352 pages, 16 plates with 200 colour photos; 80 b/w illustrations
Author Bryan Bland has led thousands of birding tours to more than 70 countries. On one such trip a bemused waiter once posed the question: "Where is the profit in birding?" Bryan is famed as one of birding's greatest story-tellers, and he uses his book to answer this question emphatically. In short, there's more to birding than just birds, although these clearly provide a great deal of interest and pleasure. In addition, history, dramatic scenery, location filming, plus much else from world politics to the crucial life-enhancing role of music are all featured in this light-hearted examination of the profit of birding. Tales include scrapes with terrorists, running 50 miles across the landslide-strewn Himalayas in order to keep an appointment with a tour group, and Britain's first-ever breeding pair of Parrot Crossbills using Bryan's beard to build their nest! Birders and non-birders alike will enjoy the humorous anecdotal narrative, while the lively text is accompanied by many of the author's photographs and exquisite line-drawings.
by berriman in the United Kingdom (09/12/2012)
I was unable to put this book down. One of the most interesting books I have read. Apart from the detailed description of many birds it is a true insight into the customs of other peoples not the usual travel writers description. I felt as if I was indeed there on the many and varied adventures. For music lovers there is much interest as the music and bird tours are described. There are 80 black and white drawings al done by the writer. And over 200 colour photographs I only wish some of the photos were larger but once enlarged they are magnificent.
"Prophet or profit? Bryan Bland could potentially be the former, given his supernatural ability to remember facts not just about birds, but music and history, and to be able to recount amazing tales from his countless birding trips across over 70 countries. Take, for example, the story of how on one trip to Libya he accidentally ripped off his little toe – only for it to grow back over the following months! Prophet or amoeba?! You need to read the book to decide.
Of course, Bryan needs little introduction to most birders, and if you look at his personality profile back in 1987 (British Birds 80: 663–666) you can see that he hasn’t changed much since. Based in Cley, he alternates his highly popular residential birdwatching courses with overseas tour-leading for Sunbird. With his unmistakable long flowing beard and all-weather shorts and sandals, he is easily recognised. (I was slightly thrown by the book’s cover, which shows him wearing long trousers, while on the back cover he is in a dishdasha – although the sandals are clearly visible!)
Each chapter takes a different destination – mostly in the Western Palearctic: Morocco, Israel, Egypt, Austria, Czech Republic, Finland, Russia, Norway, Estonia, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and Romania, but also India, Bolivia, Belize and Costa Rica. Using his trip reports from each destination, Bryan weaves together an excellent spread of birding intelligence with stories of derring-do. No doubt the occasional tale has been embroidered slightly over the years, but his scrapes with terrorists, local police and uppity tourist guides all make for a great read. The book is illustrated throughout by Bryan’s delightful sketches, and there are over 300 colour photographs stuffed into two sections totalling 16 pages. Bryan apologises for the fact that he doesn’t like big gaudy photos, but I do wish some of these were a bit bigger!
Amazingly this is Bryan’s first book, and I feel the second volume has to be on its way. I’d love to hear about the funny things that have happened on his UK travels – I found myself laughing out loud on many occasions. This is a great book and you will profit from reading it."
- Keith Betton, www.britishbirds.co.uk, 02-03-2013
"In March 1993, I was in the audience at the Birding World/BTO conference at Swanwick. Various glitterati, notably Lars Jonsson, were among the speakers, but I was quite unprepared when a Methuselah-like figure took the stage and launched into a lecture with the unprepossessing title of "Birding Abroad". The performer (an apt description) was Bryan Bland and his talk was dangerously funny – the sort of uproarious humour that could split a zip. The effect was like sucking an electric light socket.
Nearly a score of years later he has reprised some vintage anecdotes and woven them into a spellbinding tapestry, bejewelled with his mood-conjuring line drawings and spread of postcard images. His travelogue is mighty and his evocation of birds and places is written through the prism of leading birdwatching tours for Sunbird. I found this remarkably unselfish. Sharing his skills and enjoying the company of strangers seems to be a passion on a par with enthusing about the birds themselves. However, the fruits of his intellect extend to music, national history and just about everything else. Elaborate cocktails of narration crop up with no artificiality whatsoever: "wardens at Oulu reserve, where we saw yellow-breasted bunting and a range of waders, put me in touch with a quartet to play for us whilst we had dinner at the snail farm."
After an establishing sequence during which a selection of globetrotting open-sesame bits of paper are revealed (including a Norfolk Naturalists' Trust membership card complete with a hand-drawn sketch oft he author), the following eighteen chapters whiz the reader around various parts of the world. Not even Google Earth can keep pace with page after page of flying superlatives, because the itinerary is cleverly veneered to reflect a sense of culture and geography, such as Ruthenia, Transylvania and the Byzantine world. The writer is half Bamber Gascoigne, half Groucho Marx.
The book is a portable garden. It is crammed with uplifting passages. I found it therapeutic to think that, for once, it was possible to concentrate on the fine things in life without worrying about the inevitable caveats lying in wait over the page – of habitat endangered and populations imperilled. Many times the scenes made me feel as happy as a successful suicide bomber enjoying a first afternoon in paradise: "sitting in the courtyard of Sarospatek castle being caressed by a gentle breeze whilst listening to the brilliant Franz Liszt Chamber Orchestra play Haydn and Mozart, as the black redstarts flitted against an unblemished blue sky and the birds of the day surfaced in succession from the subconscious."
Of course, the hard currency is reflected in the title. Bryan Bland makes the case that birds and the natural world are worth protecting because they can be valued economically as well as for sheer wonderment. He fleshes out this sentiment in "No profit grows where no pleasure ta'en". Let us hope that the message gets through. A woman's insight invariably gets the measure of a situation and the sagacity of his late (non-birding) wife illuminates our world of birds. I loved her summation: "I don’t want to spend the rest of my life with people in woolly hats saying what's about?" So, to emulate Bryan Bland, we all need to be ambassadors. At the end of a scintillating read I said to myself, "this guy missed a career as Lawrence of Arabia. No, hold on a minute, Lawrence of Arabia missed a career as Bryan Bland!"
- Anthony McGeehan, Birding World 25(11), December 2012
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Bryan Bland is famous among the birding community as a tour leader for the company Sunbird and regular contributor to magazines such as Birding World. He is based in Cley-next-the-Sea in Norfolk. The Profit of Birding is his first book.