Can you recognise the cheerful chirrups of the house sparrow? A song thrush singing out at winter's darkest hour? Or the beautiful haunting call of the curlew? At a time of great anxiety and uncertainty, while coping with the untimely death of his mother, Charlie Corbett realised his perspective on life was slipping. In a moment of despair, he found himself lying on the side of a hill in the rain, alone with his thoughts.
Suddenly he hears the song of a skylark – that soaring, tinkling, joyous sound echoing through the air above – and he is transported away from his dark thoughts. Grounded by the beauty of nature, perspective dawns. No longer the leading role in his own private melodrama, merely a bit part in nature's great epic. Through twelve characterful birds, Charlie shows us there is joy to be found if we know where to look, and how to listen. From solitary skylarks to squabbling sparrows, he explores the place of these birds in our history, culture and landscape, noting what they look like and where you're most likely to meet them.
By reconnecting with the wildlife all around him and learning to move with the rhythms of the natural world, Charlie discovered nature's powerful ability to heal. In this life-affirming and joyful guide to the birds living all around us, it might just heal you too.
Charlie Corbett is a freelance writer, journalist and public speaker. He comes from a family of livestock and arable farmers and spent his childhood divided between farms on the North Wessex Downs and The Isle of Mull.
Having studied history at the University of Edinburgh he turned away from his farming roots and spent the next 20 years reporting on business and finance from cities all over the world. But he remained, at heart, a country boy. He lives today at the foot of the Pewsey Downs in Wiltshire with his wife, two sons, and a field full of skylarks.
"A lyrical and life-affirming book that teaches us as much about birds as it does ourselves – a balm for the soul"
– Raynor Winn, author of The Salt Path
"Totally absorbing and completely engaging on so many levels [...] Charlie has opened my eyes to the constant joy of the sights and sounds of the birds that surround us. It is a book that really will save lives"
– Dr Richard Shepherd, author of Unnatural Causes
"An enchanting book. I knew at once this was something special"
– Lady Glenconner
"This is no ordinary ornithology, but one that portrays the very essence of each bird through a very human lens and shows us that both solace and joy can be ours by merely observing with an open eye and an open heart"
– John Wright, author of The Forager's Calendar
"A wonderful blend of the lyrical and practical. Charlie shows us that our relationship with birds and the natural world is not only healing, but an important part of our cultural heritage worth protecting"
– Adam Henson
"From dawn choruses to the first chiffchaff calls of spring, Charlie Corbett shows how the changing seasons can bring happy natural rhythms to times of hardship"
– National Geographic Traveller
"This is no misery memoir [...] The story moves apace to its uplifting conclusion, that Nature is the best medicine"
– Country Life
"There is much to be admired"
"An important book, woven with the countryside and catharsis. Also instructive into which birds to look for and how to recognise their calls and song. Written by a true countryman and loving son"
– The Field
"Honest, uplifting and written from the heart, this is a rediscovery of life inspired by a re-discovery of birds"
– Tim Birkhead
"One of those charming nuggets you sometimes chance across in the bookshop, pulling together themes of nature, grief, mental health and healing"
– Salisbury Journal