Though I’ve no doubt it did have a lot of good information in it I have to say that J.G.William’s field guide remains for me one of the most useless field guides ever published because it didn’t illustrate or properly cover half the birds of the region it purported to cover which extended from Eritrea to Zimbabwe. So if you ever went anywhere slightly off the beaten track you would be left scratching your head at many of the birds you were seeing. The reasons he gave for only illustrating less than half of the birds seem today not only ridiculous but more than a little patronising thinking that birdwatchers would not be able to cope with over 1,200 species. One wonders if he were still around what he would make of the Birds of Africa South of the Sahara that illustrates over 2,100 species or the Birds of Northern South America with over 2,300. Having said that William's guide is one of the most useless ever publish I think the similar vintage Birds of West Africa by W. Serle, G. J. Morel and W. Hartwig was just as bad or may in fact have been worse for the same reason only illustrating 500 out of 1,000 birds but I've never owned a copy of this book and it's now long out of print. Of course any bird book is better than none at all.
To be fair to Ber van Perlo despite the relatively poor illustrations he did fulfil a great need with his East African checklist providing a book that for the first time illustrated all of the species covered and remained the only book to do so for some time. Until the recent publication of Birds of the Horn of Africa it was still the only book to properly cover Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti and Somalia, this is where Ber van Perlo has been quite clever in including countries that other books don’t cover. Southern African bird books all stop at the Kunene River in the west and the Zambezi in the east but his Southern Africa book covers Angola, Zambia, Malawi and northern Mozambique Likewise his Birds of Western and Central Africa covers the DRC which is not otherwise covered in eastern or western books. His books are not confine to Africa his Birds of Brazil is I think still the only book that covers all the birds in that huge country, remarkably according to his website he has now painted 7,000 of the over 10,000 bird species in the world
When the Birds of Africa South of the Sahara was published Ber van Perlo’s African books really lost their usefulness and now the only thing really going for them is that they are very lightweight. @armchair bushman I don’t disagree with your criticisms of Birds of Africa South of the Sahara particularly with regard to some of the maps. Also if you are looking at a sunbird in Tanzania for example then finding the right one will be a lot easier in an East African book that doesn’t therefore include all of the purely Western, Central and Southern African sunbirds that are in this book. I don’t have the most recent edition so I don’t know how much it has improved but despite its faults what this book still has going for it is that it covers for example Angola, Zambia, Malawi, DRC and the whole of Mozambique countries that are otherwise only covered by Ber van Perlo’s books. Also while yes it is a pretty heavy book the hardback version of Fanshawe's East African Birds actually weighs almost exactly the same amount.
For Kenya Birds of Kenya & Northern Tanzania by Zimmerman, Pearson & Turner
Field Guide to the Birds of East Africa by Terry Stevenson & John Fanshawe
Birds of the Horn of Africa by Nigel Redman, Terry Stevenson & John Fanshawe I don’t have this book but it’s the only option other than van Perlo
For what I call South Central Africa i.e. Zambia, Malawi, Angola & Northern Mozambique (and also outside this area for DRC and Sudan)
Birds of Africa South of the Sahara by Ian Sinclair & Peter Ryan
Sasol Birds of Southern Africa by Ian Sinclair
I don’t personally like some of the illustrations in the most recent edition of Robert’s that much or the fact that the order has completely changed even if this was done to reflect the latest taxonomic changes.
Western and Central Africa
Birds of Western Africa by Nik Borrow & Ron Demey this book covers 23 Sub-Saharan countries from Mauretania to Chad & C.A.R. south to Congo Brazzaville and includes Cape Verde and the Gulf of Guinea islands (Sao Tome & Principe, Bioko and Annobon)
I’ve only been to Gabon, STP and Chad in this region, while I prefer some of the illustrations in Birds of Africa South of the Sahara; the Birds of Western Africa is much lighter in weight due to only having just over half the number of birds which is significant advantage. Also the maps are bigger and better because they’re covering a much smaller region making it on balance the better book of the two. I haven’t been anywhere further west so I don’t have either of the following books but they would be better choices for the countries they cover.
Birds of Ghana by Nik Borrow & Ron Demey
Birds of Senegal & Gambia by Nik Borrow & Ron Demey
I never used an ebook so far while I think that with a bird guide having all the calls is a big advantage but knowing how hard it can be sometimes to view a photo on the back of my camera when the sun is very bright I always wonder how easy it is to view the illustrations in the field. However I can see a lot of merit in having an ebook for reference when you’re back in camp and viewing the screen is not an issue. Also with birds it’s good to have a second or even third opinion but for reasons of weight taking two or three books is not very practical but with ebooks this is not an issue, so going to Kenya you might take the Birds of Kenya and Northern Tanzania as your field guide and take along the ebook of Fanshawe’s Birds of East Africa and maybe even one of the Southern African ebooks as well. So far not all of the books are available as ebooks none of the West African books or Birds of the Horn are yet available as ebooks.
For mammals I would go with The Kingdon Field Guide, though I usually just take the pocket version to save weight, Kingdon is for the moment I think the best mammal field guide; however there will be a new Collins Field Guide to the Mammals of Africa by Mark Andrews but this is still in preparation and the publication date has now been put back to 2019. This book was originally due for publication I think at least as far back as 2006 I actually pre-ordered a copy from Amazon but it was so long ago I can't remember exactly when, it just goes to show how long it takes to produce a field guide. I hope if it takes this long that it should be worth the wait.
Though I am interested in most other living things besides just birds and mammals I’ve tended as a tourist to ignore guides to reptiles, butterflies, flowers, trees etc purely because you can’t take a whole stack of books in your luggage I always just hope that the camp/lodge may have some of them in their library or even better that the guide may have some of them in the car.
Edited by inyathi, 05 March 2015 - 12:53 AM.