Discover Birds - Ian Wallace

As you may have noticed, I'm trying to get the hang of bird-watching. My wife bought this for me as a present. It's a book on birds from 1979, of the "with some colour plates" school. It's fascinating, partly as a record of the time. It's an astonishingly pre-internet book, from a time when knowledge and connections were hard-won - it's really rather informative, and has a bibliography and list of societies you can join etc. The author is clearly an expert, not just someone who fancied writing a book and had dabbled in the field!

The structure of the book is strangely "birds in time and space" - after an introduction talking about birds, how to observe them, equipment, etc., there's a long chapter on half a dozen or so really good places to spot birds, followed by a chapter on month-by-month spotting. Being pre-internet, the locations include instructions on how to get there, since you can't just look it up on Maps.

As well as being a time capsule on the subject of amateur science in the '70s, it has plenty of interesting content on birds. Lots of detail. Indeed, it's kind of depressing. As someone who's just starting out and recognises about ten kinds of bird, reading about someone who's spotted over 300 species in Britain, over several decades, and understands all the minutiae of their behaviour... the depth to the field is astonishing. I think I'll remain a happy beginner.

Posted 2018-08-08.