Sunday Book Review – Birds Coping with an Obsession by Derek Moore

DerekDerek Moore is a character.

This is the story of Derek’s 70 years of working in a bank, playing in a band, playing cricket, birding and being a nature conservationist working for the Wildlife Trusts.  I found all the different bits interesting – and that photo of him playing cricket makes him look like quite a stylish batsman.

I’ve known Derek for many years – I’m not sure quite how many.  He has always been outspoken and he has usually been right.  Derek was one of the senior members of the Wildlife Trusts whom I used to seek out for his views on tricky issues – I’d always get a perfectly clear view from Derek delivered in the most delightful Suffolk accent.

Because he has been around a bit, Derek has seen a bit of life and he’s met a few of life’s (other)  characters.  I was interested to read of his views on Herbert Axell and the tales of fighting Felixstowe Dock expansion.  I have a different version of how the RSPB and the Suffolk Wildlife Trust ended up jointly managing Dingle Marshes but I agree with Derek that it has worked out well.

Derek admits that he isn’t always an easy person to work with (I have no knowledge of that – he’s a delightful person to gossip with!)  and he clearly feels a bit unloved by some in the Wildlife Trusts for despite his long association with them over 40 years, boy and bearded man, they aren’t, it seems, tapping into his knowledge as much as they could.  But others are, and Derek is never going to run out of groups to energise, committees to influence and friends with whom to go birding.

I was fascinated by the insights he gives into the Wildlife Trusts – written with great affection but a lot of honesty too.  And I was pleased to see that Derek and I agree quite considerably about the state of wildlife NGOs today  – I told you he is usually right!

This is an enjoyable read, particularly if you would call yourself a birder, but there is much wisdom in here too.

Derek Moore has seen lots of rare birds, has played on the same bill as The Kinks and the Who, has scored a few runs and has made a difference in nature conservation.

Are there many Derek Moores coming up through the ranks these days – I wonder? I’m glad to have worked in nature conservation while he was around.  As Derek writes, ‘once a nature conservationist. always a nature conservationist’ and you don’t stop when you stop getting paid for it!

Derek Moore is a character.


Derek Moore’s book, Birds: coping with an obsession, is published by New Holland and is available on Amazon as is Mark Avery’s book Fighting for Birds

But you’ll also find Derek giving a talk at the Bird Fair this Friday in Lecture Marquee 3 between 4pm and 420pm and then signing books on the Wild Sounds stand immediately afterwards.

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7 Replies to “Sunday Book Review – Birds Coping with an Obsession by Derek Moore”

  1. Apart from the "...particularly if you would call yourself a birder" bit (before I label myself in such a manner I'd prefer to scoop my eyeballs out with a rusty spoon), your review has made me really want to read this book Mark - so many thanks.

    I'm off to Amazon now, armed with my debit card.

  2. Same here. "Birder" me a favour ! I share three of Mr Moore`s passions (I don`t particularly like Banks though), so I shall be parting with some bread. Thanks Mark..
    On a slightly different keel, someday, would somebody please explain the failed merger between the Wildlife Trusts and the RSPB in the 70s ?

  3. Thank you Mark for your kind comments. I cannot tell you about merger talks in the 1970's but I did take part in one very secret meeting about possible merger in the 1990's. Maybe though that is another book.

  4. For those who are interested, two sources of further information on the 1970s merger proposals are:

    1) Tim Sands book on the history of The Wildlife Trusts - Wildlife in Trust - published last year. This includes a dedicated section on the merger proposals in the reference part of the book. You can buy a copy via the Wildlife Trusts website ( and there is a Kindle/e-book version available via Amazon ( Mark reviewed the book in BBC Wildlife magazine last year. (I should point out that I helped Tim with the book and work for The Wildlife Trusts so do have a vested interest in promoting it!).

    2) Ted Smith's memoir 'Trustees for Nature'. Ted is now President of Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust but worked for The Wildlife Trusts for many years. Ted was involved with the merger discussions first hand and civers them in his book which is about his life in nature conservation. Available to buy via the Lincs WT website (

    Hope that helps. Adam


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