Sunday book review – Chris Packham’s Birdwatching Guide by Chris Packham – Mark Avery

Now, as you might know, Chris Packham is a mate of mine but let’s be clear, he does know his birds, although like the rest of us he does make mistakes. Ask him (no don’t, please!) about the bird squashed on the road that he thought was a [I’m not going to tell you] which was actually a [I’m not going to tell you]. But this is something to tease him about because he really, really does know his birds, and his mammals, and his wildlife poo and many other things. And he has, you might have noticed, a gift of enthusiastically getting information across in an understandable way. That’s what this book does – it tells the reader quite a lot about how various birds look (without being a field guide) and quite a lot about how birds live their lives (without being a textbook).

This book demystifies birdwatching, and to some extent, birdlistening, and is very jargon-light. As you go through its pages you will see some lovely images of lovely UK birds and probably realise, if you think you don’t know many birds, that you do know more than you thought. And as a beginner you will discover some interesting facts about how birds live their lives.

There are not quite enough Hen Harriers in this book (a very nice photo of a ringtail and a drawing of male and female) and slightly too many Pheasants (a drawing of the sexes and another of a long tail feather) but the chosen birds illustrate many points made in the text and represent a wide cross section of birds from a variety of habitats.

This book isn’t designed for the likes of me, but I was able to show it to a few other folk and one of them said ‘Looks quite useful’ and I noticed they did pick it up several times (when they thought I wasn’t looking) and kept turning the pages with the appearance of real interest.

I think this is a good introduction to looking at birds and will work for people of a wide range of ages. If it brings more people to show an interest in this small but very accessible portion of the natural world, and starts them off on a journey where they care more and do more for the environment, then it will be the latest in many such contributions from Chris.

The cover? Those are birds and that is Chris Packham – functional rather than beautiful. I’d give it 7/10.

Chris Packham’s Birdwatching Guide: from beginner to birder by Chris Packham is published by Dorling Kindersley.


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