Reviews of BirdGuides products and services


Birds of the Western Palearctic Interactive (BWPi) Birds of the Western Palearctic Interactive (BWPi)
iDentify iDentify
British Birds interactive (BBi) British Birds interactive (BBi)
British Butterflies - an interactive guide British Butterflies - an interactive guide
CD-ROM Guide to Rarer British Birds CD-ROM Guide to Rarer British Birds
BirdGuides CD-ROMs BirdGuides CD-ROMs

Birds of the Western Palearctic Interactive (BWPi)

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This is an absolutely fantastic resource!...If you have a DVD drive on your computer, this is what is has been waiting for. If you do not, now is the time to upgrade so that you do. BirdGuides and OUP are to be congratulated on producing the ultimate birding resource.

Birding World, December 2004

It was easy to find variations, races, calls and songs, distribution across the Western Palearctic (or world for vagrant species) - in fact the whole product was easy to use. It really is intuitive to use (unlike most software creators' claims), what is more it is as quick as can be. There is a wealth besides...like being able to see names in lots of different languages. (This is a feature I could well have done with when birding in Montenegro many years ago with a local pointing a pictures in a field guide and telling me names I could not pronounce and did not remember.) I found that there is a search facility which may help some and is welcome in that it makes it feel as if you are working on-line rather than from your own newly acquired database.

Damn it! I am impressed! This is a terrific product and deserves to be a success; I still don't know if there are sufficient people out there who will stump up the hard-earned 200 quid [current price £99 - eds.] to cover the undoubted costs involved let alone make a profit but I truly hope they will recoup their investment. This is a product that you will use if you buy it. This may seem an odd statement but I have plenty of CDs, CD-ROMs and even DVD-ROMs sitting on my shelves and barely used...even those which, like this one, fully load are not well used. When I prepare for overseas trips I tend to look at the books trying to get to grips with new families etc. I do have some so-called interactive products for around the globe but they do not have many of the features of BWPi and, whilst I have browsed them, they do not lend themselves to comparisons of species etc.

This review is deliberately one of first impressions a longer look may reveal problems which I will report (a friend for example, tells me his computer hangs when he tries to flick between pictures too quickly, but he believes this is due to his computer not BWPi) - but so far so very, very good. An excellent product combining a definitive work with a fine collection of sound and moving pictures with which I can find no fault.

www.fatbirder.com (full review full review), 6 December 2004

Now, with the assistance of multimedia supremos BirdGuides, BWP has been taken into the new digital era with a fully interactive DVD edition...they have done an exemplary job of building user-friendliness into the package.

Installation is easy, and also reasonably quick. Once you are up and running, navigation is a simple affair...the quick and powerful search facility should ensure that no species, nor any particular detail, will elude you for long, and the package reflects all the post-BWP taxonomic splits that I checked.

So, is it worth buying, even if you own the books already? Those fortunate individuals who have all nine volumes and the concise set may struggle to justify spending a further £199 [current price £99 - eds.] to add a collection of sound-files and video-clips (albeit very good ones) to their library. But taken as a whole, the package is excellent value for money, and anyone thinking about buying BWP in any form would be wise to consider it - especially those who have a decent computer but are pressed for space on the bookshelf.

Birdwatch (full review), December 2004

The nine volumes of The Birds of the Western Palearctic plus the two volumes of BWP Concise fill half a metre of my shelf space and weight 14 kilograms. Now Birds of the Western Palearctic Interactive...weighs a few grams, yet that single DVD-ROM holds not only the full text and artwork from all 11 volumes, but also 2300 video clips of virtually all the species covered.

OK, BWPi is no use without a computer, but given such a tool it's hard to justify all the shelf space the original volumes take up. Navigating your way around BWPi is simple. At the click of a mouse you can check on the distribution of the wallcreeper, compare the songs of melodious and icterine warblers, or watch a flock of flying cranes.

It is brilliant for both the armchair birdwatcher and the travelling birder who can load it onto a laptop. Anyone want to buy a complete set of BWP, mint condition?

New Scientist, 4 December 2004

Finally a great book that has now become an interactive DVD-ROM. The entire six million words of text in the nine-volume Birds of the Western Palearctic, covering 953 species, is on one DVD-ROM, with updates on 43 species. It also includes all the 5,600 illustrations from the concise, two-volume edition of the book, 2,300 video clips and 1,000 sound recordings.

BWP - as the original Oxford book is known - is a vast collection of the known facts about all these birds. It is sometimes rather indigestible, but any keen birdwatcher needs access to it; it will answer so many questions about what he sees. In this new form, BWPi costs £199 [current price £99 - eds.] from BirdGuides, about the price of a second-hand set of the books.

The Times, 27 November 2004

BWPi claims to be the most comprehensive multimedia reference work on birds ever published - and it's easy to see why. Containing the entire six million words of text and all the illustrations from the original Oxford University Press books and updates of the same name, this is an impressive computer reference. Coupled with 2,300 high-quality video clips and 1,000 sound recordings - all easily-accessible through a simple-to-use interface - there is clearly more than enough here to keep users occupied for many an hour.

World Birdwatch (Birdlife International), December 2004

The original Birds of the Western Palearctic is arguably the most significant ornithological publication ever produced for the region. It is now out of print and hard to come by, but fear not because OUP and BirdGuides have produced a DVD-ROM version. Not only does it contain the original text and images, it is also supplemented by a wealth of other images, video clips and sound recordings. Although basically similar in content and scope to an earlier CD-ROM version (see Ibis 141: 699-700), this DVD version represents a major advance in several respects. First, the layout is much clearer and more attractive, giving it an overall less claustrophobic and more user-friendly feel. Secondly, navigation between species and between sections within species is greatly improved by use of an 'assets panel'. The following is worth bearing with. An asset is simply any element in a species account, for example a distribution map, a video clip or a song recording. Multiple assets can be combined in any one view for as many species as one chooses by dragging and dropping easily recognized icons. This means that one can have, for example, photographs, song recordings or video clips (or indeed a combination of these) from similar species on the screen at the same time. They can be played one after another for immediate comparison or even at the same time. Playing all of the Parid calls concurrently produced an interesting, if 'Hitchcockian', cacophony. Clearly this facility is very useful as a learning aid for identifying species by sight or sound, or for comparing distributions between species. Thirdly, there are far more video clips and sound recordings than in the 1998 CD-ROM version. The Little Bustard Otis tetrax foraging in a flower-covered meadow was one of my favourites and there are clips even for some of the more obscure species, such as Philadelphia Vireo Vireo philadelphicus and Sooty Gull Larus hemprichii. Finally, the search feature is much improved and the ability to find the locations and occurrence of any word in the entire BWP is an extremely useful tool for data collation. BWPi will be of great use and provide much entertainment for professionals and amateurs alike and in my view is well worth the money.

John L. Quinn, Ibis 147 (2005)
Reproduced from Ibis with permission of the British Ornithologists' Union.

There they are, sitting in my library, the original nine volumes of BWP, the two volumes of the Concise Edition, and now, on a DVD I have the whole lot, including updates, in my laptop!!! This is the latest edition of BWP in multimedia format, covering 970 species, 6 million words of text, 5,500 annotated illustrations, 2,700 video clips, maps, audio recordings, and it is all compatible with either Windows or Apple Macintosh.

Installation is straightforward...Now you are in ornithological heaven. The Great Crested Grebe page has twenty-eight boxes to select from seven ID portraits, breeding displays, eggs, an annual cycle diagram, and nine video clips including the penguin dance and a dramatic head-shaking display. You can play song/calls, you can read the text of the Handbook or the Concise Edition, and there is a page for your own notes. And you have a further 969 species to enjoy!!

Two problems. This source is so rich you may never be tempted outside again. And, you need another piece of kit. A duster to occasionally pass over those expensive books sitting on your bookshelf.

If you have the books, you do not HAVE to have this DVD, but then you do not have to buy that new pair of binoculars!!!!!!! Can Christmas be far off?

Prof. Michael Thomas, Scottish Bird News 84 (2007)
Reproduced by kind permission of the Scottish Ornithologists' Club.
Scottish Ornithologists' Club


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"...it's terrific. Good clear sound recordings, sensibly indexed alphabetically in a way that I think all UK birders would understand, with the soft tones of, if memory serves, Dave Gosney, introducing each call or song."

www.fatbirder.com (full review full review), 23 August 2006

"What excellent products!...The tracks are easily downloaded via a home computer...The British Birds and Common Birds versions also have some very useful explanatory commentary with each species...the great advantage of these audio guides is their size and convenience. It is so easy to slip your MP3 player or iPod into your pocket...the BirdGuides audio guides are reasonably priced. Mine will go everywhere with me."

BTO News, March/April 2007

British Birds interactive (BBi)

British Birds interactive
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The neatly stacked rows of British Birds decorating my bookcase are a testament to our nation's rich ornithological history. Over the past 100 years, this esteemed journal has done more to advance the frontiers of birdwatching than any other publication. Its groundbreaking papers on the identification of difficult species such as gulls, warblers, waders and raptors are world renown. Equally, the way the journal has collated and published the records of rarities across the British Isles has produced a data base the envy of the world.

All of the great birdwatchers over the last century have seen their work published in its hallowed pages. The late Peter Grant inspired the moderation of gull watchers with his expertise and knowledge, while the celebrated photographer Eric Hosking was a regular contributor. Since 1907, some of the most important ornithological events, such as the decline of Peregrine Falcons due to pesticides, the Great Tit's penchant for milk bottle tops, the arrival of the all-conquering Collared Dove and the secret sex life of the Dunnock, have been highlighted by "BB", to use its popular name.

For me, the wonderful notes section is a cornucopia of birding knowledge. Amateur observations on such things as the eating habits of Turnstones - they will dine on anything from bars of soaps to human corpses - or the cannibalistic nature of the Herring Gull are gruesome and fascinating in equal measure. But such a rich treasure trove of knowledge comes at a price - space. I have collected BB for the past 25 years and find I am running out space. What's more, scouring through indexes (indices??) to check facts becomes an ever arduous chore as the years go by.

Thankfully, all this has changed with the advent of the most important birding resource of recent years. Those clever people at BirdGuides, who condensed the nine-volume Birds of the Western Palearctic on one DVD-ROM, have pulled off the information technology coup of the age. The 100 volumes of British Birds have been digitised so that you can instantly access material with the most efficient and user-friendly search facility I have ever come across on any software.

Within a few minutes of downloading British Birds interactive - BBi, for short - I was whisked back to a time of Edwardian ornithology in all its pomp, an age when records were assessed by what was shot rather than seen! In the very first volume, published in June, 1907, we read of how the likes of Dusky Thrush, Black-eared Wheatear and Siberian Stonechat were all added to the British List by way of a loaded gun.

Accounts of our forefathers bagging rare warblers on the Norfolk coast may make wonderful reading, but it is BBi's use as a tool to check all manner facts, records and other data that makes this work an essential for the both the professional ornithologist and the enthusiastic birder. I cannot praise it enough.

Sunday Express, September 2nd 2007

Absolutely brilliant! 100 years of British Birds has been digitised and put onto DVD-ROM. All the papers from early last century can be accessed, or searched by author, topic or photographer, as well as searching within all of the text and images. An invaluable research tool, and look at ornithology through the 20th century.

BTO News, September-October 2007

One hundred years of bird magazines
BirdGuides Ltd is continuing to compact birding literature into the interactive DVD-ROM recordings. The previous big innovation of BirdGuides was to publish the Birds of the Western Palearctic series as a DVD-ROM. Now it's the turn of the prestigious British Birds for the hundredth anniversary of the magazine.

British Birds is the "big brother" of the commercial birding magazines in Europe. The magazine has published, among other things, ground-breaking articles of identification, research results and sightings reviews, including rarities committee reviews. The thought of having all one hundred volumes on the computer is mouth-watering. It is over 40,000 pages of knowledge from the core of European birding.

The material can be viewed with a similar program to the BWPi DVD-ROM. On the left, you can select the year, the issue, and the articles. Also pictures have been listed separately under each issue. On the right side of the display the articles or pictures open up in a space you can zoom on. All articles can also be opened as PDF files, allowing convenient output, for example identification literature for a foreign trip.

A comprehensive search engine is necessary to use such a large amount of information in a rational manner. The material can be searched by a word entry and 12 different shortlisted entries, for example, main articles, latest sightings, and pictures, drawings and diagrams. For example, all the published pictures of any species can be searched to be browsed at once.

Under the entry "Pine Bunting" and "Papers and Main Articles" the programme lists 133 articles. Only a few of these are actual articles on Pine Bunting. The program lists only 10 hits at the time, which can make searching labour-intensive. In the example search described above, 14 pages must be viewed to scan through the articles.

The whole package is almost 6 GB, so the computer needed to use is it has to be powerful. It can be installed in the computer, which is the sensible option. Another option is to install just the programme and use the information from the DVD-ROM, which is much slower. Testing the 512 MB and 1024 MB computers the first time was quite slow, but still serviceable.

BBi is a great database of articles, which at the moment is second to none. It's a mouth-watering thought; when might other magazines follow suit?

Linnut, Vol 4, 2007
Translated from the Finnish by Tuuli Wright and Paul Warham

I couldn't help but contemplate the wonders of this digital age. Here, on a single DVD, lay the collective thoughts, opinions and observations of several generations of Britain's (and at times Ireland's too!) best ornithologists. The archive's vital statistics make impressive reading: 40,000 scanned pages, 18,000 images and 9,000 articles, the entire dataset being flagged with basic descriptors ('metadata' in today's digital slang) allowing rapid searching, filtering of results and selection of the reader's desired content.

Do expect to be beguiled by the rich resources that were formerly inaccessible! For me, the most satisfying and novel way to browse the archive was to dispense with the 'volume and issue' format and use the Navigator to present the contents in Topic Index format, giving me, for example, the unparalleled opportunity to sift through the biographies of over 50 'personalities', from Turner to Tulloch, spanning nearly half a millennium of British ornithology. Next, turning for example to the Migration topic category, who could fail to be tempted by Witherby's migration notes from Holy Island from the autumn of 1912 or Wallace's account of the events of October 1971 on St Agnes? It will also prove a goldmine for the creator of the next Trivial Pursuit game for birders: which well-known personality mistakenly alerted the air-sea rescue services after 'scoping a 'parachutist' landing on a Kent beach (it was actually an Action Man toy!)? Yes, I have to admit it - I am becoming as hooked on BBi as I am on the real BB...

At less than £1 per volume and with a Vol. 100 addendum imminent [now available - eds.], this compendium is a truly exceptional and affordable product that will pay dividends to amateur and professional birdwatchers alike and will promote the efficiency of ornithological research. Even if you already possess a substantial set of journals, BBi's interactive nature will open up new avenues of productive browsing. It deserves to be bought by anyone with an interest in British birds or, indeed, British Birds, the journal that has done more than any other to define the past century of popular British ornithology.

David H Hatton
British Birds, March 2008

This DVD contains all the contents of 100 volumes of the British Birds journal—Vol. 1 (1907–08) to Vol. 100 (2007). For a full description of this product, including example screens, readers should visit the BirdGuides website at www.birdguides.com/bwpi. In this review I will concentrate on my first impressions of the software, how easy it is to use, and whether it does what it says on the tin.

The software runs on most modern operating systems (Windows Vista, Windows XP, Windows 2000, Mac OS X 10.5.x and Mac OS X 10.4.x) and uses the same design as successfully used for BWPi. The download process was simple. I operated the software direct from the DVD drive, which made for a slower but quite acceptable operating speed.

Once downloaded, it is hard to know where to start! It is amazing to suddenly have 100 years of information at your fingertips—a whole groaning bookshelf encapsulated in your computer's memory! So how easy is it to extract that bit of information that you want? Well, quite easy. Searches can be carried out via four main indexes - BB volume/year number, All species index, Topic index or BWPi Species Index. I made use of all these search tools for browsing through articles on single species or certain years. No more traipsing back and forward from the library desk to find the right shelf and volume number! In addition, the Features menu offers a keyword search function. I found this tool to be the most effective at pulling out the most exhaustive list of articles, notes etc on your subject. Filter tools enable you to narrow your search to view only full articles, illustrations, photographs etc.

When you click on a subject of interest, a window appears containing an exact replica (pdf file type) image of the first section of the article, with a useful index to the article alongside it with the main subject headings and references, so these can be quickly accessed. Frustratingly, the window doesn't show the whole page width of the article. To do this you have to Right-click on the article and select the Open with Acrobat option. Once you've learnt this trick, then you're flying. The acrobat image is just like reading the pages of BB, complete with all diagrams, tables and photographs.

Would I buy BBi? Definitely. This product is an invaluable tool for accessing the last 100 years of history of British Birds, and will provide a valuable starting point for anyone carrying out research on British Birds well into the future. Had it been around a few years ago it would have been a great help to the authors of BS3. I look forward to the day when we can access Scottish Bird Reports and Scottish Birds in the same format.

Clive McKay
Scottish Bird Records Co-ordinator, SOC

British Butterflies - an interactive guide

British Butterflies - an interactive guide
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So what do you actually get for your money? Well, first off, you have readily available access to a heap of information. Yes, you could find some of this by perusing several books. Yes, you could find images of most species by trawling the Internet. Maybe, you could find video footage of the species concerned, but I doubt it. The list goes on. And that's one of the main objectives of this product – it pulls together a lot of information and presents it to you on a plate.

...the "Pièce de résistance" in my opinion – the content is completely customisable. You can add your own images, video clips and notes – all managed by the underlying software. This may sound simple on the face of it – but when I think of how many people I've met that have an interest in Lepidoptera since digital photography exploded, I can't help thinking that this is just the product for them since it allows you to integrate your own images and observations within an overall framework provided by the application.

In summary, I consider this to be a great product for those of us that what to maintain our own notes, photos, videos and the like – and have them all accessible in one place. So would I buy this product? The answer is a resounding "yes".

Peter Eeles, www.ukbutterflies.co.uk (full review)

CD-ROM Guide to Rarer British Birds

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CD-ROM Guide to Rarer British Birds

"...this is an excellent program, done simply and done well..."

Gordon Hamlett, Birdwatch magazine

"The CD-ROM Guide to Rarer British Birds provides a goldmine of information on the country's rarest birds, with information from every rarity report and more compressed onto one disk. It is very straightforward to use and switching between species is easy..."

Simon Papps, Birdwatching

"This neat little package contains a wealth of information and detail which will delight both the active twitcher and the experienced ornithologist, not to mention armchair birder (we all have to stop once night's really fallen!)...it is highly recommended."

Andy Mabbett, West Midland Bird Club website West Midland Bird Club website

BirdGuides CD-ROMs

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This CD scored 10 out of 10 when it was reviewed way back in May - a feat not achieved by many multimedia titles that appear in PC Home. We liked it for lots of reasons:

  • Excellent images and videos of the UK's bird species, and usually more than one sound file of birds' calls to help in identification is obviously central, as is superb visual presentation.
  • We enjoyed the extras too, and three in particular stand out. There is a detailed factfile on each bird, telling you about its diet, habitat, nesting characteristics, egg identification, population size and where to go to see it in the wild. We also like the bird identifier. Tell it what you can remember about the bird you've seen and it will help in identification - a great tool for beginners. And we found the locator extremely handy - mark out a spot in Britain and it tells you what to look out for when you are there.

The long and the short of it is that this guide has just about everything that the serious bird spotter and beginner alike could want. It makes great use of multimedia, and the extras are really valuable. If you are serious about the subject, there is no real competition.

This CD is what the format was made for. Comprehensive reference material intelligently presented with imaginative use of multimedia. The CD-ROM Guide to British Birds is a very deserving winner.

PC Home magazine

"I was utterly amazed at how good they were...easily outstrips its few rivals."

Michael Rooney and Humphrey Crick, BTO News

"...simply the most exciting birding aid since the invention of binoculars"

Stuart Winter, Daily Star

"Computer buffs will love the CD-ROM Guide...a veritable encyclopedia of birds."

Derek Moore, Natural World

"a fantastic source of information...many exciting and surprising experiences await you"

Vår Fågelvärd, Sweden

"Gosney's commentaries are excellent, so much easier to digest than dry text and he always gives you extra tit-bits beyond identification."

Ralph Sheppard, Wings

"this is an excellent, well thought out and well-produced product."

Gordon Hamlett, Birdwatching

"this CD-ROM is the best."

Duncan Macdonald, Birdwatching

"the field guide of the future containing everything you need - buy it."

Dave Walters, Birdline North-west

"an all-singing, all-dancing package...great value for money."

Dominic Mitchell, Birdwatch

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