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The Running Sky: A Bird-Watching Life [Paperback]

Tim Dee
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
RRP: £9.99
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Book Description

3 Jun 2010
The Running Sky records a lifetime of looking at birds. Begining in summer with clouds of breeding seabirds in Shetland and ending with crepuscular nightjars like giant moths in the heart of England, Tim Dee maps his own observations and encounters over four decades of tracking birds across the globe. He tells of near-global birds like sparrows, starlings and ravens, and exotic species, like electrically coloured hummingbirds in California and bee-eaters and broadbills in Africa. In doing so he brilliantly restores us to the primacy of looking, the thrill of watching, and takes us outside, again and again, to stand - with or without binoculars - under the storm of life over our heads, and to marvel once more at what is flying about us.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (3 Jun 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099516497
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099516491
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 70,318 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"The Running Sky has the makings of a classic. It's beautifully written, extraordinarily vigilant, and very moving. Most remarkable of all, it manages to give a sense of the bird world as being something which embraces and contains our own - which means that, as we read it, we learn a lot about ourselves as well as the fellow creatures flying through, over and around our own lives" (Andrew Motion)

"Lyrical...sure to become a genuine addition to the literature of birds" (Daily Express)

"What makes his book wonderful is his passion... He captures the thrill and puzzlement of watching birds as I have never previously seen it captured" (Sunday Herald)

"Its author has a forensic eye for detail and a gift for poetry...an intimate and erudite account... he is in the front rank of contributors to the literature of natural history" (Daily Telegraph)

"Serious and playful...creates a powerful and intensely poetic paean to what others have called the wonder of birds" (Guardian)

Book Description

An extraordinary, inspiring book about a lifetime of observing birds, already acclaimed as a classic

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
43 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a life worth sharing 1 Nov 2009
I was attracted by the cover as i waited for my wife in the shop at martin mere. i started to read it as she took her time choosing packs of cards. by the time i got to his amazing descriptions of gannets diving i knew i had to buy this book. Reading it has been an immense pleasure. The prose is fabulous - this is some of the best writing i have read in a long time - and the sense of the world he conveys is miraculous. The book drove me out. each time i finished a chapter i was gripped by a desire to get out into the countryside and watch the skies. but even more than that the book touched on what it means to be human and those insights into his own life added to the whole. I cannot recommend this book enough - it would be a great present to anyone who liked good writing. it certainly is a life worth sharing
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63 of 66 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Running Away! 13 Jan 2010
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
On a browse through Amazon I chanced upon this book. It seemed something that would interest me as birdwatching is my number 1 hobby and it had (at the time) three 5* ratings - must be good then?

My overwhelming feeling is 'thank goodness I finished this book and managed not to give up on it'. I found it really boring. On the back Susannah Clapp says 'Those who love birds will love this book and envy Tim Dee for both the many adventures his year contained and the grace with which he describes them'.

Well apart from going to Zambia I don't really recall he did much adventuring, and certainly pages and pages about Redstarts isn't exactly an out of this world experience for the reader, well not for me.

Tim Dee is obviously a bright perhaps intellectual guy, far more than me and I am happy to put my hand up and say that perhaps that's why I didn't connect with it, I am too thick. But I am fairly well read and I think masterpieces are those that engage the reader in an enticing way not a flowery over written imagery one - and this is what really got on my nerves. Seldom does a paragraph pass without some simile of overwrought emotion or over description e.g.

'I walked through the fen waiting for it to get darker. The day was reluctant to finish. Two common terns made last flights above the reedy mere white as ice cubes against the green. In a hedge along a dyke, bullfinches piped their embarrassed music, their soft calls of bloodied regret escaping over their blood red breasts.' (Well for a start their breast are pink not red)

He goes off to see a Starling roost (millions of birds) nothing wrong with that.
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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Jealousy! 27 Oct 2009
It's not fair. Over the past few years a rare selection of "country" books have come out, and it seems that each one builds on the last. Was Roger Deakin's "Waterlog" the first? In my mind it was, and still remains the best report of man's relationship with the country. Having said that, there have recently been a number of volumes challenging that masterpiece of which this is the latest I have read. The previous reviewer makes the case for reading this much more eloquently than I can, but if ever a book was more suited to being read next to the statutory roaring log fire, then this is it. (That's quite a pile of books by said fire now, so lets hope for a cold spell eh?)

And jealousy? Well I really envy those authors who have the time, money(!), and opportunity to undertake these projects and then have the gall to write so brilliantly about them. The ability to bring out what should be so blooming obvious as we wander around is a rare gift and Mr Dee accomplishes this so well. As I say, it's not fair!
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply wonderful 25 Jan 2010
By Stewart M TOP 500 REVIEWER
Tim Dee has produced a book the aim of which seems to be simple. To return beauty and wonder to our understanding of birds. This is a book long on poetry and short on lists, it is long on wonder and short on rarities.

Technical descriptions can provide a picture of the bird as an object, but give no real insight into the actual living bird itself. Using the notes on the plumage of a Nightjar from "Birds of the Western Palearctic" (aka BWP or "The Bible') as an example, Dee suggests that a description that relies simply and only on the physical bird is a "defeat". Through the likes of the BWP you may come to know the bird as an object, but know nothing of it as a living thing, as a real live entity.

The pages of this book are full of references to other ways of knowing the birds you see. Poetry, music, literature. He suggests that many birds exist as an idea as well as an object and that these can often be best grasped through less technical, but no less informative, language. In some cases, such as the Nightingale he suggests, as others have done, that poetry built our image of the bird as much as the bird did itself.
In other parts of the books he describes our lack of contact with the natural world in wonderful ways; "they call to us, but we do not notice" he says.

This is a book of almost spellbinding beauty - not without flaws, or some passages that seem a little self indulgent, but beautiful none the less. The chapter on the ending of the day in a Devon woodland is one of the most evocative I have read. The damp western woodlands that the author so clearly loves flow from the page. As the day dies and the birds fall silent in the Devon woodlands, the end of the book approaches.

If you watch birds for their mystery and charm, rather than as a source of ticks, I would suggest this is the book for you.

I cannot recommend it highly enough.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Not sure....
I must confess I was influenced by the five-star ratings when buying this book. Clearly opinions aare personal and this book has been enjoyed by some readers. Read more
Published 8 months ago by rab
4.0 out of 5 stars Unusual Book
This book is completely different from any other I have read. I consider this to be a new approach not only to ornithology but also to non-fiction writing in general. Read more
Published 14 months ago by Anthony Noguera
1.0 out of 5 stars Self-indulgent and self-regarding
I only made the start of the third chapter before hurling it with some force against the wall. The inappropriate adjectives, the redundant metaphors, the flights of fancy!!! Read more
Published on 1 Mar 2011 by Alan
5.0 out of 5 stars birders, buy this book
The multi-layered experience of bird-watching is brought to the reader by Tim Dee's book. Here is not only his excitement at seeing birds in flight, but a poised, elegant... Read more
Published on 1 Feb 2011 by Ms. J. Hodgson
5.0 out of 5 stars The Running Sky
received by my birdwatching friend with delight. This is a new one apparently - he's got dozens of others. Prompt service - 1st class altogether.
Published on 24 May 2010 by Mrs. Margaret Quinn
3.0 out of 5 stars Between brilliance and annoyance
Tim Dee has undoubtedly written a beautiful book with some awe inspiring paragraphs that lift your soul and have you rushing to get outside to experience just a little of the world... Read more
Published on 12 April 2010 by D. Armson
5.0 out of 5 stars This book has that feel-good quality ....
I had a big disappointment last year when I started to read a birdwatching book by a very well-known TV personality .... Read more
Published on 4 Dec 2009 by Clare Marden
5.0 out of 5 stars See more through your binoculars
I hesitated to read this book, having been on the outskirts of Tim Dee's life for the last decade or so. Read more
Published on 30 Oct 2009 by Simon Roberts
5.0 out of 5 stars Magnificent
This is a book that is lived in every word. It is as if, when reading it, you are borrowing another man's life. Read more
Published on 26 Sep 2009 by Mr. A. Nicolson
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