The Birds of Gwent

Published by Christopher Helm, London 2008

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The Birds of Gwent, was produced on behalf of the Gwent Ornithological Society by eight main authors, all active local birders, and represents the culmination of more than a decade of planning and bird surveying followed by analysis and writing by the editorial team and many others. The result is a major contribution, not just to the documenting of the distribution, status and trends of the birds of Gwent, but to setting the standards for others to follow.


Readers might be surprised at the wealth of birdlife in the area. The book begins with a description of the region, highlighting its major habitats and some of the changes affecting them. There follows a chapter describing the ten best sites to birdwatch, selected to include a wide range of the species found there. A short chapter describing the technical detail behind the two breeding bird atlases covered by the analysis follows. The bulk of the book is taken up with the species accounts and it is rounded off with a final chapter entitled Conclusions and Comparisons.

The book combines records from all available reliable sources to produce a most authoritative account of the county avifauna. Gwent is one of the few counties in Britain to have completed two tetrad breeding atlases, in 1981-85, and it is the comparison of these surveys that has allowed the authors to produce such an interesting review.

For most of the breeding species there are maps showing the distribution by tetrad in the two surveys and the text summarises the changes (some very depressing) and sets them in the context of other estimates of population change where available. Although of great interest in itself, such data is extremely valuable to conservation organisations who can use it to fight for better protection for our birdlife. As the text points out, it is not all doom and gloom – the number of breeding species has increased between the two breeding atlases, with the second showing a total of 120-130 species.

The book is easy to read and produced to the high standard we have come to expect. It is illustrated with artwork from local artists and with photos of birds by local photographers, always a great attribute of such avifaunas. The species accounts are clear and concise while giving sufficient information for the reader to understand the full picture. The list of place names in the appendix is helpful and necessary. The maps are excellent, in standard tetrad format. All in all, this book is thoroughly recommended.

448 pages, including 32 colour plates