Some of you will have read on iberianature Dylan Walker’s excellent summary of whale watching in the Bay of Biscay. Now I’ve managed to get hold of a copy of his book (co-written with Graeme Cresswell) on whale and dolphin watching in the European Atlantic (Whales & Dolphins of the European Atlantic. This is an attractive and excellent practical guide which manages to condense in 88 pages a great deal of useful information through very clear and efficient use of text, tables, photos and images – one of the best uses of space I’ve seen in any guidebook.
The book features an introduction to cetaceans and the region covered (much of which can be accessed from the coasts of Northern Spain) and great practical tips and know-how on how to watch whales and tell them apart, something many of us know very little about. The introduction also includes sections on watching whales from ferries and boats, typical whale behaviour and the influence of sea conditions. They clearly have years of experience behind them and have decided to share this with the rest of us.
The book then moves onto the illustrated profiles of the 18 regularly occurring and 13 rare cetaceans found in the region. Each profile includes a description of behaviour, status and distribution and is illustrated by an image of the species and computer enhanced photographs annotated with useful tips on identifying the species. There is also a colour distribution map accompanied by a monthly frequency bar chart, and an original image depicting the species side on in the water helpfully including a gannet for scale. The book also includes articles on identifying Mesoploden beaked whales (the toughest challenge of them all) and rare species, and finishes with a glossary. I also liked the handy size and the plastic cover reminding us that this is a practical guide and tempting us to get out on a boat and use it on a blustery day somewhere in the Atlantic.
On a final note, the book is published by WILDguides. This is a non-profit publisher which gives all of its profits to conservation organisations that work on the area or organisms treated by each guide.
I wonder if they’ll get round to translating it into Spanish. Top photo is of a school of common dolphins sent to me by Dylan.
See also 2008 Plymouth – Santander Big Whale Watch