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Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Product Review: Best Birdwatching Sites: North-East England

Well what an exciting day it turned out to be. Firstly I received an outstanding Osprey ageing and sexing article written by John Wright for the latest Birdwatching magazine and then the latest offering from Buckingham Press dropped on my desk - the late Brian Unwin's Best Birdwatching Sites: North-East England.

This Site Guide is the latest addition to the Best Birdwatching Sites series and is the largest yet produced, perhaps reflecting the wealth of knowledge author Brian Unwin had in all parts of Northumberland, County Durham and Cleveland (incidentally the geographic region covered by the book). Sadly Brian, a founder member of the Durham Bird Club, a long-time journalist and a friend of mine for over 30 years, died in December 2011 after a long battle with cancer, before completing the manuscript. It was left to Brian's good friend Ian Kerr and John Miles to stitch the work together for publication.

Brian used to frequently enthuse about his local birding sites when I was on the phone to him and he would often 'tip' me off about a little-known site, both for scarce passage migrants and localised butterflies. He had an excellent knowledge of the area and this soon comes through in the thoroughness this book entails. It has up-to-date information on no less than 17 sites in Cleveland, 37 in County Durham and 42 in Northumberland, with useful birding tips for each location, over 100 detailed and easy-to-read and understand maps and target birds to find and see at relevant times of the year.

Although in small format, it runs to an astonishing 308 pages and is well produced and aesthetically pleasing. It is crammed full of very useful information for the region, even going in to detail about public transport options to sites and those evaluated for wheelchair access. All of the key seawatching sites are highlighted and from pages 20 through to 26, one can plan your itinerary and diary with a detailed overview of what birds are to be found each month and the best sites in which to see them.

Undoubtedly one of the best regional site guides I have seen and testament to Brian's obsession for detail and accuracy. An essential purchase for anyone resident or frequently visiting, crammed full of exciting locations to explore and check out, particularly at migration times. In fact, I hope to test it out tomorrow when visiting the area to twitch the first-ever Stilt Sandpiper in the region.

The book is available from Buckingham Press Ltd at a cost of £17.95

Buckingham Press Ltd, 55 Thorpe Park Road, Peterborough, PE3 6LJ

Lee G R Evans
British Birding Association/UK400 Club