Article published on October 31, 2016.
Birds are all around us, they are the wild creatures that we encounter every day. They have fascinated us for millennia with their mastery of the air and ability to produce the most beautiful songs. In this book, Barnes wants us to pause and consider just how much we rely on them and them on us. Covering all manner of topics, from the way that their feathers enable them to fly, how they define the seasons, their ability to navigate huge distances across the planet and how they have fed and clothed us from time immemorial.
Science owes a lot to birds as well. Darwin’s observations of birds in the Galapagos gave us the theory of evolution; engineers have studied the way that albatrosses can fly over 600 miles in a day with scarcely a flap to improve the performance of wings. Climate scientists study migration patterns and times to see glimpse the subtle changes that climate change is having. It is packed full of fascinating details and anecdotes on birds, like how the feathers can be light, waterproof and enable flight, and a subtly different feather can be the most efficient insulator we know. Modern technology helped us discover the hidden sounds in the songs and the precise speed of the Peregrines’ stoop.
Barnes has given us a well written, heartfelt book about the wonders of birds. It is a broadbrush look at the world of birds and the subjects are varied as the birds you can discover through your binoculars. This book will make you smile too, as nestled in amongst the science and facts is a tongue-in-cheek humour like the irony of tucking into a chicken sandwich when watching birds. Throughout the book are lots of fine line drawings taken from Eighteenth century bird books, and I think that this lifts it from being another book about our feathered friends to being a real pleasure to read. It is a book that can be dipped into without losing anything, and most importantly conveys his deep passion for his subject. Great stuff.
Paul Cheney 4
See also Paul’s Author Meets Reviewer with Simon Barnes
The Meaning of Birds – Simon Barnes
Head of Zeus 9781784970703 Spt 2016
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