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4.6 out of 5 stars38
4.6 out of 5 stars
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on 3 February 2012
In this enchanting book Simon Barnes has opened my ears to the magic of birdsong. I've always loved it, of course - who wouldn't? But to be honest I'd rarely stopped to listen - really listen. He is the best kind of teacher - easy to understand, mega-enthusiastic, and he somehow comes across as kind and patient too. And so suddenly I'm far more aware than I've ever been of the birdsong all around me whether I'm just popping out for something, in the garden or on walks. Aware that this is the best time of year for a beginner to begin to hear and differentiate the various songs. So many, so beautiful - and, like learning a language - gradually I'm beginning to know whose is whose. Just brilliant.
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on 27 December 2011
This introduction to bird song is charming and informative. Whether it is the charm or the information that is more important will probably depend on how much you know already. I have been identifying birds by their song for a long time. There is something very satisfying about thinking 'I know who YOU are' without having to see the bird. Because I birdwatch with my eyes closed already it is the charm of this book that strikes me, but I must say I really admire the way that the author makes the characteristics of each song more memorable. I also enjoy the facts about bird song that are included with the descriptions. The Kindle version is amazingly cheep (sorry for the pun).

I wholly recommend this book, and the MP3 that you can download to accompany it, for beginners and the experienced alike.
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on 27 February 2012
This is a bird book with a difference, aimed at the nature lover who is unsure about identifying the songs of birds or wary of trying to identify birds by their song. It is written in an easy, light-hearted style so is an enjoyable read. It is most suitable for the beginner birdwatcher who wants to take the first step towards bird identification by listening to their calls and songs. I am neither a beginner nor fully proficient and I loved this Simon Barnes book.
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on 25 December 2011
The book is described as having a CD or podcast supplied but you may be puzzled like me as to how you get the 'CD' for the kindle version.
The answer is simple - go to the publisher'e website [...]
and download the podcast from there or through itunes.
At the time I write this the kindle version is on offer at a bargain £1.49
The book is as pleasurable to read as the songs are to listen.
and this review from the Guardian sums it up:

'Those of you who wish to learn this particular skill or who wish to share your joy at hearing birdsong will be thrilled that a new book and podcast has just been published: Birdwatching With Your Eyes Closed: An Introduction to Birdsong by Simon Barnes [2011; Short Books Ltd (London): Amazon UK; Amazon US]. The goal of this book and podcast is to help people become adept at identifying common British birds from hearing their songs. "Learning birdsong is not just a way to become a better bird-spotter", the author writes. "It is tuning in: a way of hearing the soundtrack of the planet earth."

Thanks to the efforts of the RSPB, this book is accompanied by a few measures of the earth's soundtrack in the form of a 27-minute podcast filled with the songs and calls of 66 common British birds. This podcast consists of introductory comments by Mr Barnes followed by audio clips of bird songs and calls. The birdsongs are presented in the same order they appear in the book, beginning with the robin's "thin, sweet song" and ending with the lofty melody of the nightingale.'
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on 14 February 2012
New bird watchers often ask me 'What's that bird?' when they hear a call or song they don't recognise. However, other people walk along the woodland paths and say 'There's not much about!' when I can hear at least 6 species at the same time. This book is for both groups as Simon tells, in non-scientific language, just why birds call and sing (and what the difference is between these)and explains how we can become better at listening to birds, rather than just hearing them as background noise.

More experienced natural history lovers will also benefit from reading through, perhaps quite quickly, as a revision exercise.

It's a compact book, easily pocketed (or handbagged) for a read whilst commuting, quite lightly written in Simon Barnes' well-known style. He manages to do his teaching in a very entertaining and reassuring manner - understanding bird song and recognising the songsters should no longer be a mystery!
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on 15 July 2012
A very readable guide in the inimitable Simon Barnes style. Well laid out, moving through the year from winter, so that you can identify each bird as arrives and/or starts singing as the year progresses.

I found it useful to also have a copy of Garden Bird Songs and Calls by Geoff Sample, as this has a CD searchable by bird. If you put it onto an iPod or similar, you can take it out with you and check your bird identificaction on the spot.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 4 February 2012
Birdsong is a important aspect of the world. Most (if not all) cultures have used the variation in bird song during the year as a marker of change. Birds and their song play a central role in many mythologies.

An underlying assumption of this book is that most people no longer listen to birds - then may hear them, but they don't really listen. This book provides a season by season guide for two years of bird-listening. It's probably questionable that people will use the book in this way - but it's an ingenious way of organising the book. Taking us from birds we probably already know, to ones we may have over looked.

A key issue with a book about birds is that it is difficult to convert bird song into text - called the `Pee-oo' issue in this book for the number of birds who are meant to make this call. A podcast of all the bird song mentioned in this book is available on the web, but I'm not convinced that this will be successful with demographic this book seems to be aimed at. Of course I could be completely wrong about this because I read the book and I found the podcast excellent!

Clearly this is a book about birdsong - or more accurately how to identify birds by their song - but it is also something else as well. It is also a continuation of the authors attempts to show how we can reconnect with the natural world. This is a theme that runs through much of his writing, and is most clearly shown in the appropriately titled "How to Be Wild".

I think that the book is aimed at the less experienced birder who wishes to move deeper into the subject, but this does not mean it will not appeal to more experienced birdwatchers. The more experienced may take pleasure from the style and passion of the writing rather than its factual content, and, as ever, Barnes is an excellent story teller.

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on 6 March 2013
I'm into birdwatching so bought this specifically to help me refine my aural identification skills, and it's helped helped immensely, but also contains loads of other interesting info about migration and habitats and population trends, which on the surface sounds bland but it's rendered emminently readable by Barnes's humerous and engrossing prose.

It's great step outside and immediately have a reference point to something you've just been reading, intoxicating even. And I live in Hackney and it's amazing how many birds you hear every day without realising.

If you've got a modicum of interest about the natural world then you're sure to enjoy this enchanting book
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on 31 May 2012
This really is a great little book, full of interesting details of the more common birds, their habits and songs. Interspersed with little anecdotes it makes the information easier to assimilate and together with the podcast available on the Short Books website it really presents a very good way of starting to become familiar with the birds' songs.
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on 15 April 2016
Close your eyes and a whole new world opens up. I had been a bird watcher for over 30 years before I realised how much I was missing. A ranger leading a walk in our local park pointed out the bird song along the way and it suddenly struck me that there was so much more going on than I could see. I came home bursting with enthusiasm, trying to download bits of bird song off the net and find out more. This little book came highly recommended and does not disappoint. There are no dry descriptions here, rather a series of essays following the changing pattern of birdsong from winter into spring, and then summer, the tone is light and the style easily readable but there is plenty of information to get your teeth into. The podcast which can be accessed via the web (I could not get it downloaded) is excellent, giving a brief burst of song for each of the featured birds and a short explanation – I listen to it in the car, I have listened to it a good few times now and it is starting to sink in. I am not especially musical an I think this makes it difficult for me to pick up changes in tone and pitch but if even I can pick out wrens, robins, great tits and chaffinches now, then anyone can.
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