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A History of Birdwatching in 100 Objects

The artworks, books, inventions and technology that have influenced how birds were studied and recorded

By: Dominic Mitchell (Editor), David Callahan (Author)

222 pages, colour & b/w photos, colour & b/w illustrations

Christopher Helm

Hardback | Jun 2014 | #202326 | ISBN-13: 9781408186183
Availability: Usually dispatched within 6 days Details
NHBS Price: £19.99 $24/€22 approx

About this book

A History of Birdwatching in 100 Objects is an eclectic guide that looks at 100 key objects that profoundly shaped the way in which people have watched, studied and engaged with the avian world from pre-history to the modern day. From representations of birds on caves, tomb walls and in paintings, to the technical developments such as binoculars, telescopes and cameras that enabled humans to watch and record birds more effectively, to more surprising and off-the-wall objects, this is a unique perspective on the world of birds and those who watch them. This historical overview features:

- cave paintings of flightless birds dating back more than 40 000 years
- the Geese of Meidum, an ancient Egyptian ‘field guide’
- the iconic but inaccurate stuffed Dodo at the Horniman Museum
- the 200-year-old Sytema Naturae that created an effective system for organising species and is still in use today
- the camera obscura, the forerunner of modern photography
- the egret plume hats that inspired the formation of the RSPB
- the Danish schoolteacher’s bird ring that allowed the tracking of migratory bird movements worldwide

and many more, including key publications, developments such as walkie talkies and answering machines, DSLRs and mobile phones, paging devices and websites – all of which contributed crucially to our knowledge of and engagement with birds.


"The BBC Radio 4 series, A History of the World in 100 Objects selected key items from the British Museum and used them to tell the story of human history.

This book sets out with the slightly more modest task of tracking the history of birdwatching through a brief description of 100 key objects chosen by the author. David Callahan offers an insight into the relationship between humans and birds by listing items from the Arnhemland rock painting through to a projection of what the future of birdwatching may bring.

The short sections make it an easy and entertaining read and some of the objects will bring back memories. I particularly liked the 1973 ‘mobile’ phone - a reminder of how quickly technology is changing and how this changes our experience of birding. The choice of items is necessarily a personal one but any book that includes BirdTrack and the BTO Atlas among its list of birding milestones must be worth a read!"

- Heather Pymar, BTO book reviews, September 2014

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Dominic Mitchell is managing editor of Birdwatch magazine. His books include Where to Watch Birds in the London Area; Birdwatching: the ultimate guide to the birds of Europe; Photographic Handbook to the Rare Birds of Britain and Europe; Birds of Britain: the complete checklist. He writes a regular blog, Birding Etc with Dominic Mitchell

David Callahan is an active birdwatcher and staff writer on Birdwatch magazine and writes regularly on all aspects of birding.

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