Quentin Dupriez, Olivier Bousquet (illustrations) & Bastien Dupriez (cartography) 2015. Delachaux et Niestlé SYLATR, Paris. 205 pp, numerous maps, B/W photographs, line drawings. € 19.00.
I will begin with a declaration that Quentin is my friend. In recent years he spent half of his time in Norfolk, UK where I currently live. We often went out birding together. That's how I got to know that Quentin is an outstanding birder, with exceptional field skills. During our time birding together, we often used Neil Glenn's excellent guide 'Best Birdwatching Sites: Norfolk'. I think that through Quentin's experience of birding in the UK, he understood what is needed for a successful 'Where to watch birds' guide, and what UK birders might be interested in when visiting northern France. This book is intended primarily to attract UK birders that are the natural clientele for this guide. Therefore it is of no surprise that Quentin's book has a similar structure and layout to Glenn's guide.
This is the first 'Where-to watch birds' guide for this interesting region, which is practically closer to Dover than to Paris. Hence it should become an attractive destination to visiting birders, because it does offer some exciting birding opportunities with an added value to coastal sites in the UK. The main focus in Nord-Pas-de-Calais is of course on the coastal sites that are important for migrant shorebirds, waterfowl, seabirds and passerines, and breeding waterbirds. Nevertheless the relatively few wooded parts of the region do hold some exciting continental breeding birds such as Black Woodpecker, Melodious Warbler, Black Stork and Golden Oriole. Its northern coastal sites must be extremely attractive to birders from other parts of France, Belgium and the Netherlands and inland Europe; as well in winter as during migration periods.
The book has a unique bi-lingual structure - each page is divided into two columns: French on the left, English on the right. Despite the potential for confusion, the book is easy to read and follow. In the book 38 sites are covered. Each site account begins with a list of target species with estimated probabilities to encounter them. Then there is practical information about where to find the different species or groups of species in the site, a section with access information, and a detailed map. In addition, the details of local contacts provided for each site are very useful. In guides like this, I find the maps extremely important and they need to be clear, detailed enough but not cluttered. The maps in this guide certainly do the job.
The guide begins with a detailed month-by-month account of birding attractions in the region. This is especially helpful, as it gives the visiting birder an idea where to start looking, and what are the better sites during each month. I would have added references here to relevant site numbers in the main text. The guide ends with a checklist of the birds of Nord-Pas-de-Calais, an elaborated index, and a practical bird-related French - English dictionary. It is obvious that the author's mother tongue is French, but the English is good and clear.
The book is small enough to fit into a large pocket or into the glove compartment of your car. I expect it to become popular among those travelling to France for birding, and for French birders who wish to make more of the fabulous country they live in. It is a practical, user friendly and handy book. Despite the promise on the beautiful front cover, the book itself lacks colour images, yet it is an attractive book to an interesting birding destination. Fully recommended.