If we could see it as a whole, if they all arrived in a single flock, say, we would be truly amazed: sixteen million birds. Swallows, martins, swifts, warblers, wagtails, wheatears, cuckoos, chats, nightingales, nightjars, thrushes, pipits and flycatchers pouring into Britain from sub-Saharan Africa. It is one of the enduring wonders of the natural world. Each bird faces the most daunting of journeys - navigating epic distances, dependent on bodily fuel reserves. Yet none can refuse. Since pterodactyls flew, twice-yearly odysseys have been the lot of migrant birds.
For us, for millennia, the Great Arrival has been celebrated. From The Song of Solomon, through Keats' Ode To a Nightingale, to our thrill at hearing the first cuckoo call each year, the spring-bringers are timeless heralds of shared seasonal joy. Yet, migrant birds are finding it increasingly hard to make the perilous journeys across the African desert. Say Goodbye to the Cuckoo is a moving call to arms by an impassioned expert: get outside, teach your children about these birds, don't let them disappear from our shores and hearts.
Michael McCarthy is one of Britain's leading writers on the environment. Formerly environment correspondent of The Times, for the last ten years he has been environment editor of the Independent. He has three times been named as Environment Reporter of The Year. In 2007 he was awarded the Medal of the RSPB, for an outstanding contribution to conservation. This was the only occasion in the 100-year history of the RSPB Medal that it has been awarded to a journalist. He is the author of The Moth Snowstorm: Nature and Joy.
[This] is the 21st-century version of Rachel Carson's Silent Spring and contains an important message. Mike McCarthy's powerful and poignant book is about loss: the loss of birds and birdsong from the British countryside. It is also a wake-up call, telling us that it might not be too late to save what we have. - Tim Birkhead, Ibis - The Journal of the British Ornithologists' Union, July 2009
'Elegant and well written it may be, this important book is nothing short of environmental dynamite. Michael McCarthy has aimed a devastating broadside at our seemingly unshakeable complacency over the British environment. In Say Goodbye to the Cuckoo, he lays bare with meticulous clarity how we risk the virtual extinction of the 'spring-bringers' - his name for those migrants like the nightingale and cuckoo which help define our sense of season. He goes on to argue that in losing these birds, we sacrifice not just a wonderful and integral part of our biodiversity, we forfeit a portion of our very souls' -- Mark Cocker, author of BIRDS BRITANNICA and CROW COUNTRY 'A beautiful and important book' -- Simon Barnes, author of HOW TO BE A BAD BIRDWATCHER