Wednesday, February 28, 2007

My Books

Few things can beat being out in the field, especially in forests, looking for birds and other wildlife... but one of the things I most enjoy doing when not actually searching for and observing wildlife is writing about wildlife. I have written 5 books, as follows...

A Guide To Birdwatching in Hungary - I wrote this, my first book, in the late 1980s and it was published by Corvina in Budapest in 1991. It's a slim, pocket-book that covers 24 places to look for birds in Hungary. Each site has a basic map, too. When I look at it now the book looks a bit basic, but I am proud of it, it was a start, a good start. The info I included was accurate and most of it, some 16 years later, still is. I like to think it helped foreign (and some local) birders get stated in Hungary... pointing them in the right direction, when there was very little other info around in English. It's been out-of-print for some time.

Where To Watch Birds In Eastern Europe - I suppose it was inevitable that I would move on and write about birding sites beyond Hungary. Well, I was travelling widely in "Eastern Europe" in the late 1980s and early 1990s. And in 1994 Hamlyn published my second book. I included 6 countries - Poland, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria. I included at least 20 birding sites for each country, plus some background info. This book is now out of print, too. And I started to put all my travels to go use by setting up a guiding service for birders visiting the region called Probirder - Birding In Eastern Europe.

The Birds Of Hungary - I was now well into my stride writing-wise having penned lots of articles for magazines and papers for journals. But what to write about next? I had "done" the site guide thing. Well, there was no monograph on Hungarian birds in English (none in Hungarian either for that matter) so I asked Helm in London if they would publish one. This came out in 1996. I kept it concise, systematic and made simple range maps for all species (there was very little info available for most species, only the high-profile birds like White Stork, falcons, eagles and Great Bustard were well documented at the time). The UK artist John Davis added some very nice black and white sketches. More info here.

Woodpeckers of Europe - For some years I had been getting more and more involved in studying woodpeckers. In Budapest I could observe 7 species on a daily basis at any time of year if I wished, including Black, Middle Spotted and Syrian. To see White-backed Woodpecker I could hop in the car and be in their habitat in under 2 hours. What I really wanted to do was to write the book on the European Picidae. In 2002 the UK publisher Bruce Coleman joined a birding group I was guiding in Romania and this was my lucky break. One day as we cruised on a boat in the Danube Delta we heard a Black Woodpecker, so I whistled it in. Bruce turned and asked me whether I "liked woodpeckers". Later he asked me to "do the book". It was hard work, lots of field time, lots of looking back through piles of notes and also lots of literature research. Finally it was published in 2004. Here are a few reviews.

Birding in Eastern Europe - What next? I had done the woodpecker book, but no rest for the wicked, I needed to write something else. Wildsounds got in touch. They said it was time for another site guide, many things had changed in "Eastern Europe" and birders were curious about more and more countries. This time I included 11 countries, from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea. I put as much personally gatheed material in as possible. All at Wildsounds did a terrific job on the design, including some really clever features. It was published in 2006 and launched at the British Birdwatching Fair. You can read about this book here.

What next on the writing front ? Well, more about that later...