For anyone with little or no interest in birds, Markus
Varesvuo's Fascinating Birds could be a turning point.
The collection of photographs, mostly taken in his native
Finland, is breathtaking, from the golden eagle on the cover
to the little hawfinches at the end.
Brief text for each item makes it clear why Varesvuo chose it
and is informative without making the book too stolid: it is
a coffee-table volume, after all.
Most of the 100 birds will be unfamiliar to New Zealanders
but there is an Arctic tern and a group of bar-tailed
godwits, photographs taken before they left Europe to come
here for the summer.
Other familiar birds are European imports to this country:
goldfinches, mute swans and a mallard drake.
What makes this book special is not only the outstanding
photographs but the top-line printing on high-gloss paper and
the solid cover, all of which underscore its quality.
In contrast, the initial appeal of Keith Woodley's
Shorebirds of New Zealand suffers from a slightly
dreary cover. A flock of godwits at dawn and a group of pied
stilts should draw the eye but they look flat, not helped by
the solid black band in which the title and author are
And why a soft cover on a $50 book?
Inside, some of the photographs are too small to fully
appreciate and others look rather dull, a great pity in
something as wide-ranging and important as Shorebirds of
Woodley, who manages the Miranda Shorebird Centre on the
Firth of Thames, is particularly interested in the shorebird
migration flyway, the route birds such as godwits use to and
The book is packed with information on the birds that live
on, or visit, our shores.
What is sobering is the extent to which many of our shore
birds are in decline, as habitats are altered by humans,
birds are killed by predators and ignorance of their plight
seems almost universal.
Even with reservations about the presentation, Woodley's is a
significant addition to the line-up of New Zealand
• Gillian Vine is a Dunedin writer.