Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Austral-avian microcosm

I recently find this little gem in “my” local library. It’s a kind of Australian version of Heinzel-Fitter-Parslow, which in my opinion is a commendation.

Color plates and species presentations (including range maps) are on facing pages. The plates also show eggs, something I haven't seen in a bird guide before. Many petrels and share weathers are shown both in flying and nesting position. Presumably, you can use this guide even if you climb steep cliffs at offshore islands! The main drawback is the same as in Heinzel-Fitter-Parslow: many of the illustrations are rather small.

“The Slater Field Guide” (attributed to Peter Slater, Pat Slater and Raoul Slater) covers mainland Australia, Tasmania and other islands off the Australian coast, Ashmore Reef, Lord Howe Island, Norfolk Island, Christmas Island, Cocos-Keeling Islands, Saibai and Boigu (the two latter are popular among Australian bird-watchers due to their proximity to New Guinea and its unique avifauna). All these territories are ultimately controlled by the Commonwealth of Australia. The field guide doesn't cover Australian territories in the Antarctic region. Nor does it cover New Guinea or New Zealand, so the term “Australasian” in the book title could be somewhat confusing. It should simply say Australian!

Leafing through Slater-Slater-Slater was fascinating. Australia is a veritable microcosm of the bird universe. If you travel diligently across the island-continent, there's probably no bird you *won't* encounter at some point. Starlings, European Blackbirds and House Sparrows have been introduced. More local celebrities include Kookaburras and Currawongs. If you're lucky, you can see vagrant Adélie Penguins from Antarctica or Magellanic Penguins from the Falkland Islands (sic). If you're less lucky, you might run into a Cassowary or Ostrich! (Or a taipan, but that's another field guide.) And yes, the almost proverbial Black Swan lives free and wild down under…

I think SlaterX3 deserves five stars.

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