Sunday book review – Where to Watch Birds in East Anglia by David Callahan

This book does what it says on the cover: it is a guide to birdwatching sites in three East Anglian counties. It is thus a potentially useful book rather than a work of literature.

So, how useful is it? Very! The long list of sites is the right list and the information about each site is what you need to get there, feel comfortable and have a good chance of seeing the characteristic and rarer species that might be on offer.

How do you get to the site? What time of year is best? Can you park a car? Do you have to pay for parking? How big is the site? Where should you go to see and hear what birds? Do you have to be a member? Is there a place to spend your money, buy food and is there a loo? All these questions are answered, and more.

I live just outside the area covered here and so I am a regular visitor to it and have been for 50 years (crikey!). The accounts look accurate and useful to me and I found a few things that were new to me even as a regular visitor to many of the sites, and the sites that I haven’t previously visited might now be fitted more easily into non-birding journeys in these parts. If you live in any of these three counties, and are a member of your county bird club, you probably know those sites but you might find some new and nearby sites in adjacent counties. And if you live outside of the region, this book could be invaluable in planning a holiday for you to get the best from your visit.

I have one very minor gripe; technically correct they may be, but very few birders will talk about Pied Avocets, Western Marsh Harriers and Eurasian this, that and t’others and such nomenclature just jars with me in a book that is for finding birds.

On my first visit to this area, a family caravan holiday, I saw my first Bittern, Marsh Harrier, Montagu’s Harrier, Bearded Tit, Stone Curlew, Turtle Dove, Spotted Redshank and probably others. It’s still the best part of the UK to see many of these species and others too, and now the infrastructure of visitor centres, hides and trails is much more established and designed to make your visit easier and more enjoyable. This book will help you be in the right place at the right time, but the essence of birding hasn’t changed, you’ll still need to remain alert and have your wits about you to see, hear and recognise what is about.

Where to Watch Birds in East Anglia: Cambridgeshire, Norfolk and Suffolk by David Callahan is published by Bloomsbury

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