I have finished my two “Birds of…” logbooks now, and have pinged them over to the proofreaders (my parents!) to be checked before printing. They have quite similar birds, the Isle of Wight and Rye Harbour both being south coast locations, and I found it more difficult to write the copy for the birds I’ve done before than the new ones. With the limited space, I want to be consistent but not repetitive between the different editions. I also don’t want it to look like I have simply rephrased things for the sake of being ‘original’.
I have been ably helped on the Rye Harbour logbook by Barry Yates, the warden and manager at SWT’s Nature Reserve. As I have mentioned before, there is a bit of a problem with the birds’ status, and Barry suggested I used the phrase “all year” rather than resident.
It’s a tricky one, as I have used Resident as opposed to Visitor (summer or winter migrant) but resident in ornithological terms is a specific description meaning the bird lives – resides – in one place rather than being simply being able to see that species in a particular place, and Barry is quite right in challenging my use of the term. I have altered the text in the Rye Harbour book to reflect this, so the birds are [seen] All Year, or Summer; there aren’t any winter visitors in that logbook.
Should I change the wording on the other books? I have decided not to, and here is my reasoning.
I am REALLY keen that the books are accessible and appealing to the general public, without being dumbed down or overly beginner- or child-oriented. I have anthropomorphised and used colloquial terms such as voice; chatting; giggling to describe a bird’s song, and used the word parents rather than adults, youngsters rather than juveniles. Not exclusively, but I have kept it very much as bringing the birds in to our human realm, not because we are better than nature, but because it makes it relatable. I am all for correct terminology but these logbooks are about engagement and observation, and for most of the readership, the 80:20 rule is perfectly adequate. The difficulty too in putting “All year” is that there may be a few months where the bird isn’t likely to be seen, but then we get in to listing months which then pushes the logbook in to a field guide, of which there are already many kinds and I resolutely do NOT want these books to be in that category.
In essence, if people who wouldn’t normally pick up a bird book are inspired to get my logbooks then I will have achieved my goal. If people who do have field guides are inspired to get a little more from their birdwatching by logging their observations then again, another goal achieved. If people buy the books because of the nice pictures of pretty birds, well that will illustrate – literally – the variety and beauty of the species we have on our tiny speck of land on the planet, and that too will make me feel I have achieved something. I have been surprised at how focussed I have been on the central premise of the logbooks, even though I struggle to describe what is in my head. Thankfully the feedback I am getting shows that I am achieving what I’m setting out to do.
The Isle of Wight needed a nightjar, and I struggled to find a decent photo as they are nocturnal birds. I ended up copying an illustration from my Collins guide:
It looked a bit odd on white paper so I popped him in to Photoshop and gave him a suitably dusky background:
I think it looks really effective. I also painted a Dartford Warbler using a photo by Darren Price (@darrenpricephotography on Instagram):
My friend Paul went down to the Discovery Centre to see my logbooks, and they look really good in among the Bloomsbury Concise Guides:
Here are the covers for the two new logbooks: