The Birds They Sang by Stanisław Łubieński

4 out of 5 stars

A copy of this was provided free of charge from NB Magazine in return for an honest review.

If you want to see wildlife without having to even leave your house, then one of the easiest things to do is look out the window for birds. Łubieński fell in love with birds, when his mother read Four Feather Friends to him. However, this passion had lapsed in the years after childhood, and it only resurfaced again at the end of his college years when he discovered a Polish edition of Birds of Europe. He purchased it and a new pair of binoculars and fell in love with all of the birds again.

Łubieński is fascinated by the inspiration that our avian friends have on music, films, books and dance and he explores some of them in this book. I had read about A Kestrel for a Knave before in other books, as well as the bird watchers who managed to still pursue their hobby whilst interred in a German POW camp. I wasn’t aware of the source of Ian Fleming’s well-known spy, James Bond or what President Mitterrand had for his last meal.

But there is more to this book than a few interesting cultural references, his writing is such that you feel close by where he is watching from. It can be settled in a hay bundle observing a flock of cranes gurgling and hooting the other side of a meadow or revisiting an old cottage that is just standing and seeing nature claim it once again. He muses about the creation myth of the stork and heads out to see if he can still find nests in the country.

Łubieński’s book is very different from a lot of what I have read in natural history writing. He is an enthusiastic bird watcher rather than a twitcher and this shows in the book. To start with it was refreshingly different, his writing is curious and intelligent with a deep-rooted warmth to his feathered subjects. His is fascinated in the way that the avian world has influenced our cultural landscape too. But mostly this is about the pure pleasure of seeing birds around you on a daily basis. Highly recommended.

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2 Comments

  1. Liz Dexter

    Oh this sounds brilliant, I will keep an eye out for it. I am so very much not a twitcher and that side of birdwatching tends to upset me a bit.

    • Paul

      I am more of a casual birdwatcher, interested in seeing what there is around when I am going out and about walking, and I have done the odd one or two dedicated trips around Poole harbour. Twitching is just another level and having known one in the past, it isn’t something that appeals at all.

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