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on 19 September 2012
Anyone who has heard Mark Avery speak, or who heard any of his many interviews on the Radio 4 Today programme when he was the RSPB's Director of Conservation, will immediately recognise the voice behind this book. He writes just the way he speaks, with fluency, wit, and above all conviction. Even those who don't agree with everything he says (and there is much contentious material in this book) will find this an entertaining and thought-provoking read. It really should be required reading for anyone involved in conservation - or indeed politics - in the UK and beyond. The voice of Mark Avery deserves to be heard much more widely, and I look forward to his next book!
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on 19 September 2012
This book appealed to my nature, Mark's nature too; of a British landscape where natural life is cherished and valued with no compromise. Amongst the good news stories, some battles already won perhaps, are also the ongoing battles. The deep trenches where the stakes are high whilst in a parallel world of sport, greed, finance, fuel, farming and greenhouse gases, nature is often unwelcome, unloved and in some cases,shot from our skies.
Loving our natural world is one thing, wanting to do some tangible and good about it is something much more and Mark's book is likely to rally that passion in you the reader, as it did me. I only wish that the RSPB and other NGOs can step up to fighting for birds and nature and to be balanced, opinionated, outspoken, controversial and up for the scrap that their members and the wildlife we care about, deserve.
My favorite pages?? 196-203 and 285 - A tragedy indeed!
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on 27 October 2012
There are not many (any) books that talk open and honestly about nature conservation these days and other 'issues' relating to our wonderful countryside. This book does. Yes it's about birds, but it's much more. If you think our countryside just sits there looking pretty, then think again - read this and get a feel for the stuff that is actually quite important. If you are a nature buff like me then this is a very refreshing, riveting read, honest and insightful from someone at the sharp end of nature conservation for a long time including the top conservation role at the RSPB. I promise you will be inspired and motivated to get out there and do something for nature.
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on 6 June 2013
I am an avid reader of Mark's blog, so it should be no surprise that I enjoy his writing. This book covers a wide range of topics relevant to conservation and to the RSPB, and while his views naturally are fairly close to those of that organisation, he is not afraid to express contrary opinions. It may sound like a bit of a cliche, but anyone who is interested in conservation really should read this book. One of his key bits of advice in the final chapter is to join a political party of your choice, and lobby from within. I plan to do just that in the very near future.
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on 10 October 2012
This book is a must read for all those who want to learn what it's like to work at the sharp end of nature conservation. It is full of wonderful anecdotes and engaging explanations of how conservation works in the UK and beyond. Mark explains how, during his time as Conservation Director, the RSPB masterfully improved the fortunes for birds like the red kite and roseate tern and saved many threatened wildlife sites from destruction. He also writes about the colourful characters who have been responsible for saving birds and habitats across the globe. However, he isn't afraid to challenge those who will have to continue to save threatened wildlife in a world where environmental issues are often nowhere to be seen on the poltical agenda. The last few chapters capture the thoughts of a man who really understands the challenge and wants to affect change. Inspiring. If I had one criticism, it's that the book left me wanting more!
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on 1 October 2012
This is an amazing book that plots Mark's development from being a schoolboy with an enthusiasm for wildlife through becoming a field researcher and warden in remote areas such as Scotland's Flow Country through to becoming the conservation director of Europe's largest wildlife conservation NGO, influencing policy at the heart of power in Westminster and Brussels.
As always from the Avery hand, it is written beautifully, with wit and enthusiasm for his subject. And as you may expect, it does not pull punches.
I found it as gripping a `page turner' as the most compelling of novels.
A must read for anybody who cares about wildlife. And equally a valuable tome, for those who disagree with Mark's views on things.
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on 3 October 2012
This is an excellent book, getting across that interesting balance between scientific observation and natural passion and how they can and should intersect to deliver effective conservation. There's something for everyone - some will read it as a semi autobiography (it isn't), some will read it for the "behind the scenes" gossip, some will read it for the amusing stories, some will read it as a manual for conservation. However you read it, make sure you do. You can't fail to learn and be inspired. A rare combination.
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VINE VOICEon 23 August 2012
This book distills one man's life but it is not an autobiography, it is the story of his vocation, his calling to a cause which should be important to every single person who has been uplifted at the sound of the skylark's song as spring approaches and the days grow longer in Spring, or had the privilage of watching hen harriers quarter over fields in search of voles. Mark Avery was employed by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds for 25 years and he describes it as a love affair rather than a job. He convinces the reader that of all the conservation NGOs in the UK, the best and most effective is the RSPB. It isn't perfect, and Avery suggests many ways in which it could be improved, but it has been effective in so many struggles to protect what we have left of our natural environment.

He covers the conservation issues which have hit the headlines over the last 25 years. Forestry in the Flow Country, the intensification of agriculture and the subsequent decline in common farmland birds, the growth of nature reserves, the reintroduction of iconic species such as the Red Kite, White-tailed Eagle and Common Crane to areas from where they were lost, climate change and our responses. Even the misguided and thoughtless responses such as the switching of food production to the production of biofuels and the presecution of Britain's birds of prey by the privileged few so they can shoot mass reared, artificially maintained hordes of game birds, many of which are as wild or native to Britain's countryside as Turkeys and Chickens. These are some of the topics covered in this passionate and eminently readable book which is unashamedly one sided, as it should be, and yet readable and thought provoking.

The whole ethos of the book is summed up in an anecdote Avery recalls about a rather testy meeting with Ed Milliband, the then Energy and Climate Change Secretary, that he should bear in mind that the environmental NGOs, such as the RSPB and its allies, were on the same side unlike the spokesmen for the vested interests. The NGOs were fighting for what they believed was right and stood to make no profit from their position, and the Sceretary should put more weight on the evidence they presented than of that of the spin doctors and lobbyists employed by those who stood to make money from damaging our natural inheritance. Avery says this is true, and it is.
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on 4 October 2012
I had started to drift away from the same old same old nature conservation spiel. This isn't - this is fresh, this is 21st century and thought provoking without pomposity - it is like watching a film, filmed in a location you know but with a new image of that place. A very modern textbook of sorts and could, perhaps should, be read by all students entering not just the conservation sector but those in land management also.
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on 5 October 2012
This book was fantastic! As a recent graduate starting a career in conservation (but without a conservation degree) this was an invaluable book that covers the key conservation issues of my lifetime as well as a clear description of the different tools that can be used when working in conservation. There are case studies, explanations of the key organisations (it's nice to finally understand all the acronyms!) but also anecdotes to show that working to save the planet can be fun and inspiring too!
Well written and engaging; definitely the best and most comprehensive book on modern conservation I've read. FIVE STARS!
Looking forward to reading more of Mark's thought on his daily blog too [...]
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