From ovenbird to white-throated needletail - 25 glorious years of twitching

A FEATURE of today’s nature-publishing scene is that an abundance of new titles are either preoccupied with mental health or have a green-and-leafy eco-agenda.

They are mostly very readable and highly worthy in their own ways, but there are so many of them that a certain staleness has set in. The market has become saturated.

How refreshing, therefore, to come across Twitching By Numbers - a birder's account of his hectic life as he chases rare species across Britain and Ireland.

There is no brooding self-absorption from Sussex-based author Garry Bagnell, nor any preachy 'agenda' of any sort - just a celebration of the excitement of travelling the length and breadth of Britain for the thrill (and privilege) of seeing rare birds, some of which may never previously have occurred more than once or a few times on our shores.

The pace of his fascinating narrative races on with barely a pause for breath, and, by the end of the book (which comes all too quickly), he has covered 25 glorious and super-eventful twitch-filled years.

Somehow in that quarter-of-a-century, he has managed to catch up with more than 550 bird species in Britain and Ireland while simultaneously holding down a happy family life, a full-time job in finance with a series of bluechip employers plus a range of sporting interests including playing chess (to county standard) and darts, not to mention following the fortunes of Arsenal FC.

The fellow is clearly some kind of time-management genius!

What further marks out his book as special is that the illustrations are all by Garry himself - not photographs but exquisite colour artwork which beautifully captures the spirit as well as the plumage of such species as varied thrush, indigo bunting, American redstart, common nighthawk and song sparrow.

Credit also to the author for having enough self-belief to produce, finance and market the finished project purely on his own initiative and thus minus the faffing about with agents and publishers. That takes a lot of bottle, but he has been rewarded with the satisfaction of standing, unsupported, on his own two feet.

What is more, any profit - post printing and postage - are ending up in own wallet and his alone. Just reward! After all, he did it his way.

Twitching by Numbers is available in paperback, price £18.95, from Amazon UK.

* A further, more comprehensive review of Garry's book is at:

  • James Lidster’s review is harsh and unfair. It focuses on the book’s shortcomings (of which there are very few) and not on the strengths (which are multiple). The author may not win any awards for gallantry, but his approach is honest, direct , refreshing and packed with information - I think it’s a cracking book.
  • In my view, James Lidster’s review in BB is a little unfair. It focuses on the book's shortcomings (of which there are very few) and not on the strengths (which are multiple). The author, Garry Bagnall, may not win any awards for gallantry or political correctness, but his approach is honest, robust, refreshing and packed with information - I think it’s a cracking book.
  • He was certainly interesting on the TV program about he who shall not be mentioned- :) ***


    *** not Voldemort

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