The Little Book of the Dawn Chorus

The Little Book of the Dawn Chorus
Andrea Pinnington & Caz Buckingham
Publisher:  Fine Feather Press, Farnham
Page Count:  25
ISBN Number:  9781908489333

I have reviewed several titles from the "Little Book of..." series and previous reviews have all been very complementary. This is the first in the series that I have been less than entirely impressed by, not on the basis of production (which is of the usual high standard) but on the basis of the concept.

Previous titles, covering Garden, Woodland, Wetland and Night-time sounds were logical. The focus was on the species, their identification and their ecology. In this case, the intention seems to be to introduce to the reader the fact that different species 'join' the dawn chorus at different times, starting from - we're told - the Skylark, 90 minutes before sunrise. Starlings apparently join in 75 minutes later. While in any given habitat, it is of course true that different species start singing at different times, putting a precise number on it in this way is stretching things a little. Also, and importantly, a major failing of the premise is the choice of species. Perhaps in order to feature some species not included in other titles, they have chosen an eclectic group, which the reader would be hard-pressed to hear simultaneously from the same spot. Skylark and Yellowhammer, for example, being farmland and open country birds, might well be heard alongside Swallow and House Sparrow, perhaps if there were farm buildings nearby. However, in few places where these species could be heard would one also, simultaneously, hear Redstart and Chiffchaff.

If the intention was to encourage readers to listen to the dawn chorus and notice the sequential appearance of species, then surely picking a single habitat (e.g. garden or woodland birds) would have worked better? Does it matter? Not to my son, aged five, who loves all of these titles and is undoubtedly learning species names, ecological concepts and in some cases actually the songs, as a result of our reading these together.

Other than the point above, which some may feel is pedantry, this book is nicely produced, pleasant to look at and factually correct. If the authors, or publishers, are thinking about more in the series, then I would encourage them to stick to a habitat, geographic or taxonomic approach for future titles. For example 'scarce woodland birds', 'upland birds' and 'birds of prey'.

Ben Darvill