Teach Yourself Bird Watching by George E Hyde – Review

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By Joe Forshaw

This book is one in the series of ‘Teach Yourself’ books first published in the 1960s. It was published in 1962 and reissued in 2017 by John Murray Learning, an imprint of Holder & Stoughton.

The author George E Hyde, Fellow of the Royal Entomological Society (F.R.E.S) and born in Doncaster was a renowned butterfly collector and breeder whose vast collection of butterflies and moths is now housed in the Doncaster museum in a room that, quote: ‘nobody ever visits’.

This is a shame, because if the exhibition is as comprehensive and as detailed as this book, then it is the non-visiting public’s loss. The book has over 550 entries of bird types across 170 or so pages. It is all you need to know about British birds.

teach yourself bird watching george hyde book review coverGeorge E Hyde who died in 1986 was a leading ornithologist as well as lepidopterist as this comprehensive publication clearly attests. The contents cover most, if not all, of the birds that dwell permanently or from time to time on this sceptred isle.

“Good reference”

The information provided covers; measured size of the bird inclusive of body, feet, beak, wings etc. colour, breeding habits, nesting, egg shape and pattern and a beguiling description of the particular and peculiar habits of each specimen.

Of course, being first published in 1962 and little changed since, the book does have its limitations. In this age of the internet, mobile phones, computers and the almost instant availability of information the book can only be classed as a first reference point. But a very good reference point at that; if one already knows the name of the bird under observation.

Sadly there are few pictures within the pages. Those that appear are neat and commendable pencil point hand drawings provided by Mrs Hyde. Whilst charming they can’t compete with photographs which, with today’s technology, are quick to take and one wonders why they aren’t included.

I can recommend that a copy of this book be kept in bird watching ‘hides’ or carried by rambling birdwatchers and used as a ready reference on recognisable birds.

‘Teach Yourself Bird Watching’ by George E Hyde is published by John Murray Learning


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