Say Goodbye to the Cuckoo by Michael McCarthy; A Single Swallow: An Epic Journey from South Africa to South Wales by Horatio Clare - review by Tom Fort

Tom Fort

Twitching

Say Goodbye to the Cuckoo

By

John Murray 256pp £16.99 order from our bookshop

A Single Swallow: An Epic Journey from South Africa to South Wales

By

Chatto & Windus 336pp £17.99 order from our bookshop
 

Looking down my garden I see blackbirds, thrushes, blue tits, finches of various denominations, wood pigeons, collared doves, and sparrows. Occasionally a green woodpecker drops by to prod at the lawn. Several times a day red kites circle overhead looking for roadkill to gobble. Rooks dispute the tops of the copper beeches opposite. Sometimes at night I hear an owl; and the dawns are filled with chirpings and chirrupings.

In short, there is plenty of bird life around to satisfy me. Although I prefer fish, I like birds well enough, with certain exceptions. But I do not share Michael McCarthy’s righteous passion for them, or his sense of outrage at their fate in this beastly modern world.

McCarthy’s starting point is that we have lost the ‘generalised intimacy’ we used to have with birds – we are too busy staring at screens in cities to care any more. This assertion strikes me as highly disputable. The wealth and power bestowed on the RSPB by its

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