Rare Birds in Britain and Ireland. By J. N. Dymond, P. A. Fraser and S. J. M. Gantlett. T. & A. D. Poyser, Calton, 1990. 366 pages; many maps, diagrams and line-drawings. £19.00.
What value lies in the scores of county bird reports, and reports of the British Birds Rarities Committee, which annually list thousands of dates and places relating to occurrences of rare and scarce birds the length and breadth of the British Isles? They are a source of data which need analysis and, without it, are of rather limited interest. Here is a thorough presentation of facts relating to some 45,000 records of more than 300 species from such sources between 1958 and 1985. The authors must, right away, be congratulated on their meticulous collation of data, which must have been an epic task. I spotted one important omission, the Warwickshire spring male Barred Warbler Sylvia nisoria in 1979, but I can't believe much else has escaped the net. The book combines the scope of two earlier Poyser volumes, Scarce Migrant Birds in Britain and Ireland (Sharrock 1974) and Rare Birds in Britain and Ireland (Sharrock & Sharrock 1976), and thus brings such interesting species as Red-breasted Flycatcher Ficedula parva and Ortolan Bunting Emberiza hortulana into the same volume as the out-and-out rarities. Indeed, this is one of the major plus points of the book, for it is often the status of 'lesser rarities' like these that is most difficult to assess. The authors have, probably wisely, stuck to the officially recorded opinions on all records, although one might guess that they would have liked to have argued with a few decisions.