For early risers, the few moments at around 6am on BBC Radio 4 for several months has been a date with nature. More specifically, a 90 second date with the song or call of a species of British bird. The birds were the stars, they always are, but a range of well-known birders and naturalists, broadcasters and conservationists, told us a little about the bird of the day or what the species meant to them.
This is the book of the series, the text of the commentaries, but it also includes information on how the series was put together, how the two authors got into birding and a bit about the history of birdwatching too. It may seem a little odd to produce a book about a series of radio broadcasts of bird songs, but this book works very well and is a pleasure to read. The different, short, accounts of over 200 species are varied in tone and approach but combine to make a lovely book.
This is a book into which you can dip at any time for a quick moment of bringing birds and their songs into your life. But when you dip you will find yourself reading the next account, and then the next. You may find that opening this book is like opening a packet of chocolate digestive biscuits – you’ll be surprised how far through the packet you’ll get on one sitting (but it’s not fattening – unless you really do eat a biscuit with each species and then it will be!).
A glance through the index may get you thinking ‘why is he in this book?’ – Francois Mitterand (a typical tale of the French love of birds). Ken Livingstone (an unfortunately typical tale of the English intolerance of birds), Gioacchino Rossini (how cultured are you?), Edward Thomas (you must know that poem, surely – it’s perfect) and the occasional woman too (but not many).
Whereas the book can’t fully deliver the joy of the sounds birds make, it compensates by being lavishly illustrated with scores of Carry Akroyd’s black-and-white illustrations and dozens of colour, full-page Akroyds too.
Tweet of the Day by Brett Westwood and Stephen Moss is published by Saltyard Books and is available from Amazon (as is Mark Avery’s Fighting for Birds and as will be Mark Avery’s A Message from Martha which can be pre-ordered now (and has a cover by the aforementioned Carry Akroyd)).