A common man marvels at uncommon things. A wise man marvels at the commonplace. CONFUCIUS

Saturday, 21 February 2009

Books, Birds And Bill Oddie

While going through my father's bookcases the other day, discarding some books, keeping others, I came across my old copy of The Observer's Book Of Birds (published by Frederick Warne & Co. in 1965). This was my very 1st bird identification book. (When I was chatting once to comedian and ornithologist Bill Oddie at a publisher's sales conference, he told me that this was his 1st birding book too. In a previous incarnation I used to sell to bookshops in the English North and Midlands Oddie's own field guide, Bill Oddie's Birds Of Britain & Ireland, published by New Holland in 1998.) There used to be a whole series of these pocket-sized Observer's books, and I owned a small range of them - including Birds' Eggs, Weather, Pond Life, Common Insects & Spiders and Architecture, I remember.

This is my favourite page from The Observer's Book Of Birds. I love the placing of the golden oriole, one of the most exotic and rare birds you could ever hope to see in the UK, next to what until recently was one of our commonest and taken-for-granted birds, the humble house sparrow:

In common with many natural history books back then, many of the illustrations were in monochrome not colour - as, for example, this page which shows another exotic visitor, the hoopoe, the bird my reader Jay saw once and once only (Jay's blog is at http://www.thedeppeffect.com/):

Here's a picture of the treecreeper, the bird I was lucky enough to see edging jerkily up the trunk of our flowering cherry tree recently. On the left is the nuthatch, another beautifully marked, trunk-creeping bird:

Although this morning the 1st starling I've seen in the garden all winter was clinging acrobatically to the half coconut shell at our bird feeding station, I still haven't caught a glimpse of those lovely goldfinches:

If anyone wants to read my other post about Bill Oddie, it's here.


Raph G. Neckmann said...

How amazing and what memories this brings back for me too! I was hooked on the Observer's Book of Birds when I was very young and the golden oriole was my favourite page too. It was also the beginning of my love for Latin names, and my long-suffering parents were made to play 'How many Latin bird names can you list beginning with ...' endlessly.

I can still remember the wonderful name Garrulus glandarius, which was, I think, the chough.

Asterix books were a logical progression for me, I guess!

The Solitary Walker said...

I always loved Pica pica (magpie) and Garrulus glandarius (jay)- both very apt names.

I saw a jay near my father's house the other day making one hell of a racket. There were lots of jays on my Camino walks. The French call them the 'guardians of the forest'.

The Weaver of Grass said...

I loved that book too Robert - the Observer books used to be so popular didn't they? I still use thedog one today although it is now very tatty./
I am chuff because we have a pair of yellowhammers at our bird table today - courting definitely started on February 14th up here - they are all dashing about with bits of hay in their beaks.

Raph G. Neckmann said...

Oops - it was a jay, was it? I must have a better memory for Latin than English!

I've been thinking about the long bookcases from my childhood, since reading your post earlier, and how I loved the slightly musty smell of the books.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

I still have my first bird guide, too (not the same as your, of course) which I found when cleaning out the bookcases at Mom's home after her passing. I've stored it in the attic with some other things, but I'll have to dig it out and write about it a bit. I think it was a "pocket guide" publication, though I might be wrong. It was small, in a cardboard slipcase, but the illustrations were all in color. My father gave it to me when I was about 5 or 6 years old.

Bella said...

Yes, the common sparrow - I haven't seen any for years.

As a child I loved visiting an uncle in New Zealand - he had beautiful charts on exotic birds. It was always astounding the large number of exotic and colourful birds in NZ. I didn't see any slithy toves, borogroves or mome raths though :)

The Solitary Walker said...

Weaver - we have the dog one as well! Lots of yellowhammers round here too in the trees and hedgerows between the village and the river. 'Little-bit-of-bread-and-no-cheese' is their song, isn't it?

Grizzled - those early gifted books are such important influences, aren't they?

Bella - I seem to recall there are lots of bird species in NZ that are very tame, and not at all frightened of humans or other creatures - because they have never been predated?

Bella said...

There were no predators but things have changed...however, it is an incredible safe place to travel, no snakes, no crocodiles, no spiders(not 100% sure of spiders).
Yes, they are not frightened in the sense that they have no need to be - same with humans too. Actually NZ is a great place for walks, and walking or "tramping" as they call it, is still very much a standard activity for many NZers. Naturally, Sir Edmund Hillary is a fine example of their walking/mountaineering spirit.

Jay said...

Oh, there is my Hoopoe!! He was rather handsome!

I didn't have the Observer's book of birds, but since my father was a naturalist, we did have other bird guides. My first Observer's book was horses and I used to love to flick through it deciding just which breed to get when I was old enough. LOL!

Liz - there is one venomous spider in NZ, the katipo, which lives on coastal margins. I don't think they're than common though.

Jay said...

Ooops .. sorry - I don't know how I turned Bella into Liz! Apologies.