Thursday, June 16, 2011

Field Guide to Tristan da Cunha

Hidden Gem
Field Guide to the Animals and Plants of Tristan da Cunha and Gough Island
by  Ryan, Peter
2007, 162pp, ISBN: 1874357331
Rating:  1  2  3  4  5

Basics:  softcover, 430 color photos of birds, mammals, plants, insects, and marine life;  descriptions and natural history

This book easily fulfills a wish I've had for many years which to see a field guide to these very remote islands in the southern Atlantic. Besides the islands noted in the book's title, it also covers the nearby Inaccessible and Nightingale Islands. This book has three strengths: Quality color photographs, brief but thorough text on the species, and a well-rounded assortment of fauna types.

The fauna types are broken into 6 sections, all with color photos.  These sections are the following: Island Setting (30 photos), Plants (159), Birds (107), Mammals (26), Terrestrial Invertebrates (21), and Marine Life (86).

All bird and mammal species found on or around the islands are shown with very good photographs. Of course, this includes the seven (some say only six) endemic birds. For the endemic birds, these are by far the best collection of photos I've seen. Additionally, this is only one of three books I know of to show photos of all the endemic birds (see Shirihai's and Sinclair's books).

The photos are equally good for the insects, especially the flightless moths. Terrestrial plants and marine life have a great variety with clear, colorful, and large photos.

Text for each bird is typically one paragraph in length.  As one would hope,
the endemic species receive extended accounts.  The material provides a nice description that addresses plumage variations between genders and the few races that may be present.  Additional material is give for "Behavior" which consists of migration times, nesting, breeding habits, diet, and some descriptions of vocalizations.  A few more sentences cover distribution, population, and conservation.  Similar but often more brief material is given for the birds, mammals, and fish.

I especially appreciate the three pages that discuss tourism to the island and the logistics of getting to the islands and staying there. In short, anyone wishing to visit Tristan da Cunha must set aside a minimum of 5 weeks due to travel requirements and to ship availability.

This is a great book on Tristan da Cunha and will certainly be enjoyed by anyone who's wanted to learn about these little known islands.

I’ve listed several related books below…
1) Origin of the Land Birds of Tristan da Cunha by Rand
2) The Complete Guide to the Antarctic Wildlife by Shirihai
3) A Guide to the Birds of St. Helena and Ascension Island by McCulloch
4) Albatrosses, Petrels and Shearwaters of the World by Onley
5) Identification of Seabirds of the Southern Ocean by Onley
6) Seabirds: An Identification Guide by Harrison

7) Seabirds of the Tropical Atlantic Ocean by Watson
8) Field Guide to the Birds of Southern Africa by Sinclair (ISBN 0869774352)

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