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A bad birdwatcher's companion...or a personal introduction to Britain's 50 most obvious birds [Hardcover]

Simon Barnes , Peter Partington
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)

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Book Description

8 Sep 2005
Few books are more intimidating than a conventional field guide. There are simply too many birds in them. This book introduces the reader to Britain's most obvious birds. But it does more than that: it also explains them. It explains the way that different birds do different things, eat different food, sing different songs and live different lives, and it explains why they are different. If you are a would-be birdwatcher but don't know where to start, A Bad Field Guide is for you. It will help you understand birdwatching: but far more important, it will help you begin to understand birds. Robin...But have you ever wondered what a red breast means to a robin? A red breast is not just the way a human can recognise a robin when it comes a-calling, when it sits on a spade or a Christmas card. The red breast is not just a bit of chance colouration. No: the red breast is the core of the robin's being. The red breast is the love, the honour and the glory of a robin. Have you noticed that a robin positively flaunts it? It is as if he is telling the world: for God's sake, I'm a robin!

Product details

  • Hardcover: 281 pages
  • Publisher: Short Books; First Edition edition (8 Sep 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1904977375
  • ISBN-13: 978-1904977377
  • Product Dimensions: 19.8 x 13 x 3.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 299,069 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"A witty, perceptive book, thoughtful, instructive and full of simple wisdom." Daily Mail "A delightful ode to the wild world outside the kitchen window... A book which fills you with that warm feeling that a shared love conquers all." Daily Telegraph"

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
39 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly Recommended 17 Nov 2005
This book is brilliant. The pen pictures of the 50 (and a few more) birds describing their habits, observation tips etc are accurate and very witty. It is an ideal companion to the first book but also has its own value as a stand alone book for those who haven't read the first one. For those who are confirmed bad birdwatchers its an ideal present for those who don't yet share or appreciate your enthusiasm. The environmental/conservation slant in the book is well judged - not too strident but makes the point well.
I'd recommend it to anybody.
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32 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars EXCELLENT 11 Jan 2006
After Christmas a year ago, I struggled to find something worthy of the book
token I'd been given, till I chanced on "How to be a bad birdwatcher". It
caught my attention immediately for the way the author approaches the
subject. For someone like myself who has a passing interest in a lot of
subjects, it appeals to my mentality marvellously.

In a similar situation again this year I spotted a familiar style of
cover - "The bad birdwatcher's companion", of course. I was initially
discouraged by a book describing such everyday birds as the Robin and
Sparrow, until I read a few extracts. That was it - I just had to buy a
copy. All other books have been set aside until I've read this, start to

Congratulations to the author on a splendid couple of works. They
do to me just what I guess was intended - get me excited about the topic. If
only the traditionally stuffy style of a lot of British publications were
written instead, in this easy manner, they'd be a lot more digestible.
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64 of 65 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great aid to 'bad' birdwatching 16 Oct 2005
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is destined to become a classic. Barnes introduces the fifty most 'obvious' birds in the UK. Each brief chapter gives a knowledgeable overview of a bird; not only where they're found and what they look and sound like but how to actually spot them. His tips and insights on technique and approaches to see them are about an attitude of mind; ways of getting your 'eye in'.... and it really does work. In the walks I've taken in the few days that I've had the book I've spotted loads more stuff. It almost has a talismanic quality. I read the chapter on the Sparrow Hawk and thought - well that's one I'll need luck and time for. The very next day I was out in the garden and saw one high up (I would have seen it anyway but now I recognised it) and I was ready to watch the following attack on the pigeons! So its a practical guide that works.
Better than that is the fact that it's a hugely enjoyable read, written in the romp along style that has made Barnes a star sports writer. His passion and enthusiasm really shine through. I'm sure that even 'good' birdwatchers', those who make lists and stuff, will enjoy reading it and no doubt learn a thing or two.
So if you're even remotely interested in birds and want to know a bit more this comes highly recommended. If you're like me you can expect some pleasant surprises as a consequence of picking it up. And I haven't even got 'How to be a bad birdwatcher' yet...
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You can always learn a little bit more! 25 April 2006
By Kimco
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I have many bird books from Birds of the Western Palearctic to the Collins Guide - plus 2 shelves of books on individual species. This book is still a delight - and like all Simon Barnes books - immensely readable. The illustrations are just sketches - cartoon like, but they give the jizz of the individual bird. I really enjoyed this book and would recommend it to any birder - experienced or novice.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A find 13 Mar 2011
Format:Audio CD
This is my favourite audio cd. The author has a relaxed style but there is no disguising the enthusiasm and knowledge that he brings to the subject. I have always admired experts who can recognise birds, but have never managed to get a handle on how to do this. These cds got me started and I am still coming back to them. They are excellently recorded so that they can be listened to without difficulty in a car and my 84 year old mother-in-law and I both enjoyed them when stuck on the M1 for a few hours. Thanks, Mr Barnes.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Garden ornithology made easy 29 April 2007
By Chris Pearson VINE VOICE
Format:Audio CD
This audio CD got an excellent review in The Times ( Barnes's 'paper'), and for good reason.

As stated in the introduction, Field Guides can be intimidating, whereas this superb audio CD takes you simply through 50 birds, their habitat, song, characterisitics and personalities, in an easy to listen to, yet informative way.

An audio CD's success is often determined by the reader's tone of voice, speed of delivery and empathy with the story or subject matter and selecting Barnes to read his own book was an excellent choice.

Having listened to the Dawn Chorus in my garden for a number of years and always wanted to know which birds are participating...well, all is now clear.

If you are interested in learning more about birds and want to break into the subject easily, this is the perfect place to start.

It lifts the heart!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Amiable and Informative 26 April 2011
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
This CD set provides the listener with fascinating facts and identification hints for 50 British birds. These are backed up with recordings of calls and songs. It's not the CD to choose if you need a quick recall of a particular bird's song - but the explanations give a lot of interesting information, and quite a few philosophical reflections, which may or may not be to your taste. Barnes explains that he has chosen Britain's 50 'most obvious' birds - and you might argue with some of his choices - but as a way of learning the songs and spotting hints for most of the species you'll notice when starting birdwatching, this is a good starting point.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars recognising birdsong
This CD has helped me so much,I can now recognise so much birdsong when out with my dogs. Thank you Mr Barnes. I would love you to make a second volume please.
Published 8 months ago by Mrs. Susanne Renshaw
5.0 out of 5 stars good for casual birdwatchers
guide for people who do not want to study in detail different types of birds. content readable, humourous and on the money
Published 10 months ago by stephen griffin
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding
A life changing book. This book will have us all in our cars heading out to one of S Simon`s cathedrals to see and hear these wonderful bird s for ourselves.
Published 13 months ago by Tom Attwood
5.0 out of 5 stars Simple & Humerous.
A lovely little book packed with enjoyable and recognizable details about the birds we see in our garden. Ideal for the casual birdwatcher to expand their knowledge a little.
Published 18 months ago by M. Bridge
5.0 out of 5 stars perfect
the book arrived promptly, and just as ordered. A really lovely alternative to the usual Bird ID book.Nice illustrations. makes a lovely present.
Published on 21 Dec 2011 by lesley
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent product let down by poor packaging
I loved this audio book - I think Simon Barnes has such a great flair for description. His quirky ways of talking about what are, when all is said and done, fairly common birds,... Read more
Published on 10 Jan 2011 by Misty
5.0 out of 5 stars A great book for the general reader
This book was designed for the likes of me - a person with an interest in nature, and who would like to be better informed, but who does not have the level of interest needed to... Read more
Published on 2 Feb 2010 by R. H. Yule
4.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining and Informative
A gentle introduction to the world of birds in your garden that was just what I needed and prompted me to buy tapes of bird calls and Barnes' further book about behaviour. Read more
Published on 1 Aug 2009 by Bridgemagoo2
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