A Mind-blowing Birding Trip to a Planet called Earth

By Nigel Wheatley

Self-published, 2021

816pp; several black-and-white illustrations

ISBN 979-8-68-418514-4; £18.62

Part autobiography, part a series of trip reports, part celebration of the diversity of the world’s bird life, A Mind-blowing Birding Trip… starts with the early days of the author’s birding in Gloucestershire before progressing on to twitching around Britain and then travelling the world, from France to New Guinea. These are serious trips – the sort with dawn-till-dusk birding followed by an overnight drive, ready to start birding at a new site again the next morning. There are tales of some of the world’s most sought-after birds, as well as the tiredness, altitude sickness and missed flights that come with searching them out.

The danger with these trip-report-type titles is that they can soon get rather samey: different bird, different country, same scenario. I was pleased, therefore, that this wasn’t the case here. While it’s abundantly clear that the main aim of each trip was the birds (‘It’s not the human history that interested us, it is natural history’), the author nonetheless sustains a level of passion, awareness of the non-avian aspects of the landscape around them and a style of writing throughout that leaves the reader feeling as though they’re along for the ride. Take a deep breath, though: the sentences are often long, oozing with enthusiasm and packed to the brim with adjectives. In other words, just like the birding trips themselves.

For me, the real appeal was the sense of a shared enjoyment based on past foreign trips that I’ve done – my first time in Morocco, sleeping in a car with five others and waking up at dawn, frost on the windows, in a location where virtually all the birds were lifers. For those who’ve experienced the same, this title will bring back a plethora of memories. For those who haven’t, A Mind-blowing Birding Trip… offers a glimpse into the highs – and the occasional challenges – of birding some of planet Earth’s far-flung locations.

Stephen Menzie

Issue 5
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