Don't be taken in by the suggestion that Morcombe's Field Guide is "good".
It is worthwhile I suppose to keep in your library, as it has good although
some what artistic illustrations but as a Field Guide it is not, it is too
big and too heavy and you would leave it in your library or in the car if
you were going out birding. As far as a field guides go that you can carry
into the field, that fits in your pocket and has similar species alongside
each other in the illustrations, you cannot go past "Slaters Field Guide to
Australian Birds" and it is easy to obtain as most bookstores carry it.
Last year I reviewed Morcombes "Pocket Field Guide", which I have copied
below. The Review was published in the April 2005 edition of "the "Birding
Lloyd Neilsen has recently had published a book on where to find birds in
Australia. It is the most up to date of such publications and you can search
the archives of Birding-aus to find out more about it.
Michael Morcombe's "Field Guide to Australian Birds, Complete Compact
Edition. Steve Parish Puplications. 800 species, 3000+ illustrations,
graduated colour distribution maps, 386 pp, $38.95 recommended retail price.
Throughout the world bird "field guides" are recognised to be small, compact
books, that you can easily carry with you into the field, with coloured
illustrations of birds, with similar species often placed together to aid
identfication and with a distribution map placed on the same page as the
limited text and illustration of each bird. In Australia, only one book
previously qualified as a "field guide', being the Slaters' Field Guide as
the others (Pizzey's, Simpson & Day's & Morcombe's), because of their bulk
and layout really are "glove box guides". With this book, Steve Parish
publications has attempted to compete with the Slaters' Field guide by
providing a "handy pocket-size format" compact field guide in late 2004.
However the information contained in this Field Guide as pertains to NSW
appears to be updated until about 1998, whereas the other Australian Field
Guides are much more up to date with their information that this.
Compared to Slaters' Field Guide (11.5 x 21.5 cm, weighing 580 gms),
Morcombe's weighs in at 625 gms and is 11 x 23 cm, and is therefore thicker
& longer. One would need a bigger and longer pocket when carrying it in the
field! Generally only two species are dealt with per page in this book so
that more illustrations of various plumages & morphs are provided. For each
similar group of birds there is a page(s) devoted to displaying them side by
side. There are plenty of underwing patterns illustrated for species and
groups of species and I was impressed by the quality of the multiple
illustrations that show the various plumage stages for each species.. It
will be interesting to see if the system used for illustrating the birds in
this way will stand up in time to the standard set by UK & USA field guides
as used in the Slater Field Guide. Colours and bird size and shape all seem
to be correct. As the details are dated to 1998, the Brown Falcon colour
phases are still shown to be colour morphs rather than the age and sex
differences as described in the journal The Emu in 2003.
I was disappointed to see that some species seen in NSW since 1998 are not
mentioned in the Field Guide viz Garganey, Northern Pintail, recent records
of the Northern Shoveler, Pied Heron (4 records), Kentish Plover, Red-footed
Booby (3 records), Tristram's Storm-Petrel, Black-backed Wagtail, Yellow
Wagtail (many), and the only Lesser Yellowlegs mentioned is an unconfirmed
record for somewhere on the far South Coast and the 2001 confirmed record
for the Hunter Region is not there. Then there are some problems with the
maps. Most are OK but the Lesser Sand Plover with only one inland record is
shown to be well distributed in inland NSW; the Lesser Frigate-bird, with 40
records up to 2002, according to the map only occurs in the far north east
of the State, whereas it has been recorded as far south as Jervis Bay; there
are only 3 inland records of the Black Bittern in NSW, and even then 2 of
them are spurious, but the map would indicate that they could be expected on
the western tablelands and slopes of NSW etc. There are other errors and I
have list if anyone is interested.
Overall, I consider that this new compact field guide is competively priced
and it is well illustrated although checking for similar species can be a
bit fiddly. However it is slightly bigger and heavier than the current
competition and this may tell against its sales in the long run. Alan Morris
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