The Helm identification guides already have a name for excellence world-wide and there is little I can say to add to their fame except to stress the high quality of this book. The worst part of walking in the Pirin mountains Bulgaria late last summer was the number of pipits I failed to identify, partly this was because I had not brought the scope with me having dragged it all over the Rhodopi mountains a few weeks before and not used it once. However apart from being in the same country the two mountain ranges have little in common and the Pirin are all open spaces and thus full of Pipits.
However another part of the problem was simply that the birds are difficult. This new guide from Christopher Helm would have, and will, in India next summer, go a long way towards solving the problem. There is a great deal of information here, much of it beyond my ability to use as I am not a ringer and do not often have the birds in my hand. Those who are ringers, or who are working with museum specimens, will, I am sure be gratified by the detailed information presented here. Furthermore, for those with recording equipment, the detailed sonograms, with relevant information of recording settings, will be invaluable.
As an ecologist I was most pleasantly surprised by the intelligence of the author's approach to the species dilemma and the way they often discussed the taxonomic alternatives without pushing their own preferred ideas. As a bird watcher I am in love with the detailed analysis of identification points and the artistry of the illustrators, the 30 colour plates are magnificent, depicting every species and subspecies in side, back and front views that bring the birds alive. The very large number of high quality photographs showing birds in many postures is simply the cream on the cake. As a poet I was thrilled to find they stated the book with a poem by B.P. Hall.
Pipits and Wagtails are amazing birds, always active and fun to watch. This book with its in depth analyses of 13 subspecies of M. flava and 8 of M. alba and a lesser number of subspecies of other species, it descriptions of juvenile as well as adult and winter plumage, its delineation of moulting sequences and its colour coded distribution maps as well as its notes on ageing, breeding and ecology will give them new life for even the most experienced birder and will open new doors of amazement for the novice.