Book review: Birdgirl by Mya-Rose Craig

AN unwritten rule among birdwatchers is that you "always try to share your sightings".

So says Mya-Rose Craig in her fascinating book, Birdgirl, which was last month published in paperback version.

Another of her thoughts is that "the most intense moment of a twitch is when the bird is both there and not there."

And she further notes: "The harder you work for the bird, the greater your reward and the sweeter the pleasure."

Still a student, Mya-Rose is one of the most interesting of the new generation of birders.

Accompanied by her parents, also both birders, she had visited no fewer than 40 countries across seven continents and seen more than 5,000 of the world's species before she had left school in Bristol.

Her book recalls some of her most memorable experiences to date, not least of them watching a green-breasted pitta deep in a Ugandan rain forest.

She writes: "Watching a small bird sing and dance its heart out, my own heart felt like it was exploding.

"Such a display of extraordinary beauty made tears prick my eyes.

"There wasn't anywhere else on earth I'd rather have been than here in the clearing, watching this little bird call for a mate."

Even if were book solely dedicated to matters ornithological, Birdgirl would be a compelling read.

But it is given added texture by other elements, for instance her dismay at the lack (at least in the UK) of racial diversity within the birding world.

As the daughter of a White father and a Bangladeshi mother, she laments the casual racism and Islamophobia that she regularly used to encounter at school.

Also threaded into her narrative - with extraordinary frankness - is the challenges she and her father continue to face as a result of her mother's unpredictable bipolar behaviour which has variously sparked night-terrors, depression and mania.

Despite many fabulous moments, life has clearly often been difficult for the author.

As she ruefully concludes: "I have not enjoyed an easy migration into adulthood".

Birdgirl is published in paperback (£10.99) by Vintage/ Penguin.

* The same book is also reviewed at: