Cheating Cuckoo scoops book award

09 Mar 2016 | No. 2016-09

Cuckoo: Cheating by Nature’, written by Professor Nick Davies FRS and published by Bloomsbury Publishing, has just been announced as the winner of the BB/BTO Best Bird Book of the Year 2015. The award recognises the very best ornithological writing, covering a diverse portfolio of books, from field guides and species monographs through to new nature writing and county avifaunas.

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Every year, British Birds and the British Trust for Ornithology get together to review the best bird books to appear during the previous 12 months. All books reviewed in British Birds, in BTO News and on the BTO website are eligible for the award. There are no formal judging criteria - instead, the judges are simply looking for books of special merit that will be appreciated widely by British Birds readers, BTO members and a wider audience of birdwatchers.

This year, the six judges voted unanimously on ‘Cuckoo: Cheating by Nature’ as the competition winner. Ian Carter, one of the BB judges, commented "The quality of the writing in Nick’s book is exceptional and the reader is swept along as the story of this bird's unusual breeding behaviour unfolds."

Mike Toms, Associate Director at the BTO, added "The BB/BTO Best Bird Book of the Year provides an opportunity for us to showcase the very best ornithological writing to the birdwatching community and we are very grateful for the support that we receive from authors and publishers, who make the books available to our audiences."

Professor Davies was presented with his award by Dawn Balmer, one of the six judges involved in this year’s competition. Second place was awarded to Mark Avery for his passionately argued book ‘Inglorious’, which explores the headline-grabbing story of the persecution of Hen Harriers to reduce predation of Red Grouse on our upland moors. Third place was awarded to James Pearce-Higgins and Rhys Green, whose book ‘Birds and Climate Change’ explores another pressing conservation issue.

Notes for Editors

  1. Winner: Cuckoo: Cheating by Nature. By Nick Davies; Bloomsbury, 2015

    Reviewed in BB by Ian Newton (British Birds 108: 357) This is, in some respects, an unusual book in that it deals with a single species and yet is almost wholly text-based, with no figures or tables to help summarise the information presented. All the more surprising, perhaps, that all six judges had no hesitation in selecting it as this year’s winner. The quality of the writing is exceptional and the reader is swept along as the story of this bird’s unusual breeding behaviour unfolds, from the earliest pioneering discoveries, through more than 30 years of intensive study, led by the author, at Wicken Fen in Cambrideshire. The intricacies of the story are explained with a clarity that comes from a sound understanding of the subject, and the author’s knowledge and enthusiasm shines through on every page. The text is enlivened by James McCallum’s specially commissioned field sketches, completed during three months of the summer spent at Wicken Fen.

    2nd: Inglorious: conflict in the uplands.By Mark Avery; Bloomsbury, 2015

    Reviewed in BB by Chris Smout (British Birds 108: 638-639) Mark Avery’s latest book is his third to make the top six in the last four years which is no mean feat given the number of bird books published these days. This is his highest placing so far and is typically well-written and passionately argued. It is also very well structured, guiding the reader on a journey through the background and the main developments in one of the most divisive and contentious bird conservation issues of recent years.

    3rd: Birds and Climate Change: impacts and conservation responses. By James Pearce-Higgins and Rhys Green; Cambridge University Press, 2014

    Reviewed in BB by David Parkin (British Birds 108: 179-180). This is another book focused on a pressing, if broader, conservation issue though, in contrast to Inglorious, it is a more academic examination of the subject. It is well written even if, inevitably, given the subject, it is not the lightest of reads. There is a comprehensive assessment of what we know of the impacts of climate change on birds, what might be to come in future and the approaches available to help mitigate the worst of the effects.
  2. The BTO is the UK's leading bird research charity. A growing membership and up to 60,000 volunteer birdwatchers contribute to the BTO's surveys, collecting information that underpins conservation action in the UK. The BTO maintains a staff of 100 at its offices in Thetford, Stirling, Bangor (Wales) and Bangor (Northern Ireland), who analyse and publicise the results of surveys and projects. The BTO's work is funded by BTO supporters, government, trusts, industry and conservation

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