Subtitled A Social History of Birdwatching, this is an informative and entertaining look at the history of birdwatching and humans' overall relationship with birds.
The book looks at how our relationships with birds has changed from the early predator prey relationship through the Victorian era's obsession with shooting, collecting and either exhibiting or wearing birds to the current obsession of many birdwatchers to travel to as many remote places as possible for the sake of ticking as many species of birds off on a list. It also profiles the antagonism between these birdwatchers (also known as twitchers) and those who choose to concentrate on getting to know more common species in their local area. (A personal note - I'm not at all a twitcher, but I am very happy that my local area includes two places where I can regularly see less common birds and sometimes real rarities).
Along the way Moss looks at well known bird artists and writers and outlines the development of bird conservation, including the history of the RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) from its roots as a group of middle aged women from a Manchester suburb who campaigned to stop birds being killed for the use of their feathers in hats to the current successful campaigning body with well over a million members.
The book is full of entertaining stories about birdwatchers and birds and overflows with enthusiasm for the subject. If you're a birdwatcher you'll be totally engrossed and any non-birdwatchers will hopefully be set on the road to at least understanding those of us who are, if not taking up the pastime themselves!
A Bird in the Bush, A Social History of Birdwatching by Stephen Moss. Published by Aurum
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