This multi-authored manual aims to help improve the standard of European bird monitoring schemes by providing a summary of monitoring principles and examples of existing schemes. It is the work of 20 experts from seven countries across Europe (six from UK organizations such as RSPB, five from the Czech Republic and three from Spain, but with no listed contributors from Scandinavia, France, Greece, Italy or Germany). After a short introduction describing the scope of the book comes a chapter explaining why monitoring birds is important. Many fundamental questions are raised, and these range from how to `manage' fieldworkers to how to deliver the end results (not all questions are answered fully, of course). We are told about how to proceed with a pilot study and how to avoid `planning paralysis' - never actually getting around to doing anything!
Chapter 3 (`Counting common birds') has excellent sections on accuracy and precision, sampling, transects and point counts, and many other aspects of survey design, along with enlightening case studies squeezed cleverly into 60 pages. In fact, it contains much of the core of this guide and will be a great help to ornithologists across the world. Common and widespread species counted by volunteers over large areas are the stuff of this book, so the chapter title is entirely appropriate, but for me it begged the question `what about rare birds?' or, more precisely, what about those species that fall between the stools of `common and easy to count' and `so rare that they get special attention'? I found little on how to adapt methods for rarer or patchily distributed species, or how to decide when encounter rates with a species are so low that one needs to switch from one survey method to another. More attention to these issues might be a useful addition to a second edition. Chapter 4 then deals well with data analysis using the TRIM software (I wondered why discussion was restricted to this tool), followed by chapters on using survey results and the Pan-European Common Birds Monitoring Scheme (PECBMS).
I really liked this book, how much it punched above its weight (a mere 200 g!), and especially its boldness. I might have imagined that a manual on European bird monitoring would be quite `safe' - containing only those obvious pieces of information upon which all parties agreed. Of course, this small book doesn't offer all the answers [in Chapter 3 we are advised to `Aim high (but not too high!)'] but, as Vorisek and Gregory emphasize in the Introduction, this is the first stab at a book of this kind and, in time, improvements will be made. If there were 40 extra pages in this first edition, they might focus on two issues. First, and already said, there would be more on how best to tackle `difficult-to-survey species'. Secondly, in several places in the book we are told of the importance of collecting `ancillary data' on habitat, land use, weather, etc., to allow the reasons behind population changes to be identified, yet there is little detailed comment on this important aspect of bird monitoring. Nevertheless, the authors are to be commended on an impressive first attempt and there is hope that this book will go a long way to making the `whole' of bird monitoring in Europe greater than the sum of its national parts.
Stuart Marsden, IBIS