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Fighting for Birds: 25 years in nature conservation

Biography / Memoir
"[...] it's a triumph, and if you have any real interest in the workings of saving species and their habitats then it's a [...] 'must read'."
- Chris Packham

By: Mark Avery (Author), Chris Packham (Foreword By)

324 pages, no illustrations

Pelagic Publishing

Paperback | Aug 2012 | #197095 | ISBN-13: 9781907807299
Availability: In stock
NHBS Price: £12.99 $16/€15 approx
Hardback | Aug 2012 | #199566 | ISBN-13: 9781907807312
Availability: In stock
NHBS Price: £19.99 $24/€22 approx

About this book

Devoted to birds and wildlife since childhood, Mark's early scientific research at Oxford, Aberdeen and the RSPB provided a solid background for his management, ambassadorial, and political lobbying activities which were to follow – and his larger than life, yet quietly humane personality has provided the final tools in his own, unique, nature conservationists' toolbox.

In Fighting for Birds, Mark mixes a great many stories from his professional life at the RSPB with personal anecdotes and passionate arguments on past and present issues in bird and nature conservation. He shows us something of the many scientists whose work paves the way for conservation action, places domestic conservation into an international context, takes us behind the scenes to glimpse the politicians who have worked with him, or against him, along the way. Mark leaves us armed with practical tips and a guiding philosophy to take wildlife conservation though the troubled years that lie ahead.

A personal, philosophical and political history of 25 years of bird conservation, Fighting for Birds provides an instructive and amusing read for all those who would like a glimpse into the birds and wildlife conservation world – what the issues are, what must be done, how it can be done, and the challenges, highs and lows involved.

"[...] Mark Avey is a tonic to anyone who thinks conservation is essentially a grey study. He fights, all right, but he is also a good listener, and perhaps more sympathetic to those of a contrary standpoint than many of us would be. In his ability to argue and persuade while retaining the respect of others, he is probably the best ambassador we've got. The RSPB was mad to lose him, but its loss is our gain."
– Peter Marren, British Wildlife 24(1), October 2012

"[...] These 300 pages, with their relaxed and fluent prose and the constant presence of wild birds with all their beauty and wonder, slip by in an instant. This is a book not to be missed by anyone in Britain seriously interested in the natural world and its conservation."
– Michael McCarthy, The Independent

"This is a very enjoyable read and one to fuel one’s own passion. Now independent he can certainly ‘say it like it is’ but he is not loose-lipped or rash now that he can see it from the outside, his commitment to preserving and enhancing the environment is still paramount and it shows. Chris Packham described this as an enjoyable ‘must read’ and I concur."
– Fatbirder,

"[...] I was particularly interested in Mark's views of the RSPB. He thinks that it should do more to canvass the opinions of its members concerning its work, and he wonders if most of them would wish to retain the benefit of a Royal patron – and indeed it might be renamed. As always, he is controversial, and in that way I suspect he will find life as an independent commentator much to his liking. If you care about conservation you should read this book. I found myself agreeing with about 80% of his views but, regardless, I learned a great deal from his experiences."
– Keith Betton, Birding World 25(10), November 2012

"[...] All in all, this is a hugely important book, and so much more than just a valuable history of a hectic 25 years. It is controversial in parts, it is thought-provoking in others, and it should be used to make a lot of people sit up and take notice. I also hope that the publishers can somehow sell thousands and thousands of copies."
– Mike Everett,, 13-11-2012

"[...] I learnt a lot from this book, much of it in areas I didn't expect: the workings of the Common Agricultural Policy; the complicated intricacies of the 'British' government (from the EU to the regional parliaments with their Minsters, advisers and civil servants); and the even more complicated tangle of British wildlife charities. If you find the first chapter hard going, stick with it; the rest of the book is an informative and entertaining read, and really should be added to the essential reading list of anyone who has even the slightest sniff of interest in nature."
– Stephen Menzie, Saturday 29th December 2012,


Foreword by Chris Packham
List of Abbreviations

1. Early years
2. Flow Country days
3. In the pink - roseate terns
4. Counting, cubes and curves
5. Is it ever right to be nasty to birds?
6. Special places
7. Hope for farmland birds
8. Reintroductions: putting something back
9. Nature reserves
10. Climate
11. The raptor haters
12. Trying to change the world
13. Advocacy in practice
14. Snippets
15. Whither the RSPB?
16. The tangled bank
17. What we need to do to win


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Mark Avery spent 25 years fighting for birds working for the RSPB, from Research Biologist to Conservation Director and is an influential blogger on all matters nature conservation.

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