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Birdwatchingwatching: One Year, Two Men, Three Rules, Ten Thousand Birds [Paperback]

Alex Horne
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
Price: 7.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over 10. Details
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Book Description

6 Aug 2009

Alex Horne is not a birdwatcher. But his dad is, so with the prospect of fatherhood looming on his own horizon, Alex decided there was no better time to really get to know both his father and his father's favourite hobby. So he challenged his dad to a Big Year: from 1 January to 31 December they would each try to spot as many birds as possible; the one who spied the most species would be the victor. Along the way Alex would find out what makes his dad tick, pick up a bit of fatherly wisdom and perhaps even 'get into' birdwatching himself.

Join Alex as he journeys from Barnes to Bahrain in this charming tale of obsession, manliness, fathers and sons, and the highly amusing twists and turns of a year-long bird race.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Virgin Books (6 Aug 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0753515768
  • ISBN-13: 978-0753515761
  • Product Dimensions: 12.6 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 424,113 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"Horne's observations are at once funny and fascinating" (Metro (Review for 'Birdwatching' show))

"Rather like a rare bird - his ostensible subject - [Horne] is a fragile delight, covering any subject with a daft, surreal charm" (The Sunday Times (Review for 'Birdwatching' show))

"Remarkably touching, honest, and dryly witty" (Time Out)

"Enjoyable and entertaining" (Stephen Moss Guardian)


Enjoyable and entertaining

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars You will love it, and him 11 July 2014
By Louise
Glad I found this little gem. I'm a big fan of Alex Horne as a comedian, and this book serves him up on a plate really. You wouldn't think a book about bird watching by a novice would be interesting, but he has such a light and friendly touch, and it's full of snippets like a great conversation you thoroughly enjoy. It's hard to put your finger on why he's funny, but he just is, and lovely lovely company for the whole of this book.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Birding (and non birding) must 3 Dec 2011
Of late i have become much more interested in birds, but i read this book in 2009 whilst doing wildlife research in Namibia and at that stage, i was far more casual about it! i wasn't as ignorant as the author, but would fall at the feet in awe at duncton! but this book is a great read for anyone who is new to the game or is a hardened spotter. If you're a newbie then he is accessible and genuine - you are completely convinced that this chap is entirely normal and thus it is ok to go birdwatching! His style is informal and without the least pretension and detailed without being fussy.

yet this is a book that every expert should read. Up and down the country there will be hides with a group of pros sitting together and in the corner there will be someone who is completely clueless - possibly wearing yellow trainers jeans and a red shirt. That person will almost certainly be feeling what the author does so experts out there: read and understand! Birdwatching is a massively confusing world to many and Alex's narration highlights this brilliantly. So if you read this book as an expert, one day you will be in that hide and the yellow trainers will walk in and you can be on hand to sort out the pochards from the wigeon and the tuftys from the goldeneyes!

This book won't teach you about all the birds in the uk and it doesn't provide much science; instead it gives a beginners guide to what life is like as a birder! It's a great read anywhere, but it makes especially good travel material!
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars a boring read 16 Jan 2011
By martin
I am struggling to finish this mildly amusing story. If I knew the author I would enjoy reading about his passion for football ect. The birding bit is almost a side issue as the author learns from scratch the basics,making this a book of little interest to birders. Try instead The Biggest Twitch, Life List or The Jewel Hunter.
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6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Birdwatchingreviewing 2 Mar 2009
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Saw this in B*rde*s and thought must get it but cheaper so Amazon as usual came up trumps! Just read it on the 'plane to and from the US (after reading 'The Reader' so a bit more cheerful) and must say that it is a great book.

Let me get the negatives out of the way first - there are some dodgy bits in it from a factual point of view but I am not sure whether they were genuine mistakes due to Alex's lack of knowledge or perhaps poetical licence? Also there is a fascinating typo on page 364 which is either an Enigma code or unbelievably poor proof reading (it's 5 and 6 lines up).

Right enough of that. If you were not a birdwatcher you would still like this book because it is more than about birdwatching. Alex is trying to find out whether he might be a suitable father in the future and does this by challenging his father to a competition, to try to work out what makes his father, and the relationship he has with him, tick (that's quite witty that, a tick is a new bird seen to us birdwatchers).

What I liked was the relationship that he has with his father (the excellently named Duncton, won't spoil it for you as to where the name comes from) and the love between the two of them and his siblings. I think that came across very strongly. Alex too seems to be a bloke to go down the pub with, self deprecating and considering he is a stand up comedian, shy and not up his own arse - modest and happy to learn from others.

A great book, I would've given it 5 stars but for the factual mistakes and that typo, and well worth reading particularly if you are a birdwatcher.

I'll leave you to decide whether he will make a good father or not.....
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5 of 8 people found the following review helpful
I have read a lot of books written by comedians about the various adventures and challenges they have undertaken and this is one of the funniest, most touching, beautifully written and inspiring. I've never been too interested in birds or birdwatching but since turning the final page I've found myself wanting to emulate some of Alex's experience as detailed in this book and see for myself how accurate his descriptions are.

Birdwatching isn't an obvious topic for comedy yet this book had me chuckling to myself on the tube at some of the images Alex managed to conjure up in my mind.

I was genuinely disappointed to reach the end of the book. For me, it wasn't about who won the competition between Alex and his dad, or even the birds spotted along the way, it was the journey they took to get there.
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4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Could be Better 12 Mar 2009
What do you get if you mate childhood jottings and the fortunes of Liverpool FC and the England World Cup team with a family bird spotting contest. Sadly, a rather infelicitous hybrid.

The main theme of the book is a year long contest between neophyte birdwatcher Alex and his more experienced father to see who can tick the most bird species. He refers to his father as "Duncton" after his ham-thumbed sign offs to text messages--a conceit that is amusing for the first chapter but rapidly becomes irritating after that. (Why doesn't he just call him Dad?)

Alex's experiences as a newbie birdwatcher and his interactions with the birding tribe are the book's best parts. He draws on the support of experienced birders, the worldwide web and even indulges in a spot of twitching--at one stage racing across the UK to catch a rain sodden glimpse of a rare little brown job skulking in a hedge.

Regrettably, the desciption of the contest never creates any tension. While Alex details his own experiences, the character of Duncton is left undeveloped. Nor does Alex draw any new insights or point of view from his experiences.

I nearly consigned this book to the charity shop pile a few times before finishing it. The second time was during a lengthy digression on the fortunes of the England football team in the World Cup--as if I needed reminding.

The book gains its inspiration from others; for example, Mark Cocker's "Birders", a tighter, more insightful exploration of the tribe. If you like your birding with a plot, I recommend you try Rory McGrath's "Bearded Tit" or Esther Woolfson's exquisite "Corvus".

Alex comes over as a nice bloke, but his writing needed a nasty editor to correct spelling and grammar and to question the relevance of digressions. Hidden in the foliage is a tighter and better book.
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