This book is a wonderful antidote to the raft of "how many can I see in a year" type of birding books that have been published in the last few years. Now, there is nothing wrong with "big year" book themselves, it's just that I think they create a false impression of what most birdwatchers actually do most of the time.
This is a wonderfully gentle, beautifully observed, account on a year on one birders local patch. As the author freely admits it's not a bad patch, but it's unlikely ever to gain a reputation as the kind of place that you just have to visit. It has a variety of habitats, some natural, some naturalish and others distinctly man made. In that regard it mirrors the patchwork of this and that which makes the English countryside the remarkable place that it is - full of hidden corners and surprise finds.
Rather than going to the birds the author lets the birds come to him - or more accurately to his local patch. Yes he keeps lists, yes he is pleased when he can add birds to that list, but the whole point seems to be to gain an understanding of the ebbs and flows of the birds around him, rather than to just extend the list. Counting otherwise common birds just to keep track of the changes in population is the epitome of patch-watching. The interest comes not from just seeing the birds, but from being able to compare the numbers with last year. The kind of bird watching described in this book is about understanding and embracing continuity - this is the complete opposite of "big year" bird watching and long distance twitching - and I think it's the central idea of this book. A place with its birds is worth far more than a bird in any old place.
It is a real pleasure to watch the year unfold, month by month, with occasional "Great Birding Days", regular quiet days and more than a sprinkling of mammals and insects for added spice.
I do wish that the author had used the word `evolved' rather than `designed' in a number of places, as it would have made for more sense - but I hope that's just a point of linguistic style.
I would thoroughly recommend this book to bird watchers, naturalists and to other readers with a soft spot for the small, often overlooked corners of the countryside.
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