Spring is the time when birds sing to mark their territories and to attract mates. Spring is therefore the best time to read this brilliant book by Simon Barnes.
This book introduces the reader to the joys of listening to the birds as well as watching them. There are articles about different aspects of birdsong (from whether singing a better song guarantees a male bird will find breeding success to an outline of how birdsong evolved) and outlines of the some of the most commonly heard birdsongs of the UK. The descriptions of the birdsongs are imaginative, descriptive and helpful: 'I found that the alleged blackbird's song was too quick, the phrases too short and the whole thing wasn't really blackbird-like at all' (part of his description of the song of the mistle thrush).
The book is entertaining and informative, including snippets of information such as the fact that sedge warblers never repeat exactly the same phrase twice and stories such as the relationship between Mozart and his pet starling.
Each chapter is very short so it's an ideal book to pick up and read a little bit of just as you want, ideally with the window open so you can hear the birds near your home (here in the middle of Edinburgh we have constant blackbirdsong, with dunnocks, bluetits, woodpigeons, collared doves and chaffinches joining in.)
Simon Barnes is a great nature writer, he is full of information and enthusiasm and never gets caught up in the painfully self conscious poetic prose that affects so many nature writers these days. This book (which comes with a free podcast) will make you listen more carefully to the birds you hear around you and will make you want to know more. It's probably worth reading every Spring!
Birdwatching with your Eyes Closed by Simon Barnes published by Short Books (2011)