Sunday book review – Landfill by Tim Dee

OK, so this book isn’t about landfill (although it is  a bit).  It is a book about gulls (but not just about gulls) and it is a book about the author (but not just about the author) and it is about Bristol (but not just about Bristol). And at this point I have to state that I was at school with the author in Bristol and we must have seen the occasional gull together, which meant that I was interested in some aspects of the book from the very start.

But this is a book that is not so much about gulls but about how wildlife fits into our lives and how it adapts to the Earth that we have created which is very different from how the planet would be without us mucking around with it. Gulls have adapted to us better than many species and yet we don’t, generally, seem to like them very much.  Why is that?

And yet, there are some birders who are larophiles, gull aficionados, experts on separating your Yellow-legged Gull from your Caspian, even in second calendar year plumage.  Even many birders think that gullers are a bit extreme.

After the first couple of chapters, I wondered where the book was going but I needn’t have worried, it ranges widely geographically and temporally and we meet many interestng characters with the occasional sighting, or lack of sighting, of gulls along the way.  This is an eclectic book with gleanings of thoughts and ideas, stories and characters which are blended together into a meaningful whole.

If you have read Tim Dee’s other books than you’ll want to read this too.  If you want intelligent sideways looks at gulls and at human life then this is the book for you.

And I would have enjoyed this book even if I hadn’t known its author quite well over 40 years ago but the fact that we are roughly the same age (he’s younger by three years) meant that there were a few people, and places, and references to birding events, and popular culture that tied me into the stories even more strongly.

This is not really a book for the average landfill operator, nor the average birder, but birders and non-birders alike, with enquiring minds, will find a lot in these pages that will hold their interest, educate and entertain them.

Landfill by Tim Dee is published by Little Toller Books.

Remarkable Birds by Mark Avery is published by Thames and Hudson – for reviews see here.

Inglorious: conflict in the uplands by Mark Avery is published by Bloomsbury – for reviews see here.

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2 Comments

  1. andrew says:

    How much are gulls using landfill these days. I thought the organisers were getting quicker at buying the rubbish.

    The gulls must be being pushed back to landfill sites as the free range pig farms are getting round to using bird proof hoppers which has a dramatic effect. There is hardly a bird to be seen whereas before the pig fields were full of gulls and corvids.

    Our domestic waste now apparently goes to energy from waste so the landfill will be less nutritious for them.

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