Sunday book review – Nature in Towns and Cities by David Goode

036504-fc50I’ve had this book for quite some time, and I have kept picking it up and putting it down. For me, that is usually a sign that it hasn’t grabbed me but I’m wondering whether it is me, or the book, or both. In this case I think it is mostly me. I’m not that gripped by urban wildlife as a subject.

I’m more interested in rural, for example farmland, wildlife than I am by urban wildlife. Even though, I acknowledge, there is sometimes more wildlife of interest in parts of our cities than parts of our countryside, and that is a view that is reinforced by reading this book.

But there are a few niggles with the book itself. First, it is a bit bird-centric. The author acknowledges his own personal interest and expertise in birds, but I’d hoped for a slightly rounder overview (not that there is anything wrong with birds, of course). More about plants? More about bats? Second, it is quite London-centric too. ‘Well’, you might say, ‘isn’t everything?’ but that’s hardly an excuse. This too is understandable as the author has worked with distinction in London for many years and is an expert on its ecology and wildlife.  I wonder whether the publisher prevailed upon the author not to repeat Fitter’s Natural History of London but to attempt a wider canvass – if so, I’m slightly sorry they did. I would have liked either a greater focus on London or a greater amount of information from outside the capital.  The book lacks a good assessment of the overall change in ecology of any city which I think the author could have written for the city he knows best and which would have been very interesting. Third, the photographs are badly chosen in places, and simply too small to illustrate any points in others. Fewer, bigger images would have been better.

But there is a lot of interest in this book. The author really is an expert and has the facts and the stories at his fingertips to spread through these pages.  I enjoyed reading about the colonisation of London by foxes, for example.

The last third of the book grabbed me more firmly. It is about how, and why, we should design our cities, our buildings, our green spaces, to help get nature back into them. This is really the heartland of applied urban ecology and I enjoyed reading this very much. There are good examples and good ideas in here.

I’m glad I don’t live in a big city.  But if I did, then I think I’d want those running the place to read this book and act on some of its good ideas.  Boris Johnson may soon be not only London Mayor but also a London MP, he may be in Downing Street eventually. Does he have a copy?

Nature in Towns and Cities by David Goode is published by Harper Collins.

A Message from Martha by Mark Avery is published by Bloomsbury.



More things that caught my eye this week

  • today is WWF’s Earth Hour
  • this month’s Birdwatch is full of good things but the double page photo of a Great Spotted Woodpecker and a Little Owl squaring up to each other on a post is quite stunning.
  • and that same Birdwatch has the wonderful Mark Cocker’s last column (although he will continue to write occasionally for Birdwatch)
  • 6 million loaves of bread are fed to ducks each year! Really? Let them eat cake!
  • our e-petition to ban driven grouse shooting closes at midnight on Monday – it stands at 22,200 signatures right now but every signature counts.
  • BAWC has compiled a series of vox pops from the excellent conference last week
  • thinking of doing some plant counting this summer? Don’t be shy – you must be a better botanist than I! See my article in Plantlife’s spring magazine
  • this looks really good
  • band of the week includes the Corner Laughers as one to watch! Hooray!
  • no response from GWCT’s Teresa Dent on behalf of Rules restaurant yet
  • I seem to be #8 in a list of the sustainable 100 in the UK – good to see Caroline Lucas at #1

Vote for Andean Condors please

juvenile-andean-condor-fundacion-jocotoco_0The fate of £25,000 of conservation money is entirely up to you. Have a look, please, and consider voting for this excellent project to protect Andean Condors.

Voting closes on Monday so why not just click away now?


Saturday cartoon by Ralph Underhill

electioncampaigning2015The general election campaign hasn’t really started yet! Are we all looking forward to it?






Just a few things that caught my eye…

  • or in this case my ear – first singing Chiffchaff this week
  • I had a look at Stonehenge this week – it is very impressive – I wonder whether Henry might visit one day? #HaveYouSeenHenry?






  • I really enjoyed talking to the AGM of the Wiltshire Ornithological Society in the Corn Exchange in Devizes on Wednesday evening. they were a lovely crowd and very appreciative. Here are some tweets they sent out: @MarkAvery Enjoyed your talk at WOS this evening – thought provoking, esp the lessons we should learn from the Passenger Pigeon’s extinction; Great to meet & hear @MarkAvery speak about Martha & Hen Harrier persecution in Devizes tonight. Thanks for signing the book Mark; Riveting talk from @MarkAvery in Wilts – no more Marthas – sign this to ban driven grouse shooting.


  • imageI’ve been buzzing since last Saturday’s BAWC conference – here are write-ups by Findlay, Zach and Georgia





  • IMG_2981I’ve been wearing this badge since last Saturday






  • RSPB BGBW results and a quote from me in the Guardian
  • Monday morning  – I was looking at Black Grouse lekking in the Pennines – great way to start the week
  • the Beavers are back again in Devon
  • Martin Harper wrote a good blog – but the RSPB website is having a spring clean at the moment so it’s not accessible.
  • please vote for this World Land Trust project to help the Andean Condor
  • IMG_2937this Harris Hawk was at St Pancras – reminded me of Arizona.





Henry goes to Chatsworth!

Fri 27th March

Henry – you look like you own the place. You don’t do you?

So you aren’t too worried about a few large landowners?


Anyone there in NE?

NATURALENGLAND2I am very much amused to hear that the daily media summary received by NE board members ends with an item on ‘Mark Avery’s blog’. It’s good to know that they all get a daily reminder of what’s happening in the world from a reliable source.

To save time and effort for the staff involved, here is an item to cut and paste into today’s summary: ‘Mark Avery will be blogging next week on the failure of NE to progress the notification of the West Pennine Moors as an SSSI‘.’.




Our friends the land owners

One thing I noticed about the BAWC conference was a refreshing lack of nervousness about standing up to the large landowners. Almost everywhere else one goes one hears individuals and large powerful organisations fretting about what the landowners might say.

Just saying…

I wonder what Henry thinks…




High Peak Vision, Henry?

Thurs 26th March

What’s that Henry?

You support the National Trust’s High Peak Vision and wish they’d get on with it as quickly as possible?  I so agree Henry.  Are you a member of the NT? I am.


BGBW results

I enjoyed doing the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch – as always.

Did you do it too? If so, you and I were two of the 585,000 participants. That’s more than all the political parties put together – so we are voting for birds. Have you voted for the Hen Harrier in this poll yet?

The BGBW results are out and show that three of the Hen Harriers rivals in the national bird vote are common garden birds (Robin, Blackbird and Blue Tit) – but the Hen Harrier could eat them for breakfast!:


1 House sparrow 4.254 64.58 1 -57.5
2 Starling 2.957 43.92 3 -80.3
3 Blackbird 2.753 91.63 4 -31.2
4 Blue tit 2.737 81.55 2 12.2
5 Woodpigeon 2.018 70.29 5 909.1
6 Chaffinch 1.445 40.39 6 -51.8
7 Robin 1.443 86.53 10 -27.8
8 Great tit 1.399 56.72 8 55.5
9 Goldfinch 1.300 28.38 7 NA
10 Collared dove 1.205 47.96 9 330.2