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4.8 out of 5 stars35
4.8 out of 5 stars
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on 1 April 2009
A great read. This is a particularly well-written book for birders and non-birders alike. Often very funny it is also highly informative (about birds, of course, but also about our changing environment, farming practices, conservation initiatives etc )and charming. The narrative holds your interest well and you find yourself wanting the author to succeed in his quest to see all the (40) birds on the present red list of our most endangered species. I was sorry to come to the end!
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on 1 April 2009
This is a really readable book, for birders, non-bird-watchers, those interested in environmental issues and just about anyone who wants an engaging, entertaining read. The book has
a wonderful style and manages to combine huge amounts of information with
a sustaining narrative and some excellent humorous asides. I felt so engaged with the author's
struggle to see all the birds, it really captured me.
Of particular note is the quality of descriptive writing and analytical passages- really
superb. I highly recommend this book.
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There is little doubt that many aspects of the wildlife of the UK are under threat, and a book about trying to find the 40 rarest breeding birds in the country has the potential to be a depressing read - a kind of quest for the dying. However, this book manages to be both serious in its intent and entertaining at the same time. Rare birds are found in car parks after long days in prime habitat, a species eludes the author on regular occasions and he is eaten alive by midges - all of which ring true as birding experiences. If each bird represents a "verse" of this book, then the causes of their decline becomes the "chorus" - with aspects such as habitat loss, changes in agricultural practice and climate change being repeated throughout.
Although each chapter is largely self contained I did find some of the changes from species to species a little abrupt, some occurring in the middle of a chapter. While I know a book on 40 species does not need 40 chapters some of the transitions from bird to bird were not smooth.
This is really my only criticism of an entertaining and informative book.
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on 28 June 2009
[ASIN:0593061047 While Flocks Last: An Armchair Birdwatcher Goes In Search Of Britain's Most Endangered Species]]
What a wonderful book! You don't have to be a birdwatcher to enjoy Charlie Elder's fascinating search for the 40 species on the 'British Red List'. The book is full of amazing facts about conservation issues, it is written in a humorous & human vein. While being light-hearted at times the book also conveys the real reasons & concerns about the decline in certain species. If you have even the slightest interest in wildlife & conservation I promise you, that you will love this book.
10 out of 10. A real classic.
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on 15 January 2010
While Flocks Last
I put this on my Amazon Wish List following a couple of good reviews in the paper, I am so glad that I did. Charlie Elder has produced a witty, informative book with a conversational style which makes you keep on reading.

The book tells of his 12 month long journey (punctuated by work and family life) to see all of the 40 birds on the BTO red list (those birds where numbers have dropped sufficiently to be a cause for concern). It seems there are few parts of the British Isles that he did not visit to see these endangered feathered friends, whether it was the Islands of Scotland to see the Sea Eagle or the middle of London to see a Cockney House Sparrow. Some of the birds were easy finds, others were more problematic and took quite a bit of effort. The quest to see some of the more common birds had a twist in the tale - for example he decided not to see just one starling, but a murmuration of them coming in to roost over the reed beds of Somerset. Then there were the problem birds which took a lot more effort!

The book is narrated in such a way that you can imagine that you were having a conversation with the author and is a very easy read, even for non-birders. Included are snippets of information about the red list, different habitats etc, so it also doubles as a learning resource.

Since the completion of the book the red list has been updated, I am almost inspired to go out and try and see the collection myself, just a small matter of money, work and carbon footprint getting in the way!

Overall, a fantastic read; an interesting story and informative guide to 40 British birds all in one book.
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on 16 May 2009
This is a funny and entertaining look at the impact of humans on our environment and the impact that birds have on us. Written in an engaging and honest style I could easily imagine making the journeys and meeting the people described in the book. I recommend it as an enjoyable read.
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on 22 December 2009
This is a really enjoyable book for birders and non-birders alike, which I bought on the recommendation of reading other people's reviews. It's written in a friendly, chatty way and, although most of us worry a lot about climate change and the effect this has on certain species, it is not a depressing book. Many people, particularly those who travel to suitable locations to go bird-watching on holiday, will be able to identify with the places the author visits and, with a bit of birding knowledge, even guess quite easily the specific bird he has gone to find, which I found to be part of the fun. A thoroughly good read, which I wouldn't hesitate to recommend to anyone. It's a book you don't want to end.
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on 13 June 2009
This is a good spin on that odd hobby (sorry about the pun) of twitching - something that I have done on many occasions myself, some even relating to birdwatching.

I have seen 36 of the Red List birds but that didn't detract from enjoying Charlie's Elders's adventures around the UK. I think if you were a birdwatcher it may be a little bit better than reading this from cold but having said that it was a good education too with respect to the ever present spectre of extinction of certain species and why this has happened and continues to happen.

It manages to avoid politics (thank God) and is very well written and highly enjoyable - the sort of bloke you'd want to have a beer with.

There are some brilliant one liners in it too (which I was not expecting) which made for some stern faces as I laughed out loud on the 06.38 to Waterloo.

Rob Sawyer
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on 8 September 2010
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and can relate to it as I too have always had a deep love of birdwatching and nature in general that got a bit buried for too many years due to the rat race taking over. I am now in my mid forties and thanks to programmes such as Springwatch etc....I am watching birds and getting out to reserves a lot more so I can relate to his feeling of rediscovering something you used to love. I know what he means by standing next to someone with all the gear in a bird hide feeling like you don't know a lot but you soon get more and more absorbed and these things don't matter. He spent one chaotic year chasing around the country with the sole aim of spotting all birds on endangered the red list, with many funny and sobering experiences along the way. I found his experience with the wryneck particularly amusing. Anyone with a dormant interest in birds should read this!!
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on 6 January 2010
What can I say other than I agree with all the other reviewers. This book isn't as specialist as it might first appear. I was moderately interested in bird watching and the nature of Britain before I read this book; now I'm very interested. In addition to all the other positive comments, I'd like to reiterate just how very well written and particularly how funny this book is; in fact it's one of the funniest books I've ever read. Charlie Elder is the sort of person I'd like to go bird watching with. No, he's the sort of person I'd like as my next-door neighbour. One of the best reads of last year.
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