A Bad Birdwatcher's Companion

Published by Short Books on 8th September 2005

But here’s a surprise. Tawny owls don’t go too-whit too-whoo. Rather, they too-whit and they go too-whoo. Broadly speaking, the wobbly hoot is the sound used to announce possession of territory: a warning for the other tawnies to keep away. The too-whit is a contact call: “I’m here, where are you?”

Few books are more intimidating than a conventional field guide. There are simply too many birds in them. This book introduces the reader to Britain’s most obvious birds. But it does more than that: it also explains them. It explains the way that different birds do different things, eat different food, sing different songs and live different lives, and it explains why they are different.

If you are a would-be birdwatcher but don’t know where to start, A Bad Birdwatcher's Companion is for you. It will help you understand birdwatching: but far more important, it will help you begin to understand birds.

Robin…But have you ever wondered what a red breast means to a robin? A red breast is not just the way a human can recognise a robin when it comes a-calling, when it sits on a spade or a Christmas card. The red breast is not just a bit of chance colouration. No: the red breast is the core of the robin’s being. The red breast is the love, the honour and the glory of a robin. Have you noticed that a robin positively flaunts it? It is as if he is telling the world: for God’s sake, I’m a robin!