The Profit of Birding

On occasion, reviewing a book can be a real chore, but in the case of Bryan Bland’s The Profit of Birding it has been an absolute pleasure to read this highly amusing and entertaining book.

The introductory chapter, filled with real-life anecdotes that Bryan has collected over the 30 years he has been leading bird tours, must rate as one of the funniest pieces I have ever read, and similar stories intersperse the remainder of the text.
The following 18 chapters include accounts of the author’s trips to such far-flung places as northern India, Transylvania and Guatemala, while over a third of the chapters include Sunbird trip reports from some of the very successful Birds and Music tours to central and eastern Europe, which Bryan and his late wife Betty pioneered. As well as his great interest in history and architecture, the book also reveals his passion for gastronomic delights, and apparently wines, which came as a surprise to me as I had always thought of him as being a teetotaller!

The text is liberally scattered with almost 70 of Bryan’s evocative vignettes, many of which characteristically include a fine architectural study as well as an ornithological subject. Looking at these it is little wonder that he is so popular as an illustrator of bird books.

But it is not only his drawings that capture the moment so well. He is an accomplished and eloquent writer, the text being interspersed with some delightfully descriptive similes, such as “Red-backed Shrikes annotating the telegraph wires like short musical phrases” and “... an amazing array of scattered stars like spilt salt ...”.

My only gripe is the photographs, which to my mind add very little to the book. As Bryan admits in the introduction to the images, they are far too small and I feel that the 16 pages of colour could have been more usefully employed by showing about 50 of the more interesting shots.

Despite this one criticism, I have no hesitation in recommending this highly readable book.
  • The Profit of Birding by Bryan Bland (New Holland, London, 2012).
  • 352 pages, numerous colour photos and line drawings.
  • ISBN 9781780091242. Hbk, £14.99. Birdwatch Bookshop from £11.99.