The Bottom Line
A Year on the Wing: Four Seasons in a Life with Birds can best be described as a literary memoir of a birding life. A field guide or instructional book it is not, but rather it gives birders an intricately detailed, introspective view of one birder’s experiences. In doing so, this book can help birders see the beauty and richness of the birds in their own lives.
- Richly detailed language creates a sense of reverence for birds
- Includes unique observations of common bird species
- Details a variety of birding experiences: banding, migration, travel, etc.
- Details quickly become cumbersome and can be difficult to read
- Lacks maps or illustrations to give birders unfamiliar with European species a reference
- Lengthy sections without relevance to birds disrupt the book’s flow
- Concluding recollection has little to do with birds and is unsatisfying
- Title: A Year on the Wing: Four Seasons in a Life with Birds
- Author: Tim Dee
- Publisher: Free Press
- Publication Date: October 2009
- Format: Hardcover
- Page Count: 228
- ISBN: 978-1-4165-5933-7
- Price: $24
Guide Review - Book Review: A Year on the Wing
The first thing that stands out when reading A Year on the Wing is its thickly detailed, descriptive language. While the book lacks illustrations of any kind, the vibrant writing easily creates illustrations for readers to “see” through similes, metaphors, quotes and observations, all of which are unconstrained by any central storyline. Instead, the book follows the seasonal changes of birding with a series of monthly vignettes showing Tim Dee’s passion for birds. Dee says “I have lived my life under birds and I cannot remember a single birdless day,” a statement that will encourage readers to seek out the birds in their everyday lives.
While North American birders may find the book tedious because of its focus on European species, Dee’s enthusiasm for birding and dedication to understanding birds through patient observation and study is clear on every page. “Nature writing, if such a thing exists, lives in this territory where science and poetry might meet.” Dee brings science and poetry together with his detailed discussions of bird behavior, coupled with his precise study of birds in every season.
This is a unique book for birders in that, unlike many other available books, it is neither a field guide nor an instructional book. Instead, it is a rich journey through birding that will take readers into the skies with the birds they observe.