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Badgerlands: The Twilight World of Britain's Most Enigmatic Animal
Badgerlands: The Twilight World of Britain's Most Enigmatic Animal
by Patrick Barkham
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 12.91

18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Scapegoat Badger, 4 Nov 2013
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It took me quite a while to read Patrick Barkham's book Badgerlands not because it is a bad book but the chapters on the cruelty, persecution and culling inflicted on badgers was upsetting and just made me put it down and try again in a few days. There are uplifting chapters on the descriptions of people being badger watchers and feeders. I am also glad that Mr. Barkham has at last been able to engage with badgers and his descriptions are also uplifting.
One professional reviewer describes Barkham's last chapter as superb. I agree. I was wondering if I was really going to get anything from the book because as an ecologist I was hopefully waiting for a positive dénouement. There it was in the final chapter. In 2006 when we then lived in Somerset we wrote to the National Farmers Union about the poor standards of animal husbandry that we were witnessing in Somerset. The response from the Director of Communications was that the standard of animal husbandry was an area of concern. He also said the NFU "did not normally give advice on husbandry to its members as traditionally that have been the province of Defra." He continues "However, we are actively considering the possibility of introducing a professional qualification for people who describe themselves as "farmers" with the object of raising standards and sorting out the bad apples".
Well seven years later there still seems to be a lot of "bad apples" out there and Barkham quotes six professional vets who insist that intensive dairy-farming has produced "mutant cows" unable to resist TB because of the appalling conditions and breeding they are subjected to. So we have made the badger the scapegoat for a deplorable situation. I have as much sympathy for farm animals as badgers and I don't wish to see any animal destroyed needlessly but the solution is not the random culling of a wild animal. Surely time for supermarkets to cough up some of their profits and pay farmers to ensure the welfare of their cows and raise standards and sort out the "bad apples". Politicians also need to understand this.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 28, 2014 8:50 PM BST


Bee (Animal)
Bee (Animal)
by Claire Preston
Edition: Paperback
Price: 11.09

5.0 out of 5 stars This book is not boring!, 3 Jan 2013
This review is from: Bee (Animal) (Paperback)
The objective of this series of "Animal" by Reaktion Books is
"To explore the historical significance and impact on humans of a wide range of animals, each book in the series takes a different animal and examines its role in history around the world. The importance of mythology, religion and science are described as is the history of food, the trade in animals and their products, pets, exhibition, film and photography, and their roles in the artistic and literary imagination." Bee does exactly this and offers a very much condensed version of Eva Crane's huge and expensive tome "The World History of Beekeeping and Honey Hunting". One reviewer states that varroa and Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) are not mentioned in the book. I should say however that varroa and tracheal mites are mentioned along with Nosema. As CCD was first termed in 2006, the author whose book was already being prepared for publication prior to 2006 would have had no knowledge of CCD. However, "Disappearing Disease" is not a new phenomenon and this term was first used in the early 20th Century.
To fill out the understanding of beekeeping and its problems you to have a second book specifically about beekeeping and there are cheaper books on this subject but not as full as the descriptions by Crane. Nevertheless this book by Claire Preston, despite being a paperback, is worth having and is a valuable contribution with excellent illustrations. The folklore and mythology has been well researched and explained.
This book exactly fulfils the objectives of the publishers "Animal series".


Scotland (Collins New Naturalist Library, Book 119)
Scotland (Collins New Naturalist Library, Book 119)
by Peter Friend
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 50.00

33 of 36 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not quite a New Naturalist, 6 Feb 2012
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This is the second new Naturalist volume written by Peter Friend (see Amazon reviews for Southern England: The Geology and Scenery of Lowland England. I would quote Mr. May from his review of Southern England "There is also the opportunity, I feel, for a future author to develop further the influence of geology beyond just basic physical landscape, to demonstrate how geology is also a key determinant of different types of habitat and ecosystem, and species distribution (biogeography)."
"Scotland" for me is a disappointing book, albeit it is well written and has excellent photographs and maps. The claim of the Editors of New Naturalist is "That the aim of this series is to interest the reader in the wildlife of Britain by recapturing the enquiring spirit of the old naturalist." There are more of their aims on page 2 of "Scotland". I therefore agree with Mr. May that there was indeed an opportunity in any later New Naturalist book (as it turned out by Peter Friend) to at least expand on the hard geology and include the subsequent "effect on the flora and fauna of the area". And I would suggest that Mr Friend has missed this opportunity. To support this I would refer to other books in the New Naturalist series e.g. Galloway and the Borders, Loch Lomondside and The Hebrides etc. which do attempt to marry up the flora and fauna with the geological landscape. "Scotland", however, is just a book about geology of Scotland. Perhaps the book should have been titled "The Geology of Scotland"; it covers very little about other aspects of the natural in Scotland. "Scotland" as a title in the New Naturalist series does imply a full account of the geology, landscape and the associated flora and fauna, and that is what it should have.
Reed Noss in an academic paper in 1996 claimed "The Naturalists Are Dying Off". He continues "Nothing will destroy the science and the mission of conservation biology faster than a generation or two of biologists raised on dead facts and technology and lacking direct personal experience with Nature.
Come on New Naturalist editors! where are the authors with the "enquiring spirit of the "old naturalists" N.W. Moore, D.A. Ratcliffe, K. Mellanby, B.N.K. Davis, M.D. Hooper and the like?! Or have all the naturalists died off already?
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 18, 2012 9:42 AM BST


The Field By The River: Uncovering the Nature of Country Life
The Field By The River: Uncovering the Nature of Country Life
by Ken Burnett
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An accurate portrayal of rural France, 24 Jun 2011
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I am an ecologist and live in rural France. Ken Burnett has given an accurate portrayal of life in rural France, warts and all! Many Brits only visit France in the summer months and have no idea of rural life in winter. Anyone seriously considering moving to France to live should read this book. The book draws attention to the issues we ourselves have noted and experienced, both positive and negative, particularly with regard to nature, climate, changing farming practices, and cultural pursuits such as La Chasse - hunting and shooting which is at a level unknown in Britain. I have read a number of books on life here and this is the first putting an accurate account of what Brits might expect to find here. The others display a very flowery, rather artificial account, which may be found disappointing when actually living here.


Plant Pests (Collins New Naturalist Library, Book 116)
Plant Pests (Collins New Naturalist Library, Book 116)
by David V. Alford
Edition: Paperback
Price: 24.91

26 of 29 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars What happened to pest management in field crops?, 18 Jan 2011
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I have very many New Naturalists and I am not a collector but a practising ecologist and reader. When this book was first advertised on the NHBS website I read a list of contents including coverage of various pests on various crops, plants etc. This list of contents included Pest management in field crops. This was one of the main reasons that I decided to purchase the book from Amazon.
However when I received the book I found the author's foreword makes clear that it was not intended "as an identification guide to pests; nor does it aim to be encyclopaedic or attempt to address the vexed question of how to control them". I would have thought that someone who writes so enthusiastically and knowedgeably would have drawn attention or included a whole chapter on pest management covering pesticides and insecticides and their widespread uses and mismanagement.
While he does include on pages 17 and 18 (in the chapter he calls "Plant Pests and Their Natural Enemies") a brief section on pest management including IPM and BCAs, a very brief mention on page 18 of the impact of insecticides on non-target invertebrates is not good enough. (Are pesticides "natural" enemies?) Neonicotinoids, introduced twenty years ago, one of the most devastating control pesticides since DDT, on both target and non-target organisms, (this includes bees, butterflies, birds and potentially mammals too) does not seem to be mentioned at all! The bee deaths mentioned on page 18 due to the treatment of the maize seed with neonicotinoid particularly imidacloprid was a missed opportunity to expand on the systemic insecticides. This omission is very serious both in terms of scholarship and in public interest.
This is a very topical subject in the UK at the moment due to the widespread decline of the honeybee and other beneficial pollinators.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 11, 2011 4:28 PM GMT


Collins Field Guide - Fields
Collins Field Guide - Fields
by Bill Laws
Edition: Hardcover

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not a Collins Field Guide!, 14 Jun 2010
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As the book is advertised as a Collins Field Guide I did expect this guide to be in the similar format of the many other Collins Field Guides i.e. informative, with classifications, researched with scientific rigour and restricted to Britain and/or Europe. Instead, in my opinion, it is a personal and self-indulgent overview of world "fields" and cultural history and folklore. There are many vivid and expressive artworks throughout the book and this is the book's main strength. However, there are elementary errors, for example, on page 89 describing Field Wood-rush as a grass when it is a rush, and page 91 in referring to Darwin's Meadow "One grass in evidence that summer was the sweet vernal (Lolium Perenne)".
To be correct, sweet vernal grass is Anthoxanthum odoratum, Lolium perenne is perennial rye grass. Anthoxanthum is the classic sweet-smelling hay meadow grass, while Lolium is the sown monoculture grass that is grown for the silage that has replaced the traditional, rich hay meadows.
In addition, what is the authority of Mr Laws? His background and knowledge are not mentioned; from what area of expertise or standpoint has he approached the subject? There is more to be gleaned about Mr Laws' interests and particular expertise on Amazon's website than in this book. Also who was the artist?
This is not a field guide; it does not guide the reader towards a close and detailed knowledge of "fields" (which are not even defined in the book). If the reader or Mr Laws wishes to gain this sort of knowledge I recommend Michael Allaby's "A year in the life of a field" (David and Charles, 1981).
Mr Laws' book is a missed opportunity, particularly in the light of the current destruction of field systems in Britain and western Europe with agricultural intensification.


Say Goodbye to the Cuckoo
Say Goodbye to the Cuckoo
by Michael McCarthy
Edition: Hardcover

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
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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.


Crow Country
Crow Country
by Mark Cocker
Edition: Hardcover

4 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Too Many Purple Passages, 11 Dec 2008
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This review is from: Crow Country (Hardcover)
This book is informative and well-researched as regarding corvids and provides an insight into little-known factors of these interesting social birds. However mixed metaphors and purple passages proliferate through the text and detract from the main thrust of the book, for example, page 104, "buff-tailed bumblebees who, still drugged from their winter hibernation and testing the new-found power of their wings, career through the dew-edged grasses like wild boar charging in the woods". From personal experience as a naturalist, wild boar charging through a wood has no comparison with bumble bees searching out a nesting site. As the architect said: "Less is more". Keep it simple, Mr Cocker!
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 31, 2009 10:53 PM BST


A Place In My Country: In Search Of A Rural Dream
A Place In My Country: In Search Of A Rural Dream
by Ian Walthew
Edition: Paperback

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Familiar story line but no solution to achieve the dream., 12 Nov 2008
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Ian Walthew and many other authors seek to dwell in the countryside and help restore and revitalise human relations with the natural world. This restoration does not mean to preserve or re-establish a cultural or ecological past, but taking strength from these landscapes past, to evolve and create new places for dwelling and experiencing and living with nature. The existing dwellers in the counryside, the newcomers to the countryside and similar authors such as Ian Walthew have all failed, because they seek to dwell in a landscape that is no longer there. As Lucy Lippard says, "we should help people see their places with new eyes".
This means dwelling in the landscape, being creative and living with nature in the 21st century and not forever trying to turn the clock back when it needs to go forward.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 28, 2009 11:55 PM BST


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