Birds and plants seem to go together naturally. Birders usually seem to be interested in plants, while gardeners enjoy birds. In the US, there’s even a very popular magazine, Birds & Blooms, that combines the two enthusiasms. But not all bird books appeal to gardeners – they may be too focused or too esoteric – but this one is different.
Tweet Of The Day began as a BBC radio series, a one hundred second daily focus on an individual British bird starting each time with its song (the closest North American equivalent is the two minute BirdNote). The popularity of the series has led to this enticing book in which the bird song of the radio series is replaced by bold and captivating illustrations (click to enlarge). The result is an enjoyable month-by-month guide to birds by two of Britain’s most acclaimed naturalists and one of Britain’s premier wildlife artists.
All the familiar garden birds are included, along with many that we’ll see on our walks and drives around Britain. But rather than provide a detailed description of each one (there are plenty of illustrated field guides, after all) authors Brett Westwood and Stephen Moss concentrate on the birds’ habits, their song, and their jizz – what it’s like to see them and how they behave – all clearly derived from their own long day-to-day experience with the birds. And there’s a tempting sprinkling of intriguing stories as well: find out which bird stays in the air for eighteen months after it leaves its nest and check out the traditional way of cooking baby gannet!
Their style is relaxed, conversational almost, yet they pack in so much information without being heavy-handed about it.
And everything is enlivened by the full page, full colour illustrations from Carry Akroyd (click to enlarge), as well as dramatic endpapers, chapter openers and a neat one-shot black and white cameo of each bird. Her colour work very effectively sets the birds in their landscape: the pheasant and brambling under an autumn oak, the kestrel hovering above a rural road, the kingfisher streaking over the stream, the grouse on the moor. She has the knack of making us feel familiar with a bird even if we’ve never actually seen it, and even the small black-and-whites give you a snapshot of how they behave.
While it’s the illustarions that first grab you, this is a great book for people who are interested in birds but don’t know very much while seasoned birders will discover details they never knew. You start by dipping into it – and end up forgetting about lunch.
BBC radio's Tweet Of The Day is available as a podcast.
* American readers may not be familiar with the birds but they will surely find the text fascinating and certainly enjoy the illustrations.
Tweet Of The Day by Brett Westwood & Stephen Moss, illustrated by Carry Akroyd, is published by Saltyard Books.