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Birding is becoming one of the fastest growing outdoor activities, especially in the UK. Adrian Riley provides with his book entertaining and highly illuminating insights into the obsessions - and passions - when he set out to become the nationally recognised 'Birder of the Year'.
Here is a classic tale, set amidst the beautiful British countryside, involving a rivalry so strong that all else is forgotten - save the birds and the desire to see them, despite the many costs both mentally and physically.
This second edition has more adventures and colour photos.
Foreword; Prologue; Chapter One: January a moving experience; Chapter Two: February getting into the groove; Chapter Three: Marching on together; Chapter Four: April showers of migrants; Chapter Five: May The Lochans of Mercury; Chapter Six: June and July the half-time break; Chapter Seven: August unto the breach once more; Chapter Eight: September getting personal; Chapter Nine: October the Scilly season; Chapter Ten: November and December the final furlong; Chapter Eleven: The nineteenth hole; Chapter Twelve: Epilogue Chapter Thirteen: Further adventures of the silver-haired man The list Acknowledgements;
Adrian Riley was born in Telford, Shropshire and spent much of his working life at Rothamsted, the agricultural research station in Harpenden, Hertfordshire, where he pursued a professional career in entomology. On retiring early in 2000, he turned his energies to ornithology, more especially birding. In 2002, he won the Birder of the Year award, having recorded some 380 species that year. Whilst he is the author of several books and other articles on insects, this is his first book on birds.
`Those who are motivated by the challenge of hard twitching will immediately identify with the emotions experienced by Adrian Riley in his quest to see a massive number of birds in Britain & Ireland in 2002. For him, the task started as a enjoyable personal challenge to see how many he could find, but it was not long before his success in seeing a huge number of birds put him in direct competition with two other birders - and in particular Lee Evans. This book tells the story of that competition. Visits to all corners of the country are described, as are various short periods of despair when the author suffers at the hands of the weather, the police and a lack of sleep (and cigars). The book is full of short anecdotes, including one about a co-driver who insists on having a hearty meal on the way to a twitch. This immediately reminded me of how I gave up twitching after missing a Crag Martin by five minutes when the car driver had delayed our start by spending 20 minutes making sandwiches! Twitching is full of highs and lows and this book focuses much on the emotional experiences of year-listing rather than detailed discussions about the birds seen. After 78,000 miles of travel and £8,000 of expense, Adrian Riley's year ended with a haul of 381 species, gaining several life birds, but losing a friend in the form of Lee Evans. If you are into twitching, then you'll probably enjoy this book, which is an easy read and short enough to get through on a twitch from the Midlands to the Scillies or Shetland (if you are not the driver!).' British Birds, June 2005
`Year-listing - seeing as many species of birds in 12 calendar months - is arguably the most futile twitching activity. Building geographical lists - a local patch, national or international levels, is one thing, staking out the likes of Mandarin on duck ponds or Ring-necked Parakeet in West London during the first weeks of January is Sad with a capital S. This said, there is an ever-growing army of the un-dead ready to become willing zombies for this annual pursuit. Since what seems to be the Dawn of Time, Lee Evans has been the undisputed King of the Year-listers, performing Herculean feats to remain one-step ahead of all-comers. But when challengers do lay down the gauntlet expect binocular cases at thirty paces. Adrian Riley's account of how he beat Lee Evans to win the 2002 year-listing marathon reveals not only the insignificance and worthlessness of his achievement but also questions the sanity of its exponents. It also makes fantastic reading. Arrivals and Rivals: a birding oddity, is the title of Riley's addictive and highly enjoyable book, which charts his 78,000 miles odyssey along the highways and byways of the British Isles to see an incredible 380 species and costing him the pricely sum of £8,000. Each bird has a story, some more than others. On occasions he risked life if not limb to get his tick. Whether it was suffering near hypothermia in the Shetlands or facing the wrath of Ireland's Garda, Riley's account of how he clocked up his "arrivals" - the rarities that willingly-succumbed to his checklist - makes great bedside reading. It's the stories of his run-ins with "rival" Lee Evans, however, that makes this book a must-buy. To read how a birding friendship degenerates to the point where libel lawyers are consulted is far more interesting than travelling to Bedfordshire to see Lady Amherst's Pheasant. The irony of ironies is that when Riley finally claims the crown which list does he use? - the one drawn up by Lee Evans' own UK400 Club! Mmm.' Bird Watching, July 2005.