Book Review – Confessions Of A Scilly Birdman

On nature writing courses I attended earlier in the year I was told it was good practice to review the efforts of other authors. Light hearted tomes from 1985 may be an unorthodox place to start book reviews on this blog but I’ve just read David Hunt’s autobiography so here goes.

The titles of each of the ten chapters give a fair indication of how the book is pitched – Recollections Of A Fledgeling, Post-breeding Dispersal, Leader Of The Flock and so on. The writing is largely factual and not particularly creative, but does give a valuable insight into being in at the start of the development of the ‘Scilly Season’ and large scale twitching of the islands.

Whilst times have changed, and we have seen how TV programmes of this era have often dated very badly, even in 1985 David’s ‘warts and all’ confession that his achievements came at great expense to those around him feels very selfish. Like many keen birders he is aware of that, but it never stops him putting himself first. I am quite sure that face to face his charm was evident, it’s less easy to get an impression of that from these memoirs. Tragically he was killed by a tiger in India whilst the book was completed but not yet published.

On many occasions the book mentions that the author was doing artwork of Scilly landscapes and birds to supplement his income. It would have been interesting to see some of these in the book, as well as the excellent caricature line drawings of birds and birders by Brian Bland as shown below.

From birding world.co.uk these include Dave Holman, Paul Dukes and Harry Robinson. Don’t know who is far right.

It’s not in the same league as the writings from the same period of David’s good friend Bill Oddie, but it’s still worth a look as a description of a long gone era of grapevines and birds that weren’t in the available books and more perennial themes like suspicion of newcomers claiming rarities and the tension between giving people access to the birds and conserving them.

It’s Christmas so if anyone wants my copy free of charge now I’ve read it I can deliver in the Blackpool area. I’m happy to post it (still free) if anyone further afield would like it.

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