Sunday, 28 June 2009

Australian Field Guides

I had picked up Ken Simpson and Nicholas Day’s book, in its green-jacketed incarnation, on my 2003 visit to New South Wales. I loved it but, boy, was it bulky and heavy, even as a paperback. It carries sections you don't need in the field. I had used it and Graham Pizzey to research and plan the trip back in the UK and thought that, with Australia’s huge avifauna, no countrywide book could be compact enough.

Field guides also show their age, especially in a place as underwatched as Australia. Birds move around. So, I was looking for parrots in Perth and not finding them until I happened on rainbow lorikeets, whose distribution is east, north and south but definitely not west. They fitted the colour scheme, still swooping across the square in front of me – blue head, green upperparts, red under and blue vent. I couldn't turn these birds into female or juvenile plumages, even, of the expected western parrots.

Michael Morcombe solved the puzzle for me. I found his guide at the Botanic Gardens and it noted that some clown had introduced rainbow lorikeets to Perth. Moreover, the book fitted into my bag, didn't weigh a ton and had neat density maps. These show the likelihood of finding a species, from a faint wash for vagrant records up to a dark splodge covering the highest concentration. This works especially well for Australia, where birds don't migrate so much. Other field guides have to colour code for times of year.

So, the Morcombe became my bible and I was ready to tackle the rest of King’s Park, which surrounds the Botanics.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Creative Commons License

This work by Andy Gibb is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-Share Alike 2.0 UK: England & Wales License. It also uses Google Analytics and so creates tracking cookies and collects non-identifiable data about you.