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49
4.2 out of 5 stars
Crow Country
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35 of 35 people found the following review helpful
on 29 February 2008
Crow Country isn't just a profile of this very British bird, it's also a philosophy, a biography, an investigation and a wonderfully lyrical description of the British countryside. The subtitle "A meditation on birds, landscape and nature" is a perfect summary of this glorious slim volume: 192 pages of sheer joy. From the wonderful opening chapter where Mark Cocker almost literally paints with words the evening gathering of corvids in his local fields, I was totally wrapped up in this passionate and beautifully written book. The blurb describes this as a "prose poem". Too right. For me, this is one of the all-time great books on British natural history.
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135 of 140 people found the following review helpful
I was interested in birds once , even going as far as to spend my hard earned paper round money on a very expensive "Book Of British Birds"( which I still have, the book that is , not the paper round) , but then I became more interested in the flirtatious human kind and that was the end of that . So reading a book about the corvid family of birds -a family that includes crows, rooks, jackdaws , ravens, jays , choughs, magpies- wasn't the examination it might have been. It helps greatly that Mark Cocker strikes a vivid balance between his expert knowledge and accessibility.
Cocker is a committed naturalist, spending hours standing around in the flatlands near his Norfolk home waiting to catch glimpses of birds that many of us probably see , and take for granted every day of our lives. He admits this is bizarre but he is not just looking for individual birds or mating pairs but ostensibly for flocks .His writing about these masses of birds at dusk as they head off to roost is almost poetic and it's this literacy that also makes Crow Country such an enjoyable read. Entranced by a gathering of birds in the night sky Like "a gyroscope of tightly packed fish roiling and twisted by the tide" he surmises that their power over him is to "act like ink -blot tests drawing out of (his ) unconscious ".
Cocker then intersperses elements of autobiography and sociology into the narrative as he contrasts a birds migration with the human turmoil of moving house even going as far as to compare his recent upheaval from inner city Norwich to the Yare valley to a bird migration , driven by instinct- which will come as a surprise to Kirsty Allsop , a good thing I think.
This book though is not just set in Norfolk and is all the richer and more fascinating for it .Cocker travels from Dumfriesshire to the flat heartlands of South England observing or more pertinently sometimes failing to observe the birds in all their complexity . He also points out the symbiosis between the creatures and rooks, how crows form an integral part of British folk lore. Its persuasive , perspicacious and expressive, a deeply passionate exploration about how these birds "seemed to express as deep a homing instinct for our green and pleasant land as the English felt themselves" Or as it wonderfully observes how its raucous cry is "Our landscape made audible" .
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85 of 89 people found the following review helpful
on 1 August 2007
This insight into the life of crows and the ways in which they have always impinged on human existence, is both fascinating and lyrical. The author betrays his affection for these intelligent birds on every page of this beautiful book.
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on 30 May 2009
Originally written for the hard back edition, this review has been copied here as Amazon don't seem to have sorted out their links and, to be honest, I wanted to provide some counterbalance to those reviews which take a somewhat different view, and with which I so obviously disagree!

Crow Country isn't just a profile of this very British bird, it's also a philosophy, a biography, an investigation and a wonderfully lyrical description of the British countryside. The subtitle "A meditation on birds, landscape and nature" is a perfect summary of this glorious slim volume: 192 pages of sheer joy. From the wonderful opening chapter where Mark Cocker almost literally paints with words the evening gathering of corvids in his local fields, I was totally wrapped up in this passionate and beautifully written book. The blurb describes this as a "prose poem". Too right. For me, this is one of the all-time great books on British natural history.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 21 April 2008
I'm not a bird watcher but as an outdoor person I've often been camping around ravens and crows. This book is absolutely fabulous, chronicling Mark Cocker's move to rural Norfolk and his growing fascination with ravens. There are some wonderfully evocative descriptions of landscape and locality. The technical investigation of the crows creeps up on you and you really do find yourself reading some detailed stuff about crows and being completely engrossed by it all.

A fabulous book.
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32 of 34 people found the following review helpful
TOP 100 REVIEWERon 13 September 2008
Ever since I saw two crows (mother and father I presume) dive-bombing our cats who were near to their young fledgling who was taking his first "flight" from the nest in the tree at the back of our garden, I have been fascinated by their behaviour in particular and by the other crows in the neighbourhood in general. This has proven interesting indeed as the original crows' nest has been used again and again by presumably the same pair, who have raised more babies since the dive bombing incident. Their cawing in the morning has become our dawn chorus and whilst ostensibly a common occurrence, just by paying a bit more interest in these events has increased my enjoyment of our garden.
Now to this book. It is the latest in a recent line of excellent nature based books, which have extolled the hidden beauty of britain and the pleasure to be found in studying the apparently commonplace. This book especially scores because it charts a human journey and joy in an apparently bland landscape and quite frankly just wmakes you want to go out there and see these magnificent birds in action.
This book is shorter than some of it's peers and might have benefitted from some photographs or pictures, but I guess you can get these in any other bird guide so there you go.

a lovely book
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on 20 January 2009
I had been aware of this book for some time but only recently obtained a copy. I am so glad that I did because it has opened up a whole new dimension to my passion for natural history. Being a birder myself and doing it seriously for some 30 years I have found myself looking at crows and their behaviour in a way I never have in all that time.
Some reviewers have missed the point with this book I think. This was clearly never intended to be an in depth investigation and it feels more like a conversation "in the pub" about something we all take for granted and often overlook. That's part of the appeal for me.

All birders will identify with Mr Cocker and his descriptions of trips out at dusk in winter, the light and conditions you only seem to get at that time of year, and the simple pleasure of watching the natural world unfold. I think there is much in here for anyone though who appreciates the British landscape and the creatures we share it with.
Since reading this lovely book I have been out and watched two rook and jackdaw spectacles of my own and been just mesmerised.

Get this book and let Mr Cocker awaken you to pleasure in the commonplace.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
I echo what others have said about the quality of this book. It is indeed a good piece of writing and the only reservation I have - and it is somewhat tentative - is that there is perhaps too much about the writer and not enough about the crows and rooks. Put briefly, next time there could be more Corvids and less Cocker. As an aside I would say you learn as much if not more about rooks and crows in the late Roger Deakin's book, "Wildwood" (2007).
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
TOP 500 REVIEWERon 11 July 2014
Mark Cocker’s 2007 book (principally) charting his experiences ‘rooking’ in his new Norfolk home in the early 2000s provides a nice counterpart to Ester Woolfson’s excellent book Corvus – A Life With Birds. Perhaps not surprisingly given the man’s background, Cocker’s book is the more 'formally studious’ (scientific, if you like) and focuses primarily on the group behaviour of the birds, whereas Woolfson’s is a more informal and, individual bird-wise, more intimate behavioural account.

Cocker’s book does not focus exclusively on rooks, however – well, given their 'flocking’ tendency with jackdaws, it hardly could , of course – but, as the title suggests also covers comparative pieces on jackdaws, carrion crows and ravens (with more fleeting mention of magpies, jays and choughs). The sections I found particularly interesting were those where Cocker attempts to explain the rookery and roosting behaviour of his principal species – concluding that there are benefits for the birds both around group protection and food sourcing (the latter somewhat akin to bees). In addition, the author provides considerable background on the environmental issues behind fluctuations in corvid populations, plus a particularly fascinating section on past naturalists who have also had 'obsessions’ on single bird species (not just corvids). This latter examination of other 'obsessives’ Cocker has undertaken partly in an attempt to dispel the 'nerdy’ image associated with birding by illustrating the ‘outward looking’ (sense of freedom) and aesthetic benefits of the practice.

Crow Country comes highly recommended, alongside Cocker’s other writing, in particular the endlessly fascinating and frequently hilarious 2001 book Birders: Tales of a Tribe.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
This is a beautiful book about a much overlooked bird. However it is not just about Rooks as a species - it is not just a monograph about the biology of rooks. While it does contain much information about rooks as birds, it has just as much to say about rooks as an aspect of our landscape, our relationship with the landscape in general and how we place ourselves within that landscape.
The use of rook calls as a marker of ruralness is commented on, and this observation holds for more countries than just the UK. There are raven calls in the background of the Australian drama playing on the television in the room next to me. Crows as a group play an important part in many sets of folk tales and this book places the rook firmly into the current landscape.
The author engages in a conversation about the landscape that includes all aspects of place, and while some of the reviews here are critical of the amount of time he spends talking about himself, he has become part of his own landscape. If we do not see ourselves as part of a landscape, places become merely picturesque and the things within them are distanced from us.
This is a really good book that deserves to be widely read.
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