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Must have field guides.


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#1 Game Warden

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Posted 27 February 2015 - 05:02 PM

What are your recommendations for essential field guides, wildlife, birding, flora. Obviously relevant to specific regions in Africa. What are the "must haves" in your library and why?

 

Can include Apps.

 

I'll pin this topic if it gets enough replies.


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#2 marg

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Posted 27 February 2015 - 11:50 PM

as in a prior post...the Sasol eBirds of Southern Africa is a great app.  I have it on my IPad.



#3 JohnR

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Posted 28 February 2015 - 08:17 AM

+1
What pays stays.
 

#4 ice

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Posted 28 February 2015 - 01:54 PM

Smithers' "Mammals of Southern Africa"


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#5 Big_Dog

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Posted 28 February 2015 - 02:17 PM

Estes' 'The Safari Companion' or 'The Behaviour Guide to African Mammals' is big but excellent.


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#6 wilddog

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Posted 28 February 2015 - 04:30 PM

Agree Sasol bird app.

#7 Caracal

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Posted 01 March 2015 - 12:36 AM

I wouldn't be without The Kingdon Pocket Guide to African Mammals by Jonathan Kingdon.

 

It covers the whole of Africa but its small so easily transportable and despite being small it's packed with information including distribution maps excellent colour illustrations and includes a bewildering number of the smaller species such as bats, shrews, squirrels as well.

 

I find safari camps have bird and mammal guides specific to their region that I can refer to for more details when necessary.

 

 


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#8 KaingU Lodge

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Posted 01 March 2015 - 04:29 AM

I wouldn't be without The Kingdon Pocket Guide to African Mammals by Jonathan Kingdon.

 

It covers the whole of Africa but its small so easily transportable and despite being small it's packed with information including distribution maps excellent colour illustrations and includes a bewildering number of the smaller species such as bats, shrews, squirrels as well.

 

I find safari camps have bird and mammal guides specific to their region that I can refer to for more details when necessary.

 

 

 

+1 for this and the Estes books. 

 

If I could only take two books along it would probably be: 

 

- Birds of Africa South of the Sahara: 'cause Sasol and Roberts and all that stop at the Zambezi with their distribution maps sadly.... Big and weighty though. 

- A Field Guide to the Tracks & Signs of Southern, Central & East African Wildlife: compact and very good.  

 

despite being a very early adopter of ebooks I struggle with apps as a replacement for field guides.  While things like the ability to play calls is great, I find it so much easier to quickly flick through a book.  

 

A guest last year had this interesting alternative, combining some of the features of the apps with a real book: 

http://www.sappi.com...bird-calls.aspx

 

We have some on order as our guides were very keen when they saw it in action.  



#9 COSMIC RHINO

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Posted 02 March 2015 - 07:41 AM

I really like GAME RANGER IN YOUR BACKPACK for its thorough imformation given in a easy to understand way , and its selective but still broad coverage of mammals, trees,birds and reptiles
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#10 Marks

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Posted 02 March 2015 - 02:27 PM

Estes' 'The Safari Companion' or 'The Behaviour Guide to African Mammals' is big but excellent.


"The Safari Companion" is my choice, as well. Not terribly useful for identification but indispensable if you want to understand more about behavior of animals you might see.

#11 Game Warden

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Posted 02 March 2015 - 03:00 PM

Slightly off topic, but have members read our interview with Richard Estes from a couple of years ago?


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#12 Soukous

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Posted 02 March 2015 - 03:03 PM

It is only fair to give the Visitor's Guide to Kafue NP a mention here as it was written by a Safaritalker. Great effort by Peter de Vere Moss.

 

I also like the Roberts Guide to Birds of Southern Africa. Great book and a great app too. 


Edited by Soukous, 02 March 2015 - 03:04 PM.

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#13 armchair bushman

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Posted 04 March 2015 - 11:55 AM

FOR EAST AFRICA:
- Birds of East Africa by Terry Stevenson and John Fanshawe (app available as well with approx. 1000 bird calls)

- Birds of Kenya and Northern Tanzania by Zimmerman, Pearson, etc.

- Birds of Prey of Africa and its Islands by Meg and Alan Kemp

- Kingdon Field Guide to African Mammals by Jonathon Kingdon (not the Pocket Guide)

- Behaviour Guide to African Mammals by Richard Despard Estes (I personally strongly prefer this over "Safari Companion")

- Wildflowers of East Africa by Michael Blundell (IF you can get your hands on it!!)

- Dragonflies and Damselflies of East Africa by Dijkstra, K.-d.; Clausnitzer, V

- Pocket Guide to Insects of East Africa by Dino Martins (May 2015) http://www.amazon.co...a/dp/1770078940

 

FOR SOUTHERN AFRICA (which I use for East Africa)

- Robert's Birds (both the field guide and the huge book)

- Nests and Eggs of Southern African Birds by Warwick Tarboton

- Smither's Mammals of Southern Africa by Reay Smithers (both the field guide and the huge book)

- Field Guide to Insects of South Africa by Picker, Griffiths, etc.

- Trees of Southern Africa by Keith Coates-Palgrave

- Filmer's Spiders of Southern Africa by Martin Filmer and Norman Larsen

- Field Guide to the Spiders of South Africa by Ansie Dippenaar-Schoeman

- Field Guide to the Animal Tracks of Southern Africa by Louis Liebenberg (the pocket guide is also good).

- Scatalog by Kevin Murray

- Butterflies of Southern Africa by Steve Woodhall

 

AVOID AVOID AVOID (In my humble opinion!)

- Birds of Africa South of the Sahara by Ian Sinclair and Peter Ryan.  Too fat, too many species, some species wrong, distribution maps cover too large an area on a tiny space on the page.  It's fine to have this on your shelf for reference.  there's some good info.  but don't bother buying it for the field.

- Almost anything by Chris and Tilde Stuart.  Far too basic, important information missing, some information quite inaccurate.

- Trees and Shrubs of East Africa by Najma Dharani.  This book seems to be designed for bored nairobi gardeners to look at some glossy photos.  There's no helpful key to identification, the species are organized in alphabetical order, details on identification and distribution is sparse and generally unhelpful.  Also there are far too many exotic garden species taking up space instead of indigenous wild species.

- Birds of Eastern Africa by Ber Van Perlo.  Acceptable if you really can't get one of the other two East African bird books.  This is really not much more than a poorly illustrated checklist.  Granted it was put together single-handedly by the author, an amateur birder with no formal training.  A SERIOUS feat!  it is a nice addition to a collection (it was my first bird book), but won't add much value in the field.


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#14 armchair bushman

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Posted 04 March 2015 - 12:42 PM

OTHERS FOR REFERENCE (but not for the field)

- African Birds of Prey by Peter & Beverly Pickford and Warwick Tarboton (coffee table and reference)

- Birds of Kenya and Northern Tanzania by Zimmerman etc (The Old Hardback version which has not been shortened).http://www.tower.com.../wapi/108370476

- African Mammals by Jonathan Kingdon (the full volume set) http://www.amazon.co...mammals kingdon

- Birds of Africa the full volume set  http://www.amazon.co...7YHQK7F4G5Y5NYN

- A Field Guide to the Birds of East Africa by J.G. Williams (very outdated, but some good info)

- A Field Guide to the National Parks of East Africa by J.G. Williams (very outdated but some very good info) http://www.amazon.co...s/dp/0002192152

- Trees of Kenya by Anne Birnie

- Wayside Flowers by Theresa Sapieha (this one is actually good for the field, but doesn't cover many species).

- African Insect Life by S.H. Skaife 


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#15 inyathi

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Posted 05 March 2015 - 12:33 AM

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.

 

Eastern Africa

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

 

Southern Africa

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.

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#16 armchair bushman

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Posted 05 March 2015 - 06:19 AM

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

 

Southern Africa

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.

 

J.G. Williams book only featured on my list as a reference to compare with better books.  I actually don't own it.  I have tried to use it in the field and just got very frustrated.  

There is another old "Birds of East Africa" book that I have.  I can't find it online, and I can't remember who all the authors are, but I believe Don Turner is a contributor.  It's not a field guide with colour plates of every species.  It covers habitats and habits more than actual species identification.  I really like it, but it sits on my shelf most of the time.

 

Agreed on Ber Van Perlo.  His achievements are VERY impressive, and as you say, for a long time his books covered regions that no other books did.  When I first started birding, the stevenson and fanshawe book didn't exist, and the Zimmerman/pearson/turner book was only a huge hardback that was very costly and not designed for the field.  

 

I use SASOL whenever I'm in SA.  I really like the layout with the colour key on inside of the front and back cover to help you find things quickly without looking at the index.  I don't like some of the plates.  Some of the waterbirds and the raptors are poorly painted.  But the information, distribution maps, and the rest of the paintings are very good.

 

ANOTHER BIRD BOOK WORTH MENTIONING:

- Birds of East Africa (Volumes 1 & 2) by C.A.W. Guggisberg  This was one of my early birthday presents soon after I started birding.  My copies haven't seen much use because at the time I preferred Ber Van Perlo's single volume that was easier to flip through.  The paintings are a little "cartoony", but they do the job mostly.http://www.amazon.co...s/dp/B000NUJ34G

Apparently, C.A.W. Guggisberg was a very prolific author!  Check out this list: http://www.amazon.co...t=relevancerank

 

REPTILES & AMPHIBIANS

- Field Guide to The Reptiles of East Africa (Hardback) by Stephen Spawls, Robert Drewes, James Ashe, Kim Howell.  While some of the taxonomy has changed slightly since this was published, it remains one of the best resources on reptiles in the world.  Not an easy book to lug around with you, unless you're specifically going on a reptile safari and you're not bothering with all your bird books and other guides.

- Pocket Guide to the Reptiles and Amphibians of East Africa by Stephen Spawls, Robert Drewes, and Kim Howell.  A smaller version, with images mainly focused on Kenyan species, this book also covers the most common Amphibians.  Very small and easy to carry around, it still contains plenty of good information and I have found it extremely useful for identifying frogs.

- Amphibians of East Africa by Alan Channing and Kim Howel.  A fat, heavy hardback that doesn't do well in the field.  More species than the pocket guide above, with more detailed, scientific information.  A good resource for scientists and researchers rather than amateurs/tourists.  I love this book, but use the pocket guide more often.

- A Photographic Guide to Snakes, Other Reptiles, and Amphibians, of East Africa by Bill Branch.  Branch is another real herp fundi, and this book is a nice supplement to the others above.  Some different taxonomy, good photos, and good distribution maps.  It's also very small, light, and easy to carry around.

 

 

I agree with @inyathi regarding ebooks, I completely agree.  Middle of the day with the sun above me, there's no chance of me seeing what's on the screen. And then there's the problem of charging the device.  I just can't be bothered.


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#17 Game Warden

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Posted 12 March 2015 - 11:13 AM

Do you think now, that more people rely on apps rather than books? Do people take reference books on safari? Do you take a mobile device with various apps as opposed to books?


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#18 wilddog

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Posted 12 March 2015 - 11:30 AM

I tend not to take my reference books with me as I try to keep within baggage allowances and as a single traveller I have to lug everything around myself e.g. cameras, which for couples, can be shared.

 

Hence I prefer a bird ID app on a small tablet. To be honest I have not yet tried it in the sun but I am more likely to look at it between drives/walks. For me it is an aide memoire/learning tool as I find that many guides are familiar with the bird life in the locale. If not we all look it up together.


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#19 Peter Connan

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Posted 10 April 2015 - 12:55 PM

I have a very soft spot for Signs of the Wild by Clive Walker, although I think it's long out of print now.

 

Not a field guide, but there's a huge amount of fascinating information on Southern African birds in Beat About the Bush-Birds by Trevor Carnaby.


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#20 Tom Kellie

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Posted 18 April 2015 - 12:11 PM

I tend not to take my reference books with me as I try to keep within baggage allowances and as a single traveller I have to lug everything around myself e.g. cameras, which for couples, can be shared.

 

 

~ @wilddog:

 

What you've written is word-for-word how I feel.

 

The first safari I brought a couple of ill-suited for the field guides.

 

The second safari a small library and map collection accompanied me.

 

The third through seventh safaris only a single map.

 

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