The death of Roger Tory Peterson at his home in Old Lyme, Connecticut, marked the end of the career of a man who can truly be said to have revolutionised birdwatching throughout North America and Europe. Until not long before the advent of his first book, A Field Guide to the Birds (of Eastern North America), published in 1934, the identification of small birds had mostly been made down the barrel of a gun. The many Peterson field guides that followed embodied his unique system of identification, using arrows added to his superb illustrations to indicate the main diagnostic features of each bird. I first met Roger, appropriately enough, on Hawk Mountain in Pennsylvania in 1949. I was using Roger’s Field Guide and we fell into conversation. Within two hours we had decided to produce an equivalent European version, A Field Guide to the Birds of Britain and Europe. Knowing that Philip Hollom, already working on The Popular Handbook of British Birds, was thinking along similar lines, we decided to invite him to collaborate. Roughly speaking, the idea was that Roger should do the illustrations, I the text, and Phil the distribution details and maps. Like its American counterpart, the book was an immediate success. It has since sold more than one million copies in 13 foreign-language editions. Producing the European Guide involved a lengthy visit to Europe by the three of us, most notably to Spain when I organised an exploratory expedition to the Coto Donana. Roger then settled
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British Birds – how it works
BB 2000 Ltd, the company that owns and publishes British Birds, is run by a board of directors, all of whom are volunteers. The company employs two full time staff – Roger Riddington is the journal’s editor while Hazel Jenner manages subscriptions and administration – and three part-time design/editorial staff.
The company is wholly owned by The British Birds Charitable Trust (BBCT, registered charity no. 1089422). Neither the company directors nor the trustees are paid for their services, providing their time and enthusiasm because they passionately believe in the value of BB. The Company is managed with a view to making a small profit which can be donated to the Trust to help fund its charitable work.
Over the past six years, this, combined with donations from other sources, has enabled the Trust to give almost £40,000 support to a variety of conservation and educational projects ranging from rat eradication on seabird islands to the study of cuckoo migration, as well as assisting young birders develop their interest.
A full list of projects is given here. The Trust is seeking to expand its charitable endeavours and would welcome donations from like-minded organisations and individuals.