Book review: Low-carbon Birding edited by Javier Caletrio

This is a book many birders - especially long-distance twitchers - might prefer not to have  been published.

Where it involves travel by carbon-intensive car or plane - sometimes to faraway places - there is no getting away from the fact that birding is an extremely polluting hobby.

According to editor Javier Caletrio, a return flight from the UK to Sydney "generates the equivalent of 480 suitcases of carbon, each case weighing 20 kilograms".

So some birders, many of whom bang the drum loud for conservation and tackling climate-change, may be among the worst culprits in damaging the planet.

Caletrio, a Spaniard who has lived in England for the past 22 years, is never less than forthright in outlining his argument, but his tone is never downbeat. He is keen to emphasise that birding can be just as enjoyable and rewarding if participants shrink their horizons and focus on what lies either on their doorstep or not far beyond.

Low-carbon Birding also includes fascinating chapters from some 30 other contributors, ranging from teenagers starting out as birders to professional ornithologists.

To their credit, some admit to embarassment, shame even, at how casual they have been about the welfare of the environment such has been their enthusiasm to jet off to tick off some here-today, gone-tomorrow rarity.

There is also a trenchant, no-holds-barred foreword from former RSPB chief executive Mike Clarke who notes that, for too long, organisations as well as individuals, have been in denial about global warming and their responsibilities to address the challenges.

Published at £16.99 by Pelagic Publishing (, this is an excellent book - controversial, engaging and deserving of the widest possible readership.