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4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5 stars
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on 4 June 2014
Ostensibly I bought this book as a present for my hare-loving wife. When it arrived and I had a chance to take a closer look I changed my mind - only a brief mention of hares, and I'd done that thing where I'd bought her a present because it was something that I really wanted for myself.

Anyway, this is good quality natural history writing and an admirable homage to the 'home turf' in the tradition of Gilbert White. If I'd read it a year ago I probably would have rated it as 5/5. However, in the past year I've read all of the writing of Roger Deakin and most of Richard Mabey's natural history writing and this book doesn't quite measure up to their standard. If you haven't read the posthumously-published 'Notes from Walnut Tree Farm' by Roger Deakin, read that instead of reading this book. If you haven't read Gilbert White's 'The Natural History of Selborne' then read that instead of reading this book. Read anything by Richard Mabey, instead of reading this book. If you've got enought time after doing that that then you can give this book a go. With Deakin and Mabey you feel like you're getting a unique personal insight into the 'natural history' of places, tolerably eccentric like a late-night Radio 4 programme. With this book the voice in my head sounded like a rather polished BBC Four natural history programme - not bad, just not as special as the premier league writers.

Before buying I also read the 'most critical' review I could find on Amazon. The reviewer pointed out that Stephen Moss is obviously a spring-lover, and with that seed of a thought planted it tainted my reading of the book. And although the mood is mostly upbeat and postitive, I'm sure he was lamenting the fact that the swallows would soon be leaving only days after they first arrived.

In summary: if you want something cozy and BBC-professional then this hits the spot. If you want something a little more challenging and profound then read something by Richard Mabey or Roger Deakin.
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on 4 November 2011
This is a wonderful book for any keen or budding naturalist. Stephen Moss is well known to many for his distinguished career with the BBC Natural History unit and the ideal author of a nature diary. Here he follows in Gilbert White's footsteps, with a 305 page, one year nature diary about his home village of Mark, in the Somerset Levels. Having moved from London for a better quality of life in rural surroundings "the best thing we ever did", most folks in Mark must own a copy of the book. However, it is for any nature lover in the UK or abroad, the style of writing will inspire and inform. Even the most avid naturalist will learn new snippets of information on animals, insects, birds and plants. Hares and Hummingbird Hawkmoths are just two of the village inhabitants featured. There are no photos in this book, but there is an attractive cover and several scraperboard illustrations. Do not let this put you off buying this book, but let us hope that, like Gilbert White's book, illustrated version(s) appear in future!
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 1 February 2012
Wild Hares and Hummingbirds is a rather wonderful book that draws inspiration from the classic The Natural History of Selborne (Penguin English Library)

Wild Hares takes us through a calendar year in the Somerset village of Mark. With the Mendips in the background, Exmoor just over the horizon and waters of the Bristol Channel washing at its feet, Mark in a village on the Somerset Levels. In many ways it is - to quote Piglet - entirely surrounded in water.

The Levels are a manufactured landscape, but for all of that they are rich in wildlife. This book is a beautiful introduction to the rhythms of this landscape and its wildlife. While not being a book only about birds, they are heavily featured in the book - but given their importance as markers of the turning of this year this is hardly a surprise.

The book is a gentle walk through a special part of the UK - and the use of the term "gentle" here is not a criticism. The writing clearly shows the affection the author has developed for his adopted home county.

For all that enjoyed the book I did notice I few sentences that I think are worthy of comment. The author poses the question that if we lose species that our grandparent took for granted can we still call anywhere the countryside? Well, I would say the answer is clearly `yes'. It's a different countryside, one that needs protection and help, but its countryside none the less. It's true that most of the changes that have occurred since the end of WWII have damaged it from an ecological point of view - but it is still a wonderful and precious place. The presence of egrets on the Levels may be a sign of problems yet to come - but they would have never been seen by our grandparents. And are they not a remarkable thing in their own right?

For all the concerns the author raises, near the end of the book he concludes that he will "never get bored with what I see, hear and find in this country parish". I many, many ways this is a sentiment I could apply to this book.

Highly recommended.

I think it is only fair to see that this review may have been influenced by the fact that as migrant from the UK I found the description of my home county to be wonderfully accurate. The landscape in the book was as familiar as the one I explored and fished in for many years - I may be biased - but at least I'm honest!
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on 6 February 2013
A month by month diary of a village natural history. Interesting to read, and informative, particularly if you have an ordnance survey map and bird or wildflower guide handy, to check out the references within. The illustrations are good but would have been better in colour.
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on 28 September 2011
Taking his inspiration from Gilbert White's landmark 1789 book The Natural History of Selborne, Stephen Moss spends a year watching the wildlife in one particular country parish -- in this case, centred on his home village of Marsh, in the Somerset Marches. "By looking in depth at what happens here", Moss writes, "I hope to reveal a broader truth about the current fortunes of our countryside, its people, and its wildlife." His knowledge of, and sympathetic understanding of, the countryside and the natural world suffuses every page of this charming nature diary.
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on 27 January 2012
I am seventy years of age and absolutely loved this book. It brought back many memories from my own childhood, having been brought up on my parents farm on the outskirts of a small village. Superbly written book! Thank you Stephen Moss!
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on 10 November 2014
Such a lovely 'diary' of country life from a noted twitcher! Makes me want to go and live in the Somerset Levels (although perhaps not, after 2013-14 winter floods...) Stephen Moss has a delightful facility for recording what he sees, and weaving it into a book which you can dip into whenever you want, without 'losing the plot' - the seasons continue to turn, life moves on, but this book has some lovely observations, and a pleasing, unhurried style. I liked it, and will read it again someday!
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on 30 April 2013
This is a fantastic book if you love wildlife, particularly the two creature who feature in the title. It takes you through each month, through the changing seasons in a typical English village and the stories are told with charm and wit and an incredible knowledge of the natural world. A must for wildlife lovers, highly recommended.
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on 5 January 2013
A most delightful book which will appeal to all lovers of the countryside and wildlife. It is beautifully written both from the point of view of the countryside and wildlife but also describes graphically the joys of family life in a west country village
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on 14 February 2012
Highly interesting, a worthy read. I have learnt many new facts regarding nature.
I would recommend this book to anyone who are especially interested in the British countryside.
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