecognisable. Graduations of colour seem to be lacking in
many of the illustrations with cut offs of colour being shown instead.
Detail which aids in the id of many species is not of the required level.
There are many errors of fact regarding the status of birds. I will not go
into detail on this forum.
The distribution is wrong in many cases (I have no proof that many of the
historical - to 1979 - sightings are of birds that still remain in the areas
but if they don't, we have a problem of extinctions greater than in any
other part of the world.)
After my comments, many will think I would not recommend the book at all.
This is not correct. At least the author has provided us with something
that has been lacking. It is quite usable as long as the distribution and
status reports are taken as a rough guide only. The difficulties with the
illustrations can also be overcome.
I guess the above refers to most field guides but I hope a more carefully
researched guide to the area is released soon. I accept that I am leaving
myself open to the attack, "Why don't you do better yourself?". I admit
that I could not. We all have different levels of talent in differing areas
and mine is certainly not in the area of producing field guides. This does
not mean that I cannot level legitimate criticism.
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