on 30 June 2014
It was a delight reading the book Birds of a Feather - Seasonal Changes on Both Sides of the Atlantic" from the first page to the last. I felt from the beginning the sympathy, respect, admiration and concern each author has for the birds, wildlife and nature around him. The book is written like a diary starting in January and ending in December of the same year. The one author resides in Wales and the other in Maryland, USA. Each author alternately writes short stories about the changing of seasons, the birds, the wildlife and the scenery around him in his respective location. The passages are so warmly written and the details of their encounters are beautifully described. A lovely illustration carries you into the following month and I liked how each author was represented by a new bird for each new month.
Throughout the book, I felt touched by many of the thoughts the authors had. For example, each author expressed his feeling how the world would be without the bird song. The one author, "...when we no longer hear the bubbling of the curlew, or the song of the skylark, we will have lost part of our soul." And the other author, "What would the world be like without their timeless song?"
I had to smile when I read how the Carolina wren built a nest in a hanging basket of geraniums and how Mr. Rees put up a sign for his guests to approach quietly, so the birds would not be disturbed. And I found it amusing how the son of Mr. Thomas called at 3 a.m. just so that he could hear the song of the nightingale. That is true dedication and just a few of the many details that I enjoyed about the book.
The book also made me even more aware how the climate, the environment and mankind are affecting the bird population and also the migrating patterns of birds. It was sometimes alarming how critical it is for some of the birds. While reading, I learned interesting tidbits about birds that I did not know before and found that to be very educational, too. It sparked my interest even more about the different types of birds.
I highly recommend this book for anyone who enjoys stories about birds and nature. The text is also printed larger so it makes reading it more comfortable and the proceeds of this book go to wildlife charities in the U.K. and the U.S.A.
on 20 June 2014
This is a tale of two birders, divided by a common ocean. Colin Rees is a career conservationist, living in Maryland. Derek Thomas is a career academic and until recently chair of Wildlife Trust Wales, living in the Gower Peninsula. Though they have known one another for some 40 years, only now have the pair decided to record their parallel experiences of wildlife over a twelve month period. In their joint story the climate plays a crucial role, not just because the spectre of climate change hangs over all, but more mundanely because the birds and their observers are acutely aware of weekly and daily fluctuations in the weather. Though seldom mentioned, however, it is the god-like Atlantic itself which serves as a tremendous backdrop to the action, a physical presence which both unites and separates our two birding protagonists.
Birders are the least xenophobic of folk; they welcome migrating birds from all corners of the earth and share a strong bond with birders of all nationalities. Our transatlantic mates here may be birds of a feather, yet each has a distinct voice. Both write well. Both move easily between anecdote and fact, between personal experience and scientific evidence. Colin is perhaps more eager to find the connection between global and local trends, whereas Derek relishes the small historical and personal details as well as the chance encounters with other birders. Although Colin has a poet's feel for the beauty of nature, he worries that the bird tallies this year are at a twenty year low and that a recent State of the Birds report concludes that 30% of the US's 800 bird species are in significant decline. What's more, oceanic and coastal birds are among the most threatened. He gives us some hope however when he reports that bird watching and feeding is the second most popular hobby in America. And into the package you get some of the wonderfully evocative Indian names for different species. Derek is no less concerned or well-informed but he can also enjoy a silly New Year's Day Bird Race to see who can log the most birds in a single day and he can have fun with the typical stereotype of the birder `in tweeds surrounded in pipe smoke...with pockets full of notebooks'. For some people the pursuit of nature is a solitary pastime; but Derek is gregarious and enjoys sharing. He shares with us too, telling of his intense pride as a child in making his first bird table.
As an ex- publisher I happen to know that the most successful book genre in the world today is `self help' or `self improvement'. Now Birds of a Feather may not make you slimmer and it won't teach you Italian or how to fix a leaky tap. Indeed, I don't think my meagre skills as a bird watcher have been enhanced much by this book, though the fault here probably lies with me. But reading this book might just inspire you to get out your bins and your notebooks and spend more time watching the birds and the seasons pass. And that can't help but make you a bit happier and a bit wiser.
on 2 June 2014
This is a lovely book - written by two ornithologists about the changing seasons on either side of the Atlantic Ocean. It's a simple idea but it works very well.
Isn't Robert Gillmor's cover both clever and lovely all at once - like the artist himself?
The book consists of accounts, from either side of the Atlantic through the year, of birds seen and places visited. Each month has about 20 short, blog-length, essays. And the observations carry you through the changing seasons and make you reflect on the time of year seen through naturalists' eyes, in the same hemisphere but in different continents. So, both authors are waiting for the spring migrants to arrive and are delighted when they do - whether they are Wood Warblers or Yellow-throated Warblers.
But there is much more than just birds in here. The writers are educated men who are aware of the world around them, and care for it, and worry about its future. Current events are wrapped into the accounts with skill and without any forcing. So we read about oiled Brown Pelicans, the Third Global Biodiversity Outlook, the Big Butterfly Count and the Wildlife Trusts' Living Landscapes projects.
The writing styles of the two authors are similar - they go well together. There's a very attractive visual clue to which writer is which, which changes through the seasons - buy the book and see what I mean (it's rather clever and very fitting I think).
Some of these accounts were written several years ago, back in 2010, but all are timeless in their subjects. I hope the authors have kept going and might give us another volume sometime not too far away - I would definitely want to buy and read it. But, if not, then this copy will get thumbed again each year so that I can dip into the time of year in the USA and Wales and vicariously enjoy nature and the authors' thoughts and musings on the changing seasons.
All profits from the sale of this book will go to The Wildlife Trusts and to a 'yet to be decided' US conservation cause.
Birds of a Feather: seasonal changes on both sides of the Atlantic by Colin Rees and Derek Thomas is published by Troubador and is available on Amazon as is Mark Avery's Fighting for Birds and his soon-to-be-published-but-already-preorderable A Message from Martha.
on 28 May 2014
I felt I was traveling with Colin and Derek as they shared their personal accounts of their birding exploits. It's impossible not to get caught up in the moment with such embodied writing such as "The garden robins are leading me a merry dance again." and about the wood thrush - "Its song is both solemn and serene, harmonizing perfectly with the woodland and the bubbling stream." This is a must read for all birders and anyone who is an admirer of nature. Grab a cup of tea, find a comfy chair, and dig in to this treasure.
on 28 May 2014
I felt I was traveling with Colin and Derek as they shared their personal accounts of their birding exploits. It's impossible not to get caught up in the moment with such embodied writing such as: ;"The garden robins are leading me a merry dance again. And about the wood thrush - "Its song is both solemn and serene, harmonizing perfectly with the woodland and the bubbling stream." This is a must read for all birders and anyone who is an admirer of nature. Grab a cup of tea, find a comfy chair, and dig in to this treasure.