Garden Birds and Wildlife by Mike Toms and Paul Sterry

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Garden Birds and Wildlife by Mike Toms and Paul Sterry

Category: Animals and Wildlife
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Magda Healey
Reviewed by Magda Healey
Summary: Excellent all-round guide to garden wildlife, with most attention paid to birds (and that includes tips for feeding, nest box dimensions guide and lots more) but decent coverage of everything from trees and shrubs to mammals and butterflies. Ideal present for anybody with a garden and even a slightest interest in living things.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 224 Date: October 2008
Publisher: Automobile Association
ISBN: 978-0749559120

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Garden Birds & Wildlife has been created and published under the auspices of British Trust for Ornithology (though the actual publisher is, possibly in the spirit of penance for damage inflicted on wildlife by the motorcar, the AA). Accordingly, the main focus of the guide is, indeed, on birds. It contains a wealth of information: from birdwatching to bird biology and behaviour, including visual guides to eggs and nests; practical tips and guides to bird watching, feeding (what, how and where), creating a bird-and-wildlife- friendly garden and building nest boxes; it's all there, with copious illustrations, clear text and more interesting or practically relevant facts and tips in separate insert boxes.

There is an 'identity parade' which makes identifying a just-spotted creature easier, and then each bird species is covered in quite a bit of detail: a double page spread is devoted to photos and a description of feeding, breeding and social behaviour, with neat 'birdfacts' summarising the most important info and a map showing the reach of the species in the British Isles. The ethological information is particularly interesting and will help the readers to not only identify the species but understand what and why the birds are doing at a given time.

The designation of 'garden' birds is also rather modest (or perhaps some British 'gardens' are rather grand), as what seems to me like a majority of species is covered, with a special section on 'out of the ordinary', rarer visitors to gardens which includes buzzard, red kite and mallard duck among others.

What particularly attracted me to the Garden Birds & Wildlife was that it covers much more than just birds. In all honesty, I am not by any means a bird lover, and don't share the particular fascination the British seem to have with all creatures avian (for the record, I like trees and mammals best). I probably would not buy a fairly lavish book on birds alone, but this guide covers other garden animals, from trees, shrubs and wild flowers to pond dwellers, butterflies and mammals. It's not as extensive a coverage as birds' but they are there, with a photo as the means of identification and a short description. Thanks to Garden Birds & Wildlife, my ability to name living things in English is, for the first time, starting to exceed my native Polish vocabulary in this area!

The guide is eminently usable thanks to its clear, well thought out layout, accessible and informative text and many illustrations. It's a large book, leaning towards a coffee table rather than pocket size (perhaps a field version is called for?), but not as hefty as to make it impossible to hold in hands (at least for a while).

I would have liked to see a list of all bird species covered (they are listed according to their position in scientific classification system). There is a alphabetical index, of course, which is a necessary thing, but I am simply after a more detailed table of content for the species' accounts section (page references included in the 'identity parade' would in fact do just fine). This is not an important niggle, though, as anybody actually using the book will familiarise themselves with the order of entries quite quickly.

Highly, highly recommended, especially for those who don't have any wildlife books - yet.

The review copy was sent to the Bookbag by the publisher - thank you!

We weren't as impressed by Will Work for Nuts by Matthew Cole but it might appeal if you're looking for a little animal magic in the garden.

Buy Garden Birds and Wildlife by Mike Toms and Paul Sterry at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Garden Birds and Wildlife by Mike Toms and Paul Sterry at

Buy Garden Birds and Wildlife by Mike Toms and Paul Sterry at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Garden Birds and Wildlife by Mike Toms and Paul Sterry at


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