Observing birds is a fast-growing pastime in India. Many new recruits to the hobby opt to carry a camera rather than a scope and/or binoculars and, consequently, a wealth of photographic material of Indian birds is now available. The authors of this new guide have made good use of this, with the plates in the book – which covers 615 species – composed (almost) entirely of photographs (the excep-tions being small illustrations of, for example, the tail-patterns of snipes and wheatears). In every case, the photograph has had the background digitally removed, leaving the bird in isolation. This can some-times lead to a mismatch in the colour cast of the subject between how our eyes see the iso-lated image against the pure white back-ground and how the bird was lit in the original photo (in bright sun, under the green cast of foliage, etc.) – but I’m pleased to say that very few images suffer from any colour-balance prob-lems here. Multiple images are used per species, showing age and seasonal variation and, overall, the final result is much more pleasing and usable than you might imagine it to be. The book follows a traditional field guide layout, with the com-posed plates on the right-hand side, while the texts – which cover identification, habitat and voice – and maps are on the left.
With such thorough coverage of birds of the state, this guide is certainly going to appeal to those visiting Gujarat and to birders based there. There’s still a personal preference on my part to reach for illustrated field guides but, as this title exemplifies, the quality, standard and coverage of photog-raphy-based guides is improving all the time.