A Social History of Birdwatching
By Stephen Moss
Published by Arum Press, 2004
This is a thoroughly good read, in particular for keen birdwatchers. Well written, it is an entertaining account of what is now one of Britain's most popular outdoor activities. I also had the pleasure of birdwatching with the author recently, as in addition to being writer, Stephen is also the producer of Bill Oddie's TV films, and was making one on the wildlife of Patagonia, based at the WLT's project in Argentina. We saw (and filmed) gull-billed terns – apparently a first for Patagonia.
Surprisingly, one of my few criticism of Stephen's book relates to films. There is no mention of the role of wildlife films as I remember them. Growing up in the 1950s and 1960s, films were shown regularly at natural history society meetings, and in the late 1960s I had to qualify as a projectionist, when I was teaching a birdwatching evening class. Some of the films being shown dated back to the 1930s, but they were still going the rounds. Being that bit younger, Stephen missed that era – but nonetheless it was a very important part of birdwatching, as were the evening classes themselves. However, in a book of this size, some aspects of a wide ranging topic are bound to be missed, and these do not detract from a good read – and an ideal Christmas present for a birder.
Review by John Burton