For sure, to the 'average' man or woman in the street, twitching (the competitive recording of wild birds, either as site, year or life lists) often appears as some kind of madness, an obsession. But is this obsession any more mad than wishing to be an Olympic gold medallist, or be the first at any particular competitive, goal-orientated pursuit? In this particular story, the author travels to the mecca of British birding, the Isles of Scilly, and, along with numerous fellow enthusiasts, homes in on the rarities and vagrants blown off course from their normal migration routes, and which by chance land alive – but often exhausted – on these remote islands. For all those who love birds and enjoy visiting such isolated habitats, Scilly Birding: Joining the Madding Crowd will surely find resonance and will inspire not only devotees to follow in his footsteps, but also be privileged to witness many a rarity usually only seen in North America, mainland Europe or even Africa. A very enjoyable and well-written book about a hobby that also has scientific value, is great fun, as well as proving a severe challenge, physically and spiritually.
Simon Davey was born in Kent and educated at the King's School, Ely and Selwyn College, Cambridge. Natural history was his passion from his earliest days. After teaching biology and chemistry, he entered the museums profession as a biologist. For many years, he was Keeper of Biology at the Hampshire County Museum Service, as well as curator of the Red House Museum in Christchurch. In 1988, he became an independent consultant ecologist, specialising in botanical surveys and leading natural history holidays to various parts of the world. This also allowed him time to follow his love for birds and travel the length and breadth of Britain in pursuit of them.
"To birders who have become active only in the last 10–15 years it is perhaps unimaginable to think of a time when you could spend a couple of weeks on the Scillies and scoop up a pile of rarities. Indeed many people did so in just a few days. This book tells the story of Simon’s time in the Scillies in October 1984. That was the year when star birds such as Common Yellowthroat (Britain’s third record), Swainson’s Thrush and Blackpoll Warbler all showed well if you put in the time. Simon’s efforts to see them are well documented. I can barely remember details of birding trips five years ago, but this diary of a birding holiday 29 years ago feels as fresh as yesterday. The supporting cast of Semipalmated Sandpiper, Red-rumped Swallow, Short-toed Lark, Rustic Bunting and Little Bunting gives an indication of how good a year it was. This is an easy read and after the first page I felt I was actually there myself!"
- Keith Betton, 08-08-2013, www.britishbirds.co.uk