Sunday, 15 September 2013

Book review: 52 Wildlife Weekends by James Lowen

52 Wildlife Weekends

Bradt Travel Guides | 2013
248 pp. | 13.5 x 21.6 cm | abundant colour photographs & maps
Paperback | £14.99 | ISBN: 978-1-84162-464-8

I have known the author of this book for more than thirty years. We were members of the same school natural history society, the same local birdwatchers' club and both went on to work for some of the same international conservation organisations. I know that he is passionate about his subject and has spent countless hours in the field observing and photographing it. No-one is more qualified to write a guide to enjoying Britain's wildlife.

As expected then, this is the perfect guide for nature-lovers of all kinds looking to make the most of British wildlife in their free time. Where to go? When to visit? What to do? What to look for? Where to stay? This guide provides the answers. It might help a family orient their weekend excursions to take better advantage of nature's sights, or allow a keen naturalist to make the most of a business trip to encounter some of the country's most wanted wild species. Although seasoned naturalists will make full use of it, the book should also nudge a less expert readership – perhaps a typical BBC Springwatch audience – to go out and experience Britain's wildlife in the flesh.

Most of the wildlife spectacles that have come to be uniquely associated with the UK are covered: huge flocks of wintering geese, glorious spring Bluebell woods, ancient Yew trees, Puffin colonies, murmurations of Starlings (the aerial displays at their roosts), dusk gatherings of crows, and opportunities to snorkel with Basking Sharks. The majority of these would be targets for even the keen naturalist: charismatic species such as Fen Raft Spider and Purple Emperor, Cirl Bunting and Pine Marten, amongst many others.

With 52 chapters, there is one for every weekend of the year (although one would have to be pretty dedicated to exhaust all the suggestions in one, or even two years). Five wildlife targets grouped within easy striking distance have been chosen for each weekend. For example, a weekend on the Yorkshire coast (#38: September weekend 3) comprises a boat trip from Bridlington, rockpooling at South Landing, and birding at Flamborough, the Outer Head and North Landing. The very first suggested weekend trip of the year is one of my favourites: an excursion to see Islay's wintering geese, and perhaps follow that with the Lagavulin and Laphroaig chasers recommended by the author. The experience is rounded off with Otters and Golden Eagle and, with a bit of luck, White-tailed Eagle. Thirty years on, this remains one of my most memorable short trips: in fact, I still remember the geese and raptors, not to mention Bruichladdich, Bowmore, Lagavulin and Caol Ila.

For each location, a weekend 'base' is suggested: a local town or a particularly characterful lodgings. Contact details and / or OS grid references of lodgings and wildlife sites are provided. There is a good spread of sites, with the majority of them outside south-east England. An index of sites and species, together with a couple of helpful tables, allow the reader to plan a whole year of rewarding wildlife excursions.

A book to inspire, but above all a guide to be taken out and used. This is recommended for anyone who wants to take a more active approach to experiencing the full gamut of Britain's wildlife, whether the keen naturalist with a wildlife hit list or simply those who want to become better acquainted with British nature. My copy has already found a home in the glove compartment...

No comments:

Post a comment