Thursday, 20 December 2012

Birds...by Anthony McGeehan

Yes it is reversed...
My webcam reverses things from right to left. I have no longer noticed this, but sometimes, things like this happen and then it is pretty obvious.

This book by Anthony McGeehan is almost certainly one of the most important works of ornithology and natural history that has come out of Ireland in decades. I do not know very much about ornithology or natural history - my ornithologist and natural history friends would say this is not true, but it is true. They are just being very kind. However, despite my paucity in knowledge about it, or perhaps BECAUSE of my paucity in knowledge about it, i can tell that this book is great.

Also if you think Birds are boring - i will have to say to you what i say to my class - only boring people are bored. Also what i will say is that the writing will show you that birds are NOT boring. Anthony writes about birds in this very funny, matter of fact way, and injects sarcasm, wit, humour, which means that you are not wondering why you have not slashed your wrists after page ten. When he described birdsong he does not do that daft thing which other bird gudes do - the chaffinch goes chee-chee-chee-chee-zit-zit-zitt... eh no. He describes it according to things you have some familiarity with. Robins make a clicking sound like those wheel of fortune things you find at fairs. Ever after when you hear a wheel of fortune thing going tic-tic-tic-tic in the garden, you go, robin. a bird sings a long phrase and goes gingerbeeer at the end - chaffinch. Blackbirds are Pavarottis, mistle thrushes are boy bands.

So this book is for ANYONE. Anyone can pick up this book and enjoy it. The more you know about the subject the more you may enjoy it, but if you ever thought i would like to become a better person, like just a better human being, i'd like to find out why the hell our environment has been trashed to an inch of its life and how we could make it better? If you ever wanted to know what the effect on our fellow creatures has been and what we have lost and what we will lose and what stand to gain, this is the book for you. If you ever wondered, what is the best way of bringing about a recovery in the landscape - and no, it is not throwing money at conservation alone - it is a great book. And that is just the tip of the iceberg.

The photos are stunning. If you have every tried to take a photo of a bird, which i have and rapidly gave up doing, then you will appreciate the pain that Anthony has taken to get some of these birds. The stories i have heard about scrambling across cliffs, falling off ledges, being drowned in hidey holes... each picture tells a story.

Finally, i have to say that years and years of working with a conservation organisation where eveyrthing moves at a glacial pace, it has taken just one man to have the Will to get this book together and do something spectacular with all the information he and the collective intelligence of Ireland's naturalists have amassed. It is a real testimony to the passion of that generation of naturalists, their skill and talent and the power of the amateur - which in this case, for me remembers the original meaning of the word - the Love for One's Subject. It is most of all a work of love - love for the landscape and the birds that he knows so well. And a great love it is. It didn't need lots of funding applications, or grants, or money raising, or anything like that. It is all the more miraculous for that.

So if you have someone you love and want to present them with a great love... then give them this book. And btw the book is on the verge of a reprint, so first editions are going fast.

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