Monday, June 12, 2017

Klaus Bjerre - Israel, 40 Years with Birds and camera

Book review:
Israel, 40 Years with Birds and Camera
By Klaus Bjerre
Published by Gyldendal, Copenhagen.
154 pp., multiple colour photographs, and text in Danish or in English.

It gives me great pleasure to get my hands on a beautiful book on the birds of Israel. I love Israel, I love the birds of Israel, I love photography, and Klaus Bjerre is a good friend and a great photographer, so even before opening the book I had high expectations. Klaus published this book just a few weeks ago, and kindly sent me a copy for me to have a look.

When you walk into a bookshop, the front cover of a book should do the job to attract attention. The front cover of this book is beautiful and attractive - the vivid colours of Bee-eaters against a desert background.


Klaus Bjerre is a senior Danish bird photographer. He has been visiting Israel for over 40 years now, and his huge experience with the birds of Israel. Of course, over these many years, he has made many friends in Israel too. Klaus's addiction to Israel and to its birds is apparent in the photos and text.
Klaus presents the birds of Israel in a 'personal diary' - much of the text is in first tense, where Klaus describes his own experiences and preferences. There are even a few photos of Klaus himself in the book...

This is not a complete 'where to watch bird in Israel' book, nor a complete guide to the birds of Israel. It is a medium-sized coffee-table book, that aims to expose Israel to those who don't know much about Israel, or want be reminded of their memories. Because another book of the same genre was published by Thomas Krumenacker just a few months ago, the comparison between them is unavoidable. They are good friends themselves, and evidently worked on some projects together.

As a coffee-table book should be, the great virtue of this book is in its stunning photos. A strong theme of the book is migration of course. The (very) short introduction focuses on migration phenomena, and there are many photos of large flocks and thermals (kettles) of large soaring birds:

I find the accompanying text informative and interesting to read. Evidently it was not written by a native English speaker, but Paul Sterry generally did a good job editing the English.

The book has a somewhat undefined structure. Its begins with a chronological structure in February, and continues with a broad description of breathtaking spring migration experiences in Eilat. Then the story continues through the birds typical of spring season but not exclusively. Next are late summer migrants in the north, then a trip back south to Ezuz, then a section about autumn migration in the north and a painfully short section about cranes in the Hula Valley in winter. 

But the quality and variety of photos certainly compensates for any lack of coherent structure. Though some species receive more attention than others (mainly raptors), a large number of species are depicted in the book, in fact almost 90 taxa. Naturally, many are raptors, photographer's favourites. Therefore there is a lot of blue sky in the book.

The book contains some 'classic' bird photos, with favourite subjects for European photographers:

I know this stonechat - I photographed the exact same individual too! Back in March 2007

There are some great photos of scarce, iconic species:

One or two surprises

 I twitched this bird!
Some photos are simply beautiful

One mammal made it into the book!

There is some site information about the main sites covered in the book. I was especially pleased to see Celia's hide at Ezuz highlighted - it is a brilliant spot for photography.

This is a southern-focused book. 127 out of the 153 pages of the book cover birds of the desert regions of Israel. This does not do justice to some of the best birding sites in Israel. Especially disappointing is that Mt. Hermon was left out. It is photographed from the distance on the last page of the book, but the special birds that occur there are not mentioned. And central Israel does not exist in the book. I guess this bias in geographical coverage represents Klaus's preferences and where he enjoys going most.

The book ends with a short text that should have appeared in the introduction. But it does end the book with a personal appreciation of Klaus's attraction to Israel.

This book will surely leave you with a burning need to go birding and photographing in Israel. I certainly feel the urge, now that I live in the UK. If you have not been to Israel yet, it's time, take Klaus's word on it. If you have been to Israel, I am sure Klaus's beautiful photos and personal text will bring back many good memories. This is a great book for anyone with an interest in Israel, or with bird photography.  
The book can be ordered through Klaus's website.

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