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4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5 stars
Say Goodbye to the Cuckoo
Format: Kindle Edition|Change

on 23 August 2017
As you would expect from a renowned journalist, this book hooks you on page one. McCarthy inspires us to imagine what it would be like if the 16 million birds that migrate to the UK every spring were to arrive at once. “They would cover the sky from horizon to horizon … work would stop … it would lead the television news…” And the chapter continues with some hugely inspiring facts about the miracle of bird migration.

Unfortunately however, as the author then describes his dozen or so favourite migrants, I found myself getting quite disappointed and even losing interest in the book. Why? I just couldn’t connect with Mr. McCarthy’s highly erudite and literary descriptions.

For example, when I watch swifts as they scream around the tower of my local church they remind me of a gang of loud teenagers on Red Bull. So I was a bit nonplussed to find that swifts reminded the author of characters from something called The Bacchae of Euripides!

When writing about swallows, he describes – in detail – the work of a Greek vase painter called Euphronios from 500 BC. The chapter on turtle dove gets bogged down in Pliny the Elder and Chaucer. Shakespeare appears regularly, as does King Solomon and Jeremiah.

He does have an important message to communicate – the extremely worrying declines in numbers of migrants. Yet here too he lost me – not with ancient literature but with statistics, which at times seemed like a Microsoft Excel report.

Say Goodbye to the Cuckoo is a book that needed to be written, and needs to be read. Unfortunately I found it hard-going to the point of sometimes becoming totally inaccessible. Maybe you will have the opposite experience.
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on 28 April 2013
The retiring environmental writer for The Independent, Michael McCathy, has produced a very readable account of our migrating birds. Or,as he points out, they are as much African birds as ours.
Anyone who enjoys birdwatching will find something in this book that he did not know before.
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on 10 July 2013
Inspired me to make sure I make time next Spring to look for more first hand encounters with some of our migrant birds whilst they are still around. Gives a human context for birds - you don't need to be a 'twitcher' to succumb to its charms. But the rate at which some of these birds are diminishing is alarming.
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on 10 December 2012
The cuckoo and what else

Beautifully written informative and very thought provoking the author paints a picture of the bringers of spring and shows how little we know about nature
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on 1 July 2013
The book gives very interesting detailed information about migratory and other birds, is well written and a pleasure to read.
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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 5 October 2015
A very interesting read
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on 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 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 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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