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Birds: Coping with an Obsession:

One Man's Journey Through 70 Years of Birdwatching

Birds: Coping with an Obsession By Derek Moore | Forewords by Chris Packham & Bill Oddie | 272 Pages | 100 Colour & Black & White photos | New Holland Publishers | Hardback | Aug 2013 | ISBN 9781847739520The Publisher’s View: Renowned as one of birding's best story-tellers, Derek Moore takes a nostalgic journey tnrough the past 70 years, recounting many highly entertaining tales, from huge falls of migrant birds engulfing his cricket pitch in the 1960s to heated run-ins with land owners and developers during the years when he was instrumental in establishing a network of key nature reserves along the coast of East Anglia and helping to shape the Wildlife Trusts into the force they are today.

"Derek has made a difference and that is why he is a real hero and it's worth reading this book"
- Chris Packham


'Dereks beliefs are passionate, his determination is steadfast, and his feelings are deep. He is on Nature's team, and Nature has reason to be grateful."
- Bill Oddie

Fatbirder View: This year at the British Bird Fair I bumped into Derek Moore and we talked about how well a mutual acquaintance had taking up, and was running with the ‘Birding For All’ baton. Oddly this was our first encounter.

I say oddly, as reading about Derek’s life I see many parallels and co-incidences. True I wasn’t lucky enough (or astute enough) to follow a career in conservation – my career was spent managing charities. However, he was born in the 1940s, took up birding as a working-class youngster and was birding on the Suffolk/Norfolk birder as a young man. He has also encountered many of the people I did too. Including hearing booming bitterns at Minsmere drowned out by the booming voice of an over enthusiastic warden. He has visited many of the places around the world that I have and, and often we share similar perceptions of them – like the tacky human environment around Niagara Falls. He rails against elitist birders and selfish landowners too. Moreover, his radical and outspoken views have not made him the best liked of organizational leaders. Of course, he has been far more influential than I, but I think we share a passion. Incidentally, I think he is wrong to describe his birding as an obsession, I think ‘passion’ would be much more appropriate a term.

Throughout the book two things take most prominence, over and above his love of birds. Firstly, he describes how he brought business acumen, organisation and other tenets to NGOs. I know from a parallel field just how un-business like many charities were and still are. He never pursued profit, but clearly hated waste and inefficiency and cut through the woolley structures that volunteer-run organisations often tolerate to their detriment. The second theme is not suffering fools nor kowtowing to the establishment. Given that funding is often more about ‘who you know’ and how well connected you are than it should be, he did well to bring efficiency and funding to the conservation organisations he was responsible for.

There is plenty about his birding life to satisfy any birder and he certainly seems to know anyone who is anyone in our pastime.

I was entertained, but, more importantly, I was stirred up. His concluding chapters have much about his hopes for the future and his attitudes remain young enough to still be calling for change. His insistence that conservation calls for political change is so true and yet so little acknowledged, especially by organisations that have to ‘take the Queen’s shilling’ to survive. His call for us all to do everything we can to get young people involved is something we would do well to heed. Moreover, his experiences in the Netherlands in particular shows how timid Britain has been and how self-congratulatory despite the fact that we only preserve a third as much a proportion of land as the Costa Ricans and have no really large scale projects like the Dutch… two nations with less resources, land and people that we do! Its time we heeded his call for joined up thinking both in terms of joining conservation areas together, getting conservation organisations to work together and pressing land owners to think of us all rather than their own narrow economic aims.

This is a good book in the sense that it reads easily and entertains, but much more importantly it's a good book in that it contains a great deal of good sense!


Buy this book from www.nhbs.com