A History of Birdwatching in 100 Objects

A History of Birdwatching in 100 Objects edited by Dominic Mitchell | Written by David Callahan | Christopher Helm | Hardback | June 2014 | ISBN: 9781408186183

The Publisher’s View: A History of Birdwatching in 100 Objects is an eclectic guide that looks at 100 key objects that profoundly shaped the way in which people have watched, studied and engaged with the avian world from pre-history to the modern day. From representations of birds on caves, tomb walls and in paintings, to the technical developments such as binoculars, telescopes and cameras that enabled humans to watch and record birds more effectively, to more surprising and off-the-wall objects, this is a unique perspective on the world of birds and those who watch them. This historical overview features:

– cave paintings of flightless birds dating back more than 40 000 years

– the Geese of Meidum, an ancient Egyptian ‘field guide’

– the iconic but inaccurate stuffed Dodo at the Horniman Museum

– the 200-year-old Sytema Naturae that created an effective system for organising species and is still in use today

– the camera obscura, the forerunner of modern photography

– the egret plume hats that inspired the formation of the RSPB

– the Danish schoolteacher’s bird ring that allowed the tracking of migratory bird movements worldwide

and many more, including key publications, developments such as walkie talkies and answering machines, DSLRs and mobile phones, paging devices and websites – all of which contributed crucially to our knowledge of and engagement with birds.

The Author: Dominic Mitchell is managing editor of Birdwatch magazine. His books include Where to Watch Birds in the London Area; Birdwatching: the ultimate guide to the birds of Europe; Photographic Handbook to the Rare Birds of Britain and Europe; Birds of Britain: the complete checklist. He writes a regular blog, Birding Etc with Dominic Mitchell

David Callahan is an active birdwatcher and staff writer on Birdwatch magazine and writes regularly on all aspects of birding.

Fatbirder View: I’m not going to knock this book, its fun as far as it goes. But my feeling is that there is a much better book in here trying to get out. When the BBC Radio ran their series ‘A History of the World in 100 Objects’ I was fascinated and informed, educated and entertained. Thinking about it, it was because a different person chose each object and those people were drawn from many walks of life but all were intensely interested or experts in their fields. I think it was the variety of choosers that made for such a fascinating programme and I suspect that this book would have been better for taking the great idea and inviting input from a variety of birdwatchers, twitchers, ornithologists and birders.

One would not expect to agree with all the author’s picks, some I do and others seem a bit contrived and others would not have been on my list. I dare say ‘though, that if there were more perspectives brought to bear on the idea there would have been more to delight, surprise and enlighten.


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