How to be a Bad Birdwatcher: To the Greater Glory of Life
Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub
Look out of the window. See a bird. Enjoy it. Congratulations. You are now a bad birdwatcher. Anyone who has ever gazed up at the sky or stared out of the window knows something about birds. In this funny, inspiring, eye-opening book, Simon Barnes paints a riveting picture of how bird-watching has framed his life and can help us all to a better understanding of our place on this planet. How to be a bad birdwatcher shows why birdwatching is not the preserve of twitchers, but one of the simplest, cheapest and most rewarding pastimes around.
species of animals are there alive in the world right now? Er, don’t know. There are new species being discovered all the time, and each pushing back of the frontiers of knowledge only shows the vastness of our ignorance. Well, all right then. How many have we actually discovered so far? Er, don’t know. There’s no central list; that’s not how science works. But one tentative count, from the great scientist and thinker Edward Wilson, comes up with a number of 1,032,000. Of these, only 4,000,
out there, the other side of the window, singing their hearts out and flying on their angel wings. When we turn to study life, birds thrust themselves upon us, with a beauty we can see and hear, and in a diversity that is staggering, but nonetheless graspable. Easier than beetles, anyway. So you read the field guide, and the ducks, right near the front, are full of charm and obvious diversity. You probably know a mallard, and maybe a tufted duck or tufty. And that dapper little teal looks rather
was, naturally, seeking the meaning of life. And I loved India from the first moment. How could anybody not? My heart was filled with the East after that, and I had to go and live in Asia. A couple of years later, I was living on Lamma island, a 45-minute ferry ride from Central District, Hong Kong, working as a freelance journalist, travelling all the time to various thrilling places around the region. And seeing the occasional thrilling bird. I was never quite sure whether my ignorance was part
nested in your garage. And African birdwatchers have the cheek to say that swallows are African birds that happen to breed in Europe. We say that they are European birds that happen to spend their winters in Africa. This migration thing is something to get your head round. I have a special love of swifts. They are among the last arrivals: they don’t come until spring is an accomplished fact. You know the season is at its height when the swifts are here, flying in on sickle-wings. They will breed
walked upright, they were able to turn their eyes to the heavens and observe the birds. The birds have something we can never have. But merely by existing – by flying before us – they add to the daily joys of existence. Emily Dickinson called hope “that thing with feathers”. Birds are about hope. Take a basic urban moment – a commute, a traffic jam, a train becalmed. A sigh, a look away from the road or the newspaper, out of the window. A skein of geese in the sky; probably, almost certainly,