By John Lee | Brambleby Books | 2017 | Paperback | 297 Pages | Black & White Photos | ISBN: 9781908241542

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Bonkers Birding

The Publisher’s View: It’s bonkers alright, but then again, it’s what some birders do!In this lively and humorous account, John Lee guides us through his journey on becoming an addictive bird watcher, starting gently enough with visiting bird reserves on the Suffolk coast with his brother and parents to look for rarities. But then this interest swiftly evolved into a full-blown passion, a passion that survived a spell at university, service in the Royal Hong Kong Police, and even very nearly ruined early romantic encounters with his wife-to-be, Victoria

The Author: After obtaining an English degree, John Lee worked for the Royal Hong Kong Police Force before returning to the UK to complete an MBA. Currently, he is Head of International Security at the European Investment Bank in Luxembourg where he lives with his wife Victoria and son Jack (step daughter Molly has flown the nest).John is still birding wherever and whenever possible!

Fatbirder View: This is quite engaging and clearly written giving an account of a birding ‘career’. The very best bit for me is the intro written by the author’s son and for me is a call for a ‘birding widow’ or neglected offspring to write a book of their own about life with an absent birder.Its certainly interesting to share the writers experience as a policeman in Hong Kong and I can relate to his overseas birding as it is mostly to places I’ve birded myself. However, one needs to put this in the context of which species of birder Mr Lee is. There are as many tribes of us as there are different sorts of fishermen or gardeners. The latter has its cottage gardeners, estate owners; those growing for the kitchen and those growing to show in completions for the biggest marrow or the most perfect rose. We birders fall into many groups not just twitchers and birdwatchers and nor is there a single definition of a birder. What I can say with certainty is that the author is part of a different birding tribe to me. I like to watch football but am not a serious supporter of any club, I have the occasional glass but am not a serious drinker and, while I love seeing new birds for myself I love sharing them more. I’m not a macho nor competitive birder. Oddly, my oldest friend and birding ‘rival’ never believes this as he is not just competitive, but gets a thrill when seeing a bird I haven’t. Likewise, Mr Lee writes: “There is a certain amount of ‘Schadenfreude’ when people dip and you succeed. You cannot help but feel a certain smug happiness because you have scored, which is made even better by the fact that you are not one of those who have missed out.” It is perhaps for this reason that the humour in the book also doesn’t quite gel for me either as it is usually dependent on something unpleasant or scary happening to him or others.Nevertheless, as a complete devotee of multiculturalism I rejoice in difference and think the world of birding would be poorer if everyone was like me. I list but am way behind on my UK list and can rarely summon the wherewithal to chase after a ‘lifer’ outside of my home county, but can certainly relate to the joys of overseas birding and the beauty of sitting on a hotel balcony ticking off lifers galore without much effort. Having sunk to the axels in my hire car in the sands of a Canary Isle (albeit a different one); enjoyed finding American warblers in the grounds of a Cuban Hotel and experienced many a dip in my twitchier past there is much in ‘Bonkers Birding’ that I can relate to.

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