Saturday, 27 June 2009
How to be a bad bird watcher
How to be a bad birdwatcher by Simon Barnes
Look out of the window.
See a bird.
Congratulations. You are a bad birdwatcher.
With these simple sentences Simon Barnes opens the doors to the most engaging and pleasurable of all human activities. Bird watching. Every human is a birdwatcher. Rather a bad birdwatcher. Ever since as a two year old you chased pigeons in the park you have unknowingly taken another step further down the trail of human fascination with birds as stamped upon this earth by your long-forgotten ancestors.
Why do we watch birds? Birds are colourful, they fly, they sing and they are about hope – that thing with feathers. How can any mere mortal be immune to such tantalizing charms? Which more than adequately explains Simon Barnes joy at spotting a “shikara - a jet-propelled Asian hawk - when covering a cricket match in Bangalore.” Everyone seems to have at least one happy memory that is indelibly linked with birds. Though it may not be their RSPB moment, as yet.
To appreciate why birds are the most studied and documented of all living creatures, why hanging out peanuts for blue tits is an act of revolution, how there is “something childlike about the best of bird watching”, how bird places aren’t important because bird watching is a nice hobby, how magpies are just being magpies and succeed very well at being that and how observing England footballers compares with watching birds you just need to walk through Simon Barnes authoritative tome on How to be a bad bird watcher.
And if along the way you begin to appreciate where humans stand in the wider living world and join Mr Barnes to sing a paean to the greater glory of life just think to yourself what a wonderful world it would be.
(Afterthoughts on books: part 10)