Christmas is coming,
The waxwings are getting fat,
Please put a penny in this ex-twitcher’s hat…
The Running Sky by Tim Dee
This is quite simply the best book that I have come across that explains the wonder, joy and hurt that watching birds can bring to human beings. Part autobiography, the author cherry picks events from his life and couples them with a month of the year, starting in June and ending in May.Birds act as a conduit to exposing his emotions towards the natural world and the people who share his life. The first chapter sets the reader up for the delights to come, with a vivd description of a cliff top vigil at a seabird colony. I almost considered an overnight drive to Bempton cliffs after reading it. Buy it now!
North Downs rating: 10 out of 10
A Single Swallow by Horatio Clare
I liked the premise of this book – to follow the hirundines on their spring migration from South Africa back to the authors home in Wales. He tries to time his own overland passage with theirs. The book delivers much more. Clare’s writing is as much a travelogue as it is a study of the swallow, which reminded me of the work of Redmond O’Hanlon, which is praise indeed. The author’s mental breakdown towards the end of the journey is unexpected when considering his devil-may-care attitude that is brought to the expedition, and draws a neat parallel between the Swallows precarious migration and his own.
NDR: 9 out of 10.
Weeds by Richard Mabey
The author should need no introduction as he is one of the leading figures in the so called ‘New Wave’ of nature writing. This is an intelligent work which introduces us to ‘weeds’ and explains why they deserve our admiration, from the way in which they have evolved to fool us into thinking that their seeds are the same as the very crop that they grow alongside, to the uses that they have to humanity (as food and medicine) and also the folklore that has grown up in their relationship with us that reflects the longevity of our relationship with them. You do not to be botanically minded to enjoy this book and you may after reading it to never weed a garden again.
NDR: 9 out of 10
The Bird Observatories of Britain and Ireland by various authors
A Poyser publication, which I’ll admit to not having read yet. A copy of this book was snatched out of my sweaty palms by my wife to be hidden away until Christmas Day. I cannot wait to read it! As a big fan of bird observatories, I can boast (or sadly admit to) having stayed at Dungeness Bird Obsevatory close to 550 nights, spent several breaks at Portland Bill and enjoyed a fortnights holiday at Spurn. These establishments have been instrumental in our current understanding of bird migration and identification. As to what role, and what future they have to play in the 21st century is a question that I for one am keen to see answered. Expect potted histories, plenty of rarities and enough ringing data to keep you satiated well into the new year.
NDR: to be announced.
STOP PRESS: A single calling Waxwing flew over me this lunchtime in Sutton. (Tilmouth and Sexton! Stop yawning at the back of the class. We haven't had that many down south yet!)