By Neil Glenn and John Miles
Buckingham Press, 2017; pbk, 340pp; many black-and-white illustrations and maps
ISBN 978-09-56987-67-9, £19.95
This latest, and perhaps final, offering in the Best Birdwatching Sites series features the largest (and some might say best) county in England: Yorkshire. Within its extensive boundaries are some of the best-loved and well-known birding sites in Britain. The guide begins with ‘Your birding year’, a concise overview of where to go and what to look for in each month. An informal and almost conversational style of the writing is adopted throughout.
A short ‘How to use this book’ section is followed by the main part of the guide, the 88 featured sites. Not being a massive fan of ‘where to watch’ guides, I opened this section with some trepidation. My scepticism was short-lived. The guide is laid out alphabetically, and this works perfectly, since it is most likely to be dipped in and out of as required. Each site entry features a set of key bullet points highlighting important information, such as opening times, toilet facilities, disabled access, general ease of access, contacts and other more specific information if relevant.
The main body of each site entry has a list of target birds with a percentage chance of seeing them (a good feature for those looking for the scarcer species), a selected list of more regular species, a map of the site featuring detailed directions and Sat Nav coordinates (and often containing little gems of information on the state of the access road). This is followed by a very readable section on where to go and what to look for. Being a newcomer to ‘God’s own country’, I cannot vouch for the accuracy of every site entry, so I paid particular attention to a site I know well: Spurn. A full eight pages are devoted to the area, with separate sections for the key areas, and all the information appears accurate and up to date. Things will change at this site with the construction of the new YWT visitor centre, but the wealth of current information is presented well and in a very readable way.
Reading through several of the other site accounts was illuminating, and will certainly inspire me to bird farther afield in some lesser known spots. I’m sure that readers will find the odd site missing – I found the omission of Swinemoor surprising – but there is only room for so many and birders will find plenty to inspire in here. There is a useful section at the back detailing the best sites with disabled access, plus those sites readily accessible by public transport, including the relevant bus numbers. An index to all of Yorkshire’s key species follows, and finally a map that includes all the sites. This is perhaps my only gripe with the book: the map is pretty basic with no roads marked and would have benefited from being split into four pages and including more detail. Overall, however, this is an excellent book, one I can happily recommend.