Wednesday 5 February 2014

Books about Birders 3: A Bird in the Bush by Stephen Moss

(I first posted this book review in 2012 but am reposting it as part of my series of reviews of books about birders)

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

You can read my previous reviews of books about birders by following the links below:

 Birders by Mark Cocker

A Guide to the Birds of East Africa (a novel) by Nicholas Drayson.

As ever, text in red contains hyperlinks that take you to other webpages where you can find out more. 


Ms Sparrow said...

Since I have traveled to see an uncommon bird and get a thrill out of identifying new ones, it seems that I am a twitcher! I guess I can add that to my lifetime list of personal achievements now.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Interesting Juliet. I am reading A Hundred Years of Guardian Nature Diary and it is so interesting how man's attitude to bird life has changed even in that. I remember my father speaking of trapping sparrows to make sparrow pie. Now, of course, house sparrows are quite rare in some places (though not here, where they spend their days in my hen house with the corn!)

RG said...

I suppose being "set on the road to understanding Bird Watchers" is about as far as I'll get! And even some of my good friends are ones!