Birdsong

150 British and Irish birds and their amazing sounds

Author: Jonathan Elphick

What we think

In avian phonetics, one of the blackbird’s alarm calls is described as a drawn-out tsiie. Can you hear it? No, and nor can most of the people who’d be looking it up in their reference books. Which is why Birdsong is such an excellent idea (and sold 300,000 copies, in hardback, when it was first published in Sweden). Using a more elaborate version of technology familiar from toddlers’ press-the-button songbooks, it comes with recordings of 150 British and Irish birds. The three sounds for the blackbird, song, call and alarm, are all radically different, and none of them much like tsiie.

Of course, there are apps that offer bird song although surprisingly none from the RSPB. But the old-fashioned pleasure, alongside the recording, of leafing through lavish photographs on heavy paper is hard to beat, especially outside where screens are at their least user-friendly. In this era of falling garden bird numbers, it’s tempting to try a little experiment; press the button and see if you can call some new feathered friends to the garden. Don’t, warns the book; it may stress nesting species.  Shame.