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Say Goodbye to the Cuckoo [Paperback]

Michael McCarthy
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
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Book Description

4 Mar 2010

If we could see it as a whole, if they all arrived in a single flock, say, we would be truly amazed: sixteen million birds. Swallows, martins, swifts, warblers, wagtails, wheatears, cuckoos, chats, nightingales, nightjars, thrushes, pipits and flycatchers pouring into Britain from sub-Saharan Africa.

It is one of the enduring wonders of the natural world. Each bird faces the most daunting of journeys - navigating epic distances, dependent on bodily fuel reserves. Yet none can refuse. Since pterodactyls flew, twice-yearly odysseys have been the lot of migrant birds. 

For us, for millennia, the Great Arrival has been celebrated. From The Song of Solomon, through Keats' Ode To a Nightingale, to our thrill at hearing the first cuckoo call each year, the spring-bringers are timeless heralds of shared seasonal joy.  

Yet, migrant birds are finding it increasingly hard to make the perilous journeys across the African desert. Say Goodbye to the Cuckoo is a moving call to arms by an impassioned expert: get outside, teach your children about these birds, don't let them disappear from our shores and hearts.

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Say Goodbye to the Cuckoo + While Flocks Last + The Butterfly Isles: A Summer In Search Of Our Emperors And Admirals
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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: John Murray (4 Mar 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1848540620
  • ISBN-13: 978-1848540620
  • Product Dimensions: 2 x 12.9 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 334,025 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


A beautiful and important book (Simon Barnes, author of HOW TO BE A BAD BIRDWATCHER)

'We owe a debt to a writer like McCarthy, who paints so well the portrait of natural riches we think our birthright ... McCarthy paints a portrait of a magical bird universe' (Daily Mail)

'This is a joyful book' (Daily Express)

'Michael McCarthy is one of the best environmental journalists there is' (Sunday Telegraph)

'This is a valuable guide to what we'll soon miss' (Geographical Magazine)

'This is the most important book I have read for a long time ... it boils with enthusiasm ... many will greatly enjoy the rich and informative prose ... to not read this book is a crime against conservation and the cost is almost beyond comprehension' (BBC Countryfile Magazine)

A stark picture of the fate of migratory birds (BBC Country File Magazine)

'This book could easily have been a grim litany of despair ... instead Michael McCarthy has taken the opportunity to celebrate our summer migrants ... this book reminds us of what we stand to lose and why we cannot afford to take the cuckoo for granted' (BBC Wildlife)

'An impassioned hymn to the wonder of the annual display of migrating birds and a robust warning' (Metro)

'A rich ornithological tapestry ... buy this book, enjoy it' (Ian Wallace, British Birds)

'One of my heroes - writer Mike McCarthy - paints an all too harrowing picture of a landscape robbed of this iconic sound in his new tour de force Say Goodbye to the Cuckoo' (Sunday Express)

'McCarthy spent the spring of 2008 following the "spring-bringers" . . . and celebrates them so eloquently here you will never see or hear them in the same way again . . . cherish them now' (Evening Standard)

'A timely report from the edge of the natural world that is being eroded by ignorance and carelessness' (The Times)

'An interesting book . . . Quirky observations, laced with historical and literary references, enliven the text' (Irish Examiner)

'The titles sounds like an elegy, but the tone, until near the end, is upbeat and celebratory . . . he tells the story . . . with a light touch and wide open eyes' (Independent)

'An environmental warning' (Terry Sutton, Dover Express & Folkestone Herald)

'McCarthy builds up the magic ... rightly McCarthy is out to warn' (The Tablet)

'This timely book by Michael McCarthy, one of the country's leading writers on the environment, is a celebration of these migratory birds and a call to arms to help preserve them' (National Trust Magazine)

As well as raising the alarm, Michael McCarthy writes lyrically in praise of the songsters (Choice Magazine)

'Lovely but heart-tugging book ... McCarthy's theme is twofold: to give us a vivid picture of what we have learned scientifically about birds themselves, but then beautifully to interweave it with the "human response'" (Spectator)

'We have been warned' (Northern Echo)

'Wake-up call to all those concerned with the UK's environment, calling for action before it's too late' (Your Birding Monthly)

'The book does not just raise the alarm about the astonishing declines. It clebrates the migrant birds as a group, stressing the enormous cultural resonance they have across Europe' (Best of British)

'Courageously, McCarthy's book is a celebration as much as a warning' (Tribune)

'You must have and read this book' (Highland News & North Star)

Book Description

A celebration of the migrant birds that herald spring and a stark warning that they may be fast disappearing

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

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A requiem for birdsong? 5 Aug 2009
By Stewart M TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The real quality of this excellent book comes not from its well written and researched text, or even from the way the saddening, but hardly surprising, conclusion is reached. It comes from the choice of birds the author uses. In all but one example the birds are (were?) to be found in close proximity to humans or play a significant role in folk law. In other words, they are the everyday birds, the familiar birds, the birds of story and for me at least, the birds of a summer childhood : Cuckoos in the hedge across the road, a spotted flycatcher catching a butterfly that I had worn as a living brooch for almost 5 minutes, swifts and swallows.

The book examines a number of species of summer migrants - the so called "spring bringers" and seeks to explain why each species is important - initially not in an ecological sense, but why they are important to us as people. The ecological importance of the birds comes later. Here the famous lines of Ted Hughes are to the fore - the swifts are back, so the worlds still working.

The summer migrants form an important part of the soundscape of the British country side - they form a good part of the river of sound that runs through it. The central question posed by this book is this : What will happen it that river runs dry?

This is an important and highly recommended book. Read it yourself, buy it for others and talk to your friends about it - the songs of our remembered and future summers depend on the birds that fill the pages of this book.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating book 5 Jun 2009
Say Goodbye to the Cuckoo

Whether you are an urban or rural dweller, this beautifully written little book highlights the population crashes, particularly since 2007, of many of those birds that we have always taken for granted that migrate from Africa to our country in springtime. Where are they now? Stop, look and listen. Do you hear them; have you seen them recently? Have you heard the cuckoo? Where are the swifts? Well researched and engagingly written. More than a wake up call, the findings are unnerving.Pre-occupied with our electronic world, deafened by our man made noise, we may fail to note what is missing. This book deserves to be widely read.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A stunning book on our summer migrants 3 Aug 2009
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Michael McCarthy has written a wonderful,delightful and thought provoking book on our summer migrants and what they mean to us and what a loss they would be to our lives if we do not take action to help them. He selects particular disappearing migrants and gives very detailed accounts of seeking them out and relating his experiences and that of other observers in a sequence of chapters. Please ignore the comments on one reviewer in a journal who said the book works well apart from the beginning and the end. In my view without these significant chapters of the book readers unfamiliar with migration will not understand why our once familiar summer visitors are disappearing. Without these birds, as detailed in the core of the book, that have enlightened people's lives and been praised for many centuries, we shall be unable in future years to experience the joys of these birds; nor will future writers even be able to describe them. By reading this book we become more aware of the environmental factors,such as climate change and degradation through intensification,that are causing these declines in summer visitors from Africa.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars As important a book as Silent Spring 3 Jan 2010
Michael McCarthy has put into words everything I, as a birdwatcher for many years, know to be true. That there were a great many more birds singing when I was a lad.
The disappearance of huge numbers of migratory birds, for a variety of reasons some still unknown, is every bit the tragedy that McCarthy - and the people he talks to in his quest - say it is.
Don't be put off by my 'preachy' review - McCarthy leads you through this subject adeptly and subtley. Even if you know nothing at all about birds, read this book
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Say Hullo to the Spotted Flycatcher 21 Nov 2010
By Monarch
I live in Harare Zimbabwe and many of the species that Michael McCarthy writes about turn up in my garden in the summer months, October to March. I am a keen birdwatcher and keep records of birds I have seen and there has definitely been a decrease in the number of migrants visiting my garden over the 30 years that I have lived here. Chapter eight deals with the Spotted Flycatcher. I used to see this species most years in the 80`s and 90`s especially in the migration months of November and March. However my last recording was in November 2003. I am not a superstitious person, but what happened this morning (Sunday 21 November) must be statistically equivalent to winning the national lottery. I finished the chapter on The Spotted Flycatcher and then went out for my ususal birding/butterfly/wildlife walk. If you read McCarthys description of the `British Understatement` in Chapter eight you will understand when I say that I was `overjoyed` to see a Spotted Flycatcher, my first record for seven years! Lets hope that this is the beginning of a new dawn for this wonderful and confiding bird. Say Goodbye To The Cuckoo is well written and informative and I would highly recommend it to anyone who would like to learn about our migrant birds and why their numbers are decreasing.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars good quality material
Well-produced, good quality material.
Published 1 month ago by Mr. J. Allsop
4.0 out of 5 stars An enchanting book
Inspired me to make sure I make time next Spring to look for more first hand encounters with some of our migrant birds whilst they are still around. Read more
Published 15 months ago by Alison Ruddock
5.0 out of 5 stars For all who appreciate birds
The book gives very interesting detailed information about migratory and other birds, is well written and a pleasure to read.
Published 15 months ago by jennifer marturet
5.0 out of 5 stars A study of Migrating Birds
The retiring environmental writer for The Independent, Michael McCathy, has produced a very readable account of our migrating birds. Read more
Published 17 months ago by Jim Seaside
5.0 out of 5 stars Important Read
Being interested in wildlife I found this book not only enjoyable but important in the sense of it truly highlighting how much I would miss the bringers of Spring. Read more
Published 18 months ago by postj84
5.0 out of 5 stars Nature unfolded
The cuckoo and what else

Beautifully written informative and very thought provoking the author paints a picture of the bringers of spring and shows how little we know... Read more
Published 22 months ago by johno39
5.0 out of 5 stars Say Goodbye To The Cuckcoo
Excellent book well written and very thought provoking,Martin Macarthy raises a lot of questions can we stop the rot, I don't know but we can try. Read more
Published 23 months ago by richie
4.0 out of 5 stars Raising awareness of how close we are to losing the Spring Bringers
Say Goodbye to the Cuckoo is Michael McCarthy's attempt to bring the crashes in the numbers of Spring migrants to the UK (and Europe) to the attention of the general public by... Read more
Published on 17 Dec 2011 by Clare Topping
5.0 out of 5 stars Say Goodbye to the Cuckoo
I had already heard that the Afro-Paleartic migrants were in trouble, I haven't heard a cuckoo here in Buckinghamshire for several years now. Read more
Published on 5 Oct 2010 by melangell
5.0 out of 5 stars Lost paradise
This book came to me as a present, and for that I am grateful. As someone in their seventies I have seen and heard the loss of these familiar birds coming to visit us. Read more
Published on 12 July 2010 by Rev. John E. Harris-white
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