Sunday, 21 August 2011


Went to the bird fair yesterday with my shopping list consisting of one moth trap, Steve Howell's molt, sorting out a trip to China and getting the latest volumes of HBW (Handbook of the Birds of the World).

The final main volume of HBW will be available in November 2011 and will complete a project that published it's first volume in 1992. I guess really the HBW project started a lot earlier than that as in many ways this project is a summary of all the work of ornithology... ever. From Antiquity to now a journey of discovery has led us to the present . The amazing jouney was first started by the likes of Aristotle, and continued by figures such as Frederick II of Hohenstaufen during the middle ages, next William Turner and other figures of the Renaissance such as Ray and Willughby next Carl Linnaeus before the arrival of the great era of ornithologists including Naumann, Levaillant, Bewick, Montagu, Wilson, Bonelli, Pallas, Temminck, Bullock, Bonaparte, Savi, Nuttal, Swainson, Blyth and Swinhoe.

All these people (and many others) were involved in describing species, behaviour, distribution and ecology, collecting information, storing it in museums presenting it in journals and books and teaching it at the universities and academies. That took us towards the modern era where ever increasing numbers of people became involved in this journey and began to organise themselves into Ornithological societies and Organisations of ever increasing complexity such as the BOU, AOU RSPB, Birdlife International, the BTO and the Beddington Farm Bird Group :-).

So all this led us to the here and now with a very thorough knowledge of the birds on our planet including countless answers to the questions what, where, why and when- all incredibly condensed by an alliance of organisations and individuals and beautifully presented in the Handbook of the Birds of the World - a culmination of the most incredible journey, in my opinion, ever.

And it aint over yet- I suspect the best bit is yet to come.

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