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4.8 out of 5 stars21
4.8 out of 5 stars
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 5 August 2009
The real quality of this excellent book comes not from its well written and researched text, or even from the way the saddening, but hardly surprising, conclusion is reached. It comes from the choice of birds the author uses. In all but one example the birds are (were?) to be found in close proximity to humans or play a significant role in folk law. In other words, they are the everyday birds, the familiar birds, the birds of story and for me at least, the birds of a summer childhood : Cuckoos in the hedge across the road, a spotted flycatcher catching a butterfly that I had worn as a living brooch for almost 5 minutes, swifts and swallows.

The book examines a number of species of summer migrants - the so called "spring bringers" and seeks to explain why each species is important - initially not in an ecological sense, but why they are important to us as people. The ecological importance of the birds comes later. Here the famous lines of Ted Hughes are to the fore - the swifts are back, so the worlds still working.

The summer migrants form an important part of the soundscape of the British country side - they form a good part of the river of sound that runs through it. The central question posed by this book is this : What will happen it that river runs dry?

This is an important and highly recommended book. Read it yourself, buy it for others and talk to your friends about it - the songs of our remembered and future summers depend on the birds that fill the pages of this book.
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on 5 June 2009
Say Goodbye to the Cuckoo

Whether you are an urban or rural dweller, this beautifully written little book highlights the population crashes, particularly since 2007, of many of those birds that we have always taken for granted that migrate from Africa to our country in springtime. Where are they now? Stop, look and listen. Do you hear them; have you seen them recently? Have you heard the cuckoo? Where are the swifts? Well researched and engagingly written. More than a wake up call, the findings are unnerving.Pre-occupied with our electronic world, deafened by our man made noise, we may fail to note what is missing. This book deserves to be widely read.
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on 3 August 2009
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.
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on 3 January 2010
Michael McCarthy has put into words everything I, as a birdwatcher for many years, know to be true. That there were a great many more birds singing when I was a lad.
The disappearance of huge numbers of migratory birds, for a variety of reasons some still unknown, is every bit the tragedy that McCarthy - and the people he talks to in his quest - say it is.
Don't be put off by my 'preachy' review - McCarthy leads you through this subject adeptly and subtley. Even if you know nothing at all about birds, read this book
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on 21 November 2010
I live in Harare Zimbabwe and many of the species that Michael McCarthy writes about turn up in my garden in the summer months, October to March. I am a keen birdwatcher and keep records of birds I have seen and there has definitely been a decrease in the number of migrants visiting my garden over the 30 years that I have lived here. Chapter eight deals with the Spotted Flycatcher. I used to see this species most years in the 80`s and 90`s especially in the migration months of November and March. However my last recording was in November 2003. I am not a superstitious person, but what happened this morning (Sunday 21 November) must be statistically equivalent to winning the national lottery. I finished the chapter on The Spotted Flycatcher and then went out for my ususal birding/butterfly/wildlife walk. If you read McCarthys description of the `British Understatement` in Chapter eight you will understand when I say that I was `overjoyed` to see a Spotted Flycatcher, my first record for seven years! Lets hope that this is the beginning of a new dawn for this wonderful and confiding bird. Say Goodbye To The Cuckoo is well written and informative and I would highly recommend it to anyone who would like to learn about our migrant birds and why their numbers are decreasing.
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on 12 July 2010
This book came to me as a present, and for that I am grateful. As someone in their seventies I have seen and heard the loss of these familiar birds coming to visit us. The writer describes the birds, and what we have lost. Besides he challenges us to look and liste n in our gardens, and the countryside or town we live in. Nowadays so many people walk the earth clamped to some music device, and cease to hear the best music of all, natures calls and songs.

We need to feed our visitors the whole year round, not just for a short while. The writer reminds us of the le ngth of their journies, and tells us of the dangers they encounter. Not only in our own country with loss of habitat, but also in their African grounds to mans greedy explotation of the earth. Also the greed of those who shoot the birds for their ownn table, particularly over Malta.

A book all should read, mark, and inwardly digest, and then support our visitors, and agencies like the RSPB.

Fr John(Scotland)
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on 5 October 2010
I had already heard that the Afro-Paleartic migrants were in trouble, I haven't heard a cuckoo here in Buckinghamshire for several years now. The author of the book lays out the various possible causes for the dearth of migrants from Africa, as in many sitations there are many, probably inter-linked, causes. Chapters are devoted to various birds and the experts who have recorded and observed the birds over many years - it certainly made me add to my reading list. What can be done? Small changes in human behaviour can make a difference, more consideration for other species whilst there is time to save them from extinction. The world flourishes with all species having a part to play, not least the insects that are subjected to pesticide regimes both in the garden and on the farm; the future is bleak unless human action can reduce the dangers ahead. Subscribe to the BTO, (British Trust for Ornithology)an organization that oversees and monitors changes in bird habitats, frequency, migration and more, even the Government turns to the BTO for information on ecology and the environment and read this book.
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on 17 December 2011
Say Goodbye to the Cuckoo is Michael McCarthy's attempt to bring the crashes in the numbers of Spring migrants to the UK (and Europe) to the attention of the general public by trying to understand not just what some of these birds mean to people, but also what not having them here would also mean.

As there are a relatively large number of Spring Migrant species making the journey from Africa to Europe each year the author has, by necessity, had to choose just a few species to document, some more well-known than others. For each species (or, in the case of warblers, group) he has tried to document the change in the populations, how the bird has featured in historical literature (in the case of the aforementioned warblers, not very much) and what some of these birds mean to people who have spent time studying or monitoring them. Whilst there are iconic birds such as the nightingale, turtle dove and cuckoo, there are also the less flamboyant migrants such as spotted flycatchers and less prevalent such as the Wood Warbler.

What comes through in the book is the author's real enjoyment of finding these birds, some of them for the first time, and trying to see how they (in their natural environment) can mean so much to those who rely on them as signs of spring. In this I feel that the author thoroughly succeeds; I spent some time wondering if I really could make a trip to find a turtle dove or a nightingale (although I am currently wondering if just seeing a cuckoo which are still present locally, rather than just hearing one, would be a good start).

I would have given the book 5 stars, but I found it a little hard to get into; the first and last chapters being not so much about the birds, but about their population crashes and the potential reasons. He also includes this in some of the chapters, so I think I would have preferred to do without these two sections. Overall though, I would definitely recommend this book. Although the demise of the birds is very worrying at least someone is trying to raise the plight of these in a way that makes you realise how important it is to hear the two-note call of the cuckoo whilst learning more about the birds itself.
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on 16 June 2009
This is an excellent and thought provoking book taking the reader on a journey revealing the severe reduction in numbers of migrating birds. I was a little disappointed that there were not more illustrations of cuckoos in particular. It took me a while to get into the book but once I did it was difficult to put down.
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on 8 June 2010
This lyrical account of the spring-bringers - birds that cross the Sahara to herald our spring each year - is a rare combination of beauty and facts. Don't be put off by the rather misleading title - I was expecting a gloom-ridden diatribe. It's not that at all. If you are interested in birds and enjoy beautifully written enthusiasm writing, read it.
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