Thomas Hardy notes the thrush's 'full-hearted evensong of joy illimited', Gilbert White observes how swallows sweep through the air but swifts 'dash round in circles' and Rachel Carson watches sanderlings at the ocean's edge, scurrying 'across the beach like little ghosts'. From early times, we have been entranced by the bird life around us.
This anthology brings together poetry and prose in celebration of birds, records their behaviour, flight, song and migration, the changes across the seasons and in different habitats – in woodland and pasture, on river, shoreline and at sea – and our own interaction with them. From India to America, from China to Rwanda, writers marvel at birds – the building of a long-tailed tit's nest, the soaring eagle, the extraordinary feats of migration and the pleasures to be found in our own gardens.
Including extracts by Geoffrey Chaucer, Dorothy Wordsworth, Richard Jefferies, Charles Darwin, James Joyce, John Keats, Charlotte Brontë, Emily Dickinson, Anton Chekhov, Kathleen Jamie, Jonathan Franzen and Barbara Kingsolver among many others, this rich anthology will be welcomed by bird-lovers, country ramblers and anyone who has taken comfort or joy in a bird in flight.
Jaqueline Mitchell is a writer and compiler of anthologies, specializing in social and cultural history, and an editor of non-fiction. Eric Fitch Daglish (1892–1966) was a wood engraver and illustrator. His book Woodcuts of British Birds was published in 1925.
"[...] Almost by definition, anthologies are meant to be dipped into by the fireside or bedside and this is how most copies of this book will be used. Many readers will enjoy some familiar passages or discover writers new to them. It is, though, also a catalogue of what we once had and have now mostly lost. As Mitchell says in her introduction: ‘One can only hope that now it is widely acknowledged that we are at a critical tipping point, we will at last heed the drift downwards of wildlife and finally resolve not to prioritize our own needs above those of all other species.’"
– Barry Gray, Ibis 163(2), April 2021