The Birdwatcher's Wife by Gayle Smith Padgett

How about this for a description of a bearded tit?

"The black Fu Manchu moustache is in stark contrast to the pale grey-blue head and soft cocoa-tinted body - this reclusive bird, with a graceful elongated tail, makes Greta Garbo seem like a publicity hound."

It comes from The Birdwatcher's Wife, an informative and entertaining book by an American author, Gayle Smith Padgett, as - expertly assisted by husband Ralph - she gets to grips with identification unfamiliar European birds.

The action takes place in France where the adventurous couple spent 12 months, mostly in Provence, checking out a range of different habitats in their quest for a minimum of 200 species.

Gayle's account is never less than pacy and amusing, peppered with quizzical and ironic asides.

There is also much about the French way of life and their delicious cuisine, but it is her offbeat and colourful way of describing newly-encountered birds that really stands out.

Here, for instance, is how she chooses her own quirky way to differentiate between little and Temminck's Stint.

"The little stint pecks around feverishly for food and the Temminck's stint eats more leisurely - so the former gobbles its way through all-you-can eat buffets, but its cousin selects its nourishment with care and savours each morsel."

The Birdwatcher's Wife is available from Amazon, price £9.52 in paperback or £5.13 in the Kindle edition.