Geoffrey Hawthorn

One of the more unusual companies in the British register has done what it set out to do. ‘Buntings and New World warblers’, the ninth and last and, at fewer than five hundred pages, much the shortest of its volumes of Birds of the Western Palaearctic, is out.[*] Some wonder whether Western Palaearctic Birds Ltd might not have overdone it. Birding World, the magazine for the seriously obsessed, had already asked in 1992, when Volume VI was published, what anyone could do with the information that the Marsh Warbler–admittedly difficult to distinguish by sight alone–has been heard to go tchre(k), tek, tic, tchick, thec, tchuk and tuk, chrah, chah, chaar, tschaah, kärr-kärr and schräää schräää, tic-trrrr, tic-tirric, tec-krrret, trt schräit and tschätsch-tschätsch, tut t-t-t-trrrrr and tut-ut tut t-t-t-rrr. (And that’s not counting those in the separate section on ‘other calls’.) Who might want to know such things, and why?

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[*] The Handbook of the Birds of Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. The Birds of the Western Palaearctic,Volume IX, edited by Stanley Cramp and Christopher Perrins. Oxford, 496pp., £85, October 1994, 0 19 854843 5.

[†] ‘Concern for the Environment’ in Making Sesce of Humanity and Other Philosophical Papers. Cambridge, 251pp., £37.50 and £12.95, 6 July, 0 521 47279 2.