In Dusk We Trust - Some Owling in Co.Durham, North East England, Great Britain
Leucistic Little Owl image copyright Hilary Chambers, Durham.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

23 Feb - Birds - ‘a miner’s canary for the natural world’

Cut & Pasted :-

‘A global chorus on the relationship between human beings and birds’

‘Studying the life of another living creature is a way of engaging all of your faculties. In short it’s a way of being intensely alive and recognizing that you are so. Everything is connected to everything else’ explained Mark Cocker in the moving portrayal of his intense and ongoing study of the corvid (the rook to the carrion crow) in his book, Crow Country.

Mark Cocker is a natural scientist, environmentalist, cultural anthropologist and author with eight books under his ‘wing’ including Birders: Tales of a Tribe and Birds Britannica, a study on the cultural importance of birds in this country. His Crow Country was shortlisted for the Samuel Johnston Prize for Non–Fiction within which his descriptions of ‘ornithological fishing’ describing the many days seeing nothing paling into insignificance when a significant encounter is experienced, will resonate with many a ‘twitcher’.

For his new work Birds and People, Mark Cocker comes to Newcastle on what is to all intents and purposes a typical book tour, but untypically Birds and People isn’t yet available; Mark is taking the opportunity to explain why it is viewed as a groundbreaking collaboration between the publishers Random House and BirdLife International. To say it is something of an experiment in publishing terms, is an understatement.

Birds and People will survey and document, worldwide, the cultural significance of birds but will only be complete when comments and contributions from all over the world are compiled and sufficiently signify that the work is complete. It has been estimated that the book will have been 10 years in the making. Mark’s lecture is a ‘call’ to explain and encourage participants to visit and contribute through an already active dedicated website

So far people in 54 countries have contributed (as far away as Mongolia, Iran and Vietnam); some are celebrated authors like novelists Margaret Atwood and Jim Crace, nature writer Richard Maybey and local poet Katrina Porteos as well the back garden bird spotter. There is even a contribution from a prisoner serving a life sentence in a USA state penitentiary.

Mark describes birds as ‘a miner’s canary for the natural world’ and wants to enthuse others on their cultural significance. Significantly in this, the Year of Biodiversity, Birds and People awareness will highlight how a decline in species inflicts ‘parallel losses upon the very fabric of human cultures’ he says.

The book’s photography comprises of almost 400 ‘spectacular’ (says Mark) images of birds by celebrated wildlife photographer David Tipling (a former winner of the documentary award for The European Nature Photographer of the Year for his work on Emperor Penguins) with research by Jonathan Elphick, a natural history author and editor for over 50 years.

The lecture ‘Birds and People’

Date: Wednesday 10 March 2010

Time: 5.15 for 6pm start (seats allocated on a first-come-first-served basis.)

Place: Life Conference and Banqueting, Times Square, Newcastle NE1 4EP

Price: £2 (payable on the door)


The Birds and People lecture is part of the world-wide celebrations of 2010 as the International Year of Biodiversity. The diversity of life on earth is crucial for human well-being and now is the time to act to preserve it. For information on events, initiatives and exhibitions across the UK visit

For further press information: Vicky Pepys/Nicola McIntosh Tel: 0191 243 8209

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