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About this book
About this book
Aotearoa New Zealand has a diverse range of bird species but is especially renowned for its seabirds. Fifteen of the world's 18 penguin species have been recorded in the New Zealand region. Nine of these species breed here. Of petrels, 40 of the world's 127 species breed in the New Zealand region, some on the mainland or nearby islands where they can be seen with ease, and many more are throughout the Southern Ocean. Twelve of the world's 21 albatross species nest in New Zealand and of those seven do not nest elsewhere. As well as these specific species, the book covers 50 sites on the North and South Islands, Rakiura/Stewart Island and Rēkohu/Chatham Islands that are best for birdwatching. Detailed descriptions of each site cover the terrain, tracks and trails where certain species are likely to be encountered. Particular species for each site are highlighted. A fact file for each site lists land or sea access; type of habitat, best time to visit, facilities and accommodation. Key species checklists are provided for each site and particular ones are highlighted with detailed summaries. The second edition is fully updated by Oscar Thomas with 90 new photographs and with three new sites.
Customer Reviews (1)
Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne
17 Jun 2020
Written for Paperback
This is an attractively and thoughtfully constructed site guide. It has a number of departures from the standard site guides which can be dry and feel more like a book of instructions. The core of the book comprises the 50 sites (pages 58-217) which are divided into a North Island and South Island section with a map with the sites marked preceding each section. The site descriptions follow a standard format, but an innovation in this book is that there is at least one page devoted to a character portrait of two species with photographs of the two species. Occasionally there may be an additional text box on an iconic bird. For example, the opening section for South Island has a little vignette on the 11,000 km journey which Bar-tailed Godwits undertake in an astonishingly short nine days to nest in Alaska. This is suggested as a metaphor for young New Zealanders who often travel a lot but eventually return.
The front sections of the book also depart from conventional site guides by having a large number of pages devoted to background information. A generous number of pages (pages 17-56) describe the ‘Modern Bird Families of New Zealand’ which as expected covers albatrosses, shearwaters and other seabirds which are a great draw for birders visiting New Zealand. At least a further five pages are devoted to discussing seabirds and where to see them and New Zealand is referred to as the seabird capital of the world. The bird families also highlight the many endemics found in New Zealand; in some cases the entire family is endemic. There is also information on habitats and threats. All of this background information is useful not only to birders but also to people with a general interest in natural history who may not be travelling with a bird field guide but are interested in learning a little more about New Zealand’s special birds.
One of the strengths of the site guide section is that there are good images of the sites, typically at least two, so that one knows what to expect. Surprisingly, lack of good images of sites is usually the weakness with site guides. Having written and photographed for site guides myself, I know only too well that author-photographers are often too preoccupied with using long lenses or macro lenses and don’t take the landscape images using wide-angle lenses which are needed for site guides. The site guide sections follow a standard format with a tall text box covering the Key Facts which encompass the logistics details such as how to get there, habitats, best time to visit, facilities, useful websites, etc. Sometimes accommodation is covered in an additional text box. Key species are also shown within a text box. This leaves the rest of the site section to introduce the site in a broader sense followed by a discussion on the tracks and walks. There are many attractive images of the birds found at a site.
Some of the descriptions are evocative ‘….Kaikoura is a beautiful little town hemmed in-between snowy mountains and deep blue ocean…’. Every site account has snippets of information. For example, in the section on Kaikoura for Pelagic birds, we learn that Hutton’s Shearwater is the only seabird to breed in an alpine environment. This book will vet the appetite of both visitors and residents to discover New Zealand’s wild places.
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Liz Light was an Auckland-based travel writer and photographer. She travelled extensively but it was New Zealand, her homeland, that held her heart. She utterly loved its splendid scenery, and its open, new-world attitudes and ambience. Liz won numerous awards for both her writing and photography.
Oscar Thomas spent his high school years volunteering for conservation organizations, advocating and raising awareness of New Zealand's unique wildlife, and travelling the country in search of as many different birds as he could observe and photograph. Born in Auckland, New Zealand, he is now studying Ecology and Zoology at the University of Otago.
220 pages, 200 colour photos, 5 colour maps
Review of the first edition:
"[...] While a good introduction to New Zealand birds, and a gazetteer of many of the most well-known birding sites and how to get to them, the book does need to be accompanied by a comprehensive field guide for more hardened birders. Supplementary location information would also need to be sourced for the larger sites although the book does provide several potential sources in the relevant site descriptions. However, these comments do not detract from a book selling the wonder of New Zealand’s unique birds and describing some of its most iconic locations for birding."
– Jon Coleman, Ibis, August 2020