How and why did our most acclaimed birdwatchers take up birding? What were their early experiences of nature? How have their professional birding careers developed? What motivates them and drives their passion for wildlife? How many birds have they seen?
Mark Avery and Keith Betton, passionate birdwatchers and conservationists, interview members of the birdwatching community to answer these and many other questions about the lives of famous birdwatchers. They take you behind the scenes, and behind the binoculars, of a diverse range of birding and wildlife personalities.
Behind the Binoculars includes interviews with: Chris Packham, Phil Hollom, Stuart Winter, Lee Evans, Steve Gantlett, Mark Cocker, Ian Wallace, Andy Clements, Mike Clarke, Debbie Pain, Keith Betton, Roger Riddington, Ian Newton, Steph Tyler, Mark Avery, Stephen Moss, Alan Davies and Ruth Miller, Rebecca Nason and Robert Gillmor.
"Although each interview begins from the same set of questions, Avery and Betton do a great job of following up on each person's interests, making each piece a highly individual profile, and they also get to the heart of what made each one a birdwatcher – not just the initial spark, but the ongoing passions. I thought I knew a few of the interviewees reasonably well, but I was wrong!"
– Matt Merritt, Birdwatching Magazine
"[...] The interviewees have different ideas about how the future of birding will develop, but all apparently expect that human fascination with birds will be undiminished. Behind the Binoculars is a thoroughly charming celebration and affirmation of that fascination."
– Nigel Hopper, Ibis (158), 2016
"Wonderful cameos of the heroes of birding. From the scientific and thoughtful to the frankly bonkers [...] "
– Baroness Young of Old Scone, former Chief Executive of the RSPB, past-President of the BTO, former Chair of English Nature
"The real common thread, however, is a love of birds and a determination to make a life devoted in some way to their enjoyment, study or conservation. All the interviewees have found the same early fascination but have then moulded it according to their talents, circumstances and opportunities to make a genuine and lasting contribution. Birds, it would seem, can take you anywhere."
– Andy Stoddart, Rare Bird Alert
"Whether spotting golden eagles in Idaho or long-tailed tits in London, professional birdwatchers are a rare breed – observational dynamos wedded to their craft. Wildlife campaigner Mark Avery and birdwatcher Keith Betton have captured 20 stories (including their own) from British luminaries such as wagtail expert Stephanie Tyler and birder extraordinaire Lee Evans. This is both a serious overview of the field and a flock of delights, from the shot of a youthful Betton with three young song thrushes balancing on his forearm to fond memories of first binoculars, whether Leica Ultravids or Swarovskis."
– Barbara Kiser, Nature
"The variety of personalities interviewed in this book demonstrates nicely that there are many different kinds of birdwatcher, each engaging with our birds in a different way – and so there's bound to be something that chimes with anyone reading it. I was fascinated by what initially sparked each person's interest in birds and lit a fire that lasted a lifetime – it seemed to me that in all cases they were young and, like us all at that age, had very dry tinder!"
– Debbie Todd, BTO About Birds
"The passion of each voice in the book permeates the air. The joy of the initial discovery of birds for each subject is a wonder to read and every contributor has a point to make about the welfare of our birds or the state of conservation or the pleasure and passion derived from being in, and therefore a part of, nature. Conservation often takes the fiery enthusiasm out of its arguments and cold scientific statements about the state of the world can leave a non-conservationist audience unmoved. This passionate book does more for conservation in one reading than many dry academic papers on the dangers that surround our birds today; for passion energises a reader, passion makes us want to engage, passion makes us desire and want to bring about change. Those in positions of conservation power, some of whom are sharing their own passion within this very book, should read this book and feel the buzz that is created by the unbridled joy of connection with nature. Harness this and then offer people a cause to support and work with and we can change the grim picture that is the state of our world's bird life."
– Ceri Levy, Caught by the River
"For me this was a nostalgic book. I related closely to many of the stories, particularly by the older people. It was a fun book to read and should appeal to all avid birdwatchers. So take it to the cottage and curl up by the fire when the rain is heavy and enjoy."
– Roy John, Canadian Field-Naturalist
"There are many how-to books about birding on the market; but Behind the Binoculars adopts a much wider-ranging approach to the subject with such queries as the best birding locations in the world, the worst places, birders' first bird books and binoculars, rare bird sightings, and personal lives. These queries draw readers not only into the art and science of birding, but its political, ecological and personal aspects, as well, making for a lively set of insights especially recommended for any reader with a prior avian affinity."
– Diane Donovan, Midwest Book Review
- Chris Packham
- Phil Hollom
- Stuart Winter
- Lee Evans
- Steve Gantlett
- Mark Cocker
- Ian Wallace
- Andy Clements
- Mike Clarke
- Debbie Pain
- Keith Betton
- Roger Riddington
- Ian Newton
- Steph Tyler
- Mark Avery
- Stephen Moss
- Alan Davies and Ruth Miller
- Rebecca Nason
- Robert Gillmor
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Dr Mark Avery is a blogger, writer, author and wildlife campaigner. He once, many moons ago, worked for the RSPB (and for 13 years was its Conservation Director). He has been prominent in the discussions over the future of driven grouse shooting in the UK – Mark hopes that their future is very limited. He lives in rural Northamptonshire and misses most of the good birds at his local patch of Stanwick Lakes in the Nene Valley.
Keith Betton is a media trainer, PR consultant and writer. He is a keen world birder having seen over 7,500 species in nearly 100 countries. He has a particular passion for Africa, having been Chairman of the African Bird Club for the last seven years. In the UK he is heavily involved in bird monitoring in Hampshire, where he is County Recorder. He has been a Council Member of both the RSPB and BTO, and is currently Vice President of the latter.