It’s been a good year for those with ornithological reading tastes. Here are a few of our favourites:
The Robin: An Autobiography by Stephen Moss £10.99
Stephen Moss records a year of observing the robin both close to home and in the field to shed light on the hidden life of this apparently familiar bird. We follow its lifecycle from the time it enters the world as an egg, through its time as a nestling and juvenile, to the adult bird; via courtship, song, breeding, feeding, migration – and ultimately, death. At the same time we trace the robin’s relationship with us: how did this particular bird find its way so deeply and permanently into our nation’s heart and its social and cultural history?
As Kingfishers Catch Fire by Alex Preston & Neil Gower £25
Showcasing 21 different species, this beautifully illustrated book weaves the very best writing about birds into a personal and eccentric narrative that is as much about the joy of reading and writing as it is about the thrill of wildlife. Moving from the ‘high requiem’ of Keats’s nightingale to Ted Hughes’s brooding ‘Hawk in the Rain’, this beautifully illustrated book will make you look at birds, at the world, in a newer, richer light.
The Blackbird Diaries by Karen Lloyd £12.99
With its enchanting song, striking orange bill and endearing willingness to share our living space, the blackbird is one of our best-loved birds. But robins, swifts, goldfinches and blue tits can captivate us equally and, in The Blackbird Diaries, Karen Lloyd chronicles the drama and the joy, the perils and the pleasures of the natural world as it all unfolds in her garden and on her daily walks in the limestone hills and valleys of Cumbria’s South Lakeland.
Bowland Beth: The Life of an English Hen Harrier by David Cobham £16.99
David Cobham immerses himself not only in the day-to-day regimen of Bowland Beth’s (an English hen harrier) life, the hours of hunting, bathing, keeping her plumage in order and roosting, but also the fear of living in an environment run to provide packs of driven grouse for a few wealthy sportsmen to shoot.
In this powerful narrative, he provides us with a profound tale which helps to illuminate the larger implications of the species’ decline, highlighting the urgent need for conservation efforts to reverse this.
The Secret Life of the Owl by John Lewis-Stempel £7.99
There is something about owls. They feature in every major culture from the Stone Age onwards. They are creatures of the night, and thus of magic. They are the birds of ill-tidings, the avian messengers from the Other Side. In The Secret Life of the Owl, Wainwright Award winner John Lewis-Stempel explores the legends and history of the owl. And in vivid, lyrical prose, he celebrates all the realities of this magnificent creature, whose natural powers are as fantastic as any myth.
The Art of Mindful Birdwatching by Claire Thompson £8.99
Through personal anecdote and expert insight, Claire Thompson of BirdLife International invites us on a mindful journey through gardens, cities, open country, forests, coasts and mountains to enjoy and learn from the magnificent beauty and diversity of the avian world. This book reveals how the practice of mindfulness enriches our birdwatching experiences – and explores how birds are, in turn, the ideal inspiration for the practice of mindfulness.
My House of Sky by Hetty Saunders £20
This book tells of the life of J.A. Baker who rose to fame in 1967 with his work “The Peregrine”. This book showcases the most compelling parts of the Baker Archive, containing previously unknown elements of his life, many photographs and unpublished poems. It provides an invaluable new insight into both his sensitive and passionate character, and late twentieth century Britain, a country experiencing the throes of agricultural and environmental change.
A little something extra:
A murder of crows, a chatter of parakeets. If you want to brush up on your avian collective nouns these knowledge cards make a great guessing game. Some have more than one.
If you want to pitch your favourites against each other, this avian trump game rates 32 birds by clutch size, rarity and courtship display.
You’ll probably need this to carry all your bird books around in.