In 2006 Stephen Moss compiled "This Birding Life" which was a collection of his columns that had appeared in The Guardian since 1993, grouped into common themes. Its style was witty and informative.
For this new book Moss kept a diary throughout 2007. Based in Somerset he chronicled what he saw in the locations close to his home in Mark. A few trips elsewhere are included - such as the Cairngorms, North Norfolk Coast and Rutland Water (for the Bird Fair). The book is written in an easy style with informative anecdotes about everyday birds. Apart from the Christmas Cup (a BBC Natural History Unit bird race) the author rarely chases a rarity, other than unexpected local surprises such as a Great Grey Shrike. Mind you, like the rest of us, he'd have liked to have seen that Yellow-nosed Albatross that arrived in Somerset in June 2007!
Overall this is a really relaxing book that brings out the best in normal birding. And there is the challenge. All of us can keep a diary like this, noting the behaviour of typical birds. The difference is that few of us can communicate such observations in a way that captures the imagination of others. Ordinary birding has a lot to offer - and this book reminds you of that on every page.
From the cover illustration to the final passage of text this book is a hymn to the value of the local and the ordinary, and neither of these words should be taken as any form of slight. The majority of the entries in this year long diary occur in Somerset, the authors local patch, and while he does venture to other parts of the UK most of the birds he sees in the year are found within a few hours of his house. This book is much more in the vein of "The Natural History of Selbourne" than any of the "Big Year / Big Twitch" books available. On occasions there are short sections of repetition - we are told the "rhyne" is the local term for dyke on more than one occasion, jizz is defined on a number of occasions and the decline on the Spotted Flycatcher is also detailed more than once. This does give the book a slight feel of being a series of discounted articles rather than a coherent account of year - although I have to stress this is only a slight feeling. This delightful book is a clear message that birding can be more, far more, than just the accumulation of rarities and for this reason it still deserves the highest rating.
I first came across Stephen Moss when I read his book Wild Hares and Hummingbirds and enjoyed it so much that I bought this one straight away. It is a tremendous book, with him taking a diary approach to his birding year (with some other wildlife thrown in). What I enjoy so much about his books is that it is an informative and relaxing but not heavy approach to wildlife, he makes it sound like that he is just a regular bird watcher who enjoys getting outdoors and enjoying his passion with family and friends (he is in fact very established at BBC wildlife and works include programmes such as Springwatch and Bill Oddie goes Birding)
I found it difficult to put this book down and could instantly relate to many of the points raised by the author. Like Stephen Moss, I enjoy watching the birds from my garden and also have a regular patch that I like to visit in addition to making periodic trips to nature reserves. There is nothing specialist about his endeavours and the author definately is writing to appeal to your average "birder" as opposed to authorities. What I liked most about this book was how often he would spot either a rarity or a bird in an unusual context in the most innocuous locations as well as more "everyday" species and find something fascinating and original to say. I found this really inspirational and will now go out bird-watching with renewed vigor!
The style of writing is very easy to read and the text incorporates many nuggets of information such as the migration route of Lesser Whitethroats of which I had previously been unaware. Arranging the book as a diary that progresses through the year produces a good narrative. Although it is a short, little book, it is hugely enjoyable.
At first I thought this book was just going to be one of those annoying tomes written by someone who has got all smug because they have escaped the rat race, but I couldn't have been more wrong. The author works for the famous BBC natural history unit and has travelled the world filming and making natr=ure documentaries, but I get the imprssion that he is never happier than when he is at or near home, finding new revelations amongst the commonplace at home.
It has certainly sharpened my appetite, not just to see birds but to basically keep my eyes and ears open when out and about because there is certainly a bustle in the hedgerow, in case you don't know.
Having a long-standing interest in birds and bird books, I selected this volume on the strength of the superb cover illustration. Who says you should not judge a book by its cover? I was not disappointed. The author takes you very gently through his year, sharing his experiences and bringing them to life. It was a thoroughly enjoyable bed-time read.
does exactly what it says on the tin, it is a diary of a birding year and as such is very informative, it's also nicely written and is well layed out and easy to read, i was pleased to find the book is bound as a hardback and is of excellent quality.
Lovely, Moss uses language to put you there with him on this charming log of a year's birding. Books like this reinforce the reasons you watch birds and his eloquence and knowledge make this a most satisfying read. Recommended.
As ever Stephen Moss`s delightful descriptions are enthralling. He writes with such enthusiasm that I find it hard to believe that his book of poetry was actually written by him as it is so depressing!