Birdwatching With Your Eyes Closed: an introduction to birdsong by Simon Barnes

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Birdwatching With Your Eyes Closed: an introduction to birdsong by Simon Barnes

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Buy Birdwatching With Your Eyes Closed: an introduction to birdsong by Simon Barnes at Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

Category: Popular Science
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Trish Simpson-Davis
Reviewed by Trish Simpson-Davis
Summary: An interesting variant on the usual birdwatching field guide. There are virtually no illustrations but author Simon Barnes gets up close and personal to the songs of over sixty birds in his text and accompanying podcast. Try it as a great present for a new birdwatcher.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 288 Date: November 2011
Publisher: Short Books Ltd
ISBN: 978-1907595479

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One of my best-ever auditory memories is waking up in a tent to a dawn chorus, sung in the middle of Ireland in spring. It was a high-decibel effort and seemed to involve hundreds of birds. I'm ashamed to say that I couldn't begin to identify the multitude of species I heard that morning. So I suppose I chose this book expecting it to be a field guide that could at long last help me get a handle on birdsong. But it isn't yet another handbook, but a much more interesting book than that, which I thought would make a great present for a new birdwatcher.

Simon Barnes' chatty text inspires confidence, listing the ten bird calls that everyone already knows, like a woodpecker, duck or pigeon or the flock of herring gulls from Desert Island Discs. He starts by suggesting listening to birdsong in winter, when the chances are it will be a robin that you hear. (I liked the simple approach). He also explains the specific nature of birdsong, that 'when a bird sings, it sings the song of itself. Male robins use song to defend their territory during the autumn and winter months and to attract a mate in spring. The author then describes the calls which accompany the habits of more than sixty birds. I found all the detail quite fascinating, and read this shortish book in one sitting.

The book is accompanied by a podcast of around 30 minutes of birdsong, and it is this that really does the business, with a recording of each bird preceded by a brief intro from Simon Barnes. Clearly it's intended to be replayed often enough to become familiar with sixty-six different tunes. On a first hearing, I found this a difficult task, with several species indistinguishable to my uncertain ears, but I have hopes that this sad lack of discrimination will improve if I listen more often.

In all this was a really interesting and unusual book which I'd like to thank the publishers for sending.

If you were actually looking for a comprehensive guide, then the attractive Garden Birds and Wildlife by Mike Toms and Paul Sterry might be a good choice. I also liked the sound of Simon Barnes' other title: How to be a bad birdwatcher.

Buy Birdwatching With Your Eyes Closed: an introduction to birdsong by Simon Barnes at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Birdwatching With Your Eyes Closed: an introduction to birdsong by Simon Barnes at Amazon.co.uk


Buy Birdwatching With Your Eyes Closed: an introduction to birdsong by Simon Barnes at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Birdwatching With Your Eyes Closed: an introduction to birdsong by Simon Barnes at Amazon.com.

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