“Birds of Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East, a Photographic Guide,” Frederic Jiguet and Aurelien Audevard, Princeton University Press, soft cover, 442 pages, 2,200 photographs, translated from French by Tony Williams, $29.95, released 2017.
Paging through a North American field guide to the birds you get no idea of how many of those birds we share with the countries covered in this beautifully done guide.
It would be fun to use this book to create your armchair list of European, North African, and the Middle Eastern birds seen in North America, then vicariously on its pages. Most active North American birders would have a long list. Even birds from those parts of the world that you have seen in Minnesota would make a longish list.
This would be the book to buy if you were traveling in the countries covered, or, if you were going to Attu, the island at the far end of Alaska’s Aleutian chain. Attu is where the endless wind blows stray Asian bird species into view.
Attu, a storied birding location, remains available to birders, but at a higher cost than the two-week tour run years ago. Then, you flew to Anchorage, continuing to Attu on a chartered plane, all for a measly $5,000 (plus airfare to Anchorage).
Today, you fly to Adak, another Aleutian island, then board an Attu-bound chartered boat that anchors offshore, taking you to the island daily on inflatable skiffs. You spend two spring weeks in the single North American location where the European and Asian birds you might pray to see actually can be seen. Price: $9,300. (The book is a much better deal!)
Pricey trip, yes, but it offers luxury that Attu birders of yesteryear dared not dream of. I mean, this trip has real toilets and real beds.
To finish that story, I once spent 48 hours on Attu, paying for a week but thwarted by lousy Alaskan weather and a worn airplane. I saw two life birds on a $2,000 trip. (The next year I saw both species here, in the U.S., for a helluva lot less. So birding goes.)
This guide would have informed and entertained me during the days two friends and I spent in Anchorage, waiting for better weather and airplane repairs.
The book is well designed, typography clean and distinct, two or three birds pictured and described on each page,. If plumages vary by season or sex, they are here. I have my often-expressed problem with the maps (tiny!), but the large number of birds covered — 860 — demands compromise.
All of the usual parts and explanations that come with well-done guides are here. The photos are particularly fine, excellent, bright, sharp images.
If you have no travel plans, consider this a book to browse and fuel your birding dreams. For me it’s 400+ pages of adventures past and possible.
Just for the fun of it, here is the building in which Attu birders of the past lived during their visit. The U.S. Coast Guard once had an Attu station. It built new quarters, abandoning this one. The Attu tour got permission to use it. It was as bad inside as it appears outside. Bicycles were a travel option when birders went on the hunt. Boots were the other choice. The island is covered mostly with rocks, snow, and mud. Find Attu via Google. The island has a history well beyond birds. WWII battles were fought here.