The Biggest Twitch: Around
the World in 4,000 Birds
Alan Davies and Ruth Miller.
Christopher Helm, 2010. ISBN:
9781408123874. 320 pages, 7. 5 inches
x 5 inches, $16.25, paperback.
When it comes to the subgenre
of birding literature
best described as the
“twitcher diary,” the vast
majority of those that
have seen publication
are sadly somewhere
and unreadable. Liv-
ing in the grip of a monomania that
may cause them not only to eschew
common social conventions and
relationships, but in extreme cases
proper nutrition and hygiene as well,
twitchers are generally far too lost in
their own pursuits to be able to con-
vey their adventures to anyone else
(other than perhaps other twitchers)
in a manner that is anything more
than “inside baseball” in the extreme.
Notice, however, that the word
“generally” was used in the previous
sentence. Exceptions do exist; tales
of extended searches for birds under-
taken by someone not completely
lost to the world and who possesses
the literary skill to convey not only
their tallied list of species to the
reader but who can spin out a lively,
interesting, and entertaining tale. Most
recently, just such an exception has
been written by Alan Davies and Ruth
Miller in the form of their very lively,
exceptionally interesting, and highly
entertaining book The Biggest Twitch:
Around the World in 4,000 Birds.
Both veterans of the Royal
Society for the Protection of Birds
(Davies a former reserve site manager, Miller a former member of
that organization’s astonishingly
brilliant marketing department), the
authors undertook a round-the-globe
adventure in which they sought to
see 4,000 species of birds over the
course of a single year—a record
should the quest prove successful.
But even more than the goal of seeing 4,000 species of birds, there is
the adventure itself—the people, the
places, the myriad things that happened along the way. None of these
were lost on the pair, who recount
the most interesting of them in rich
detail throughout the book, making
The Biggest Twitch a wonderful read
for both birders and nonbirders alike.
Review provided by John E.
Riutta, the Well-read Naturalist.
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