Travel Reading in the Time of Covid: Stephen Moss

Just after I decided to commit to starting a Masters in Nature and Travel Writing with Bath Spa University, led by Stephen Moss, I went to visit my family in Ireland and Stephen’s books were everywhere – the museum, the bird sanctuary, all carried a generous selection of titles from the 20 odd books that Stephen has written.  I took the omnipresence of Stephen’s books as a sign that I’d chosen the right course to study.

 In preparation for the start of the course in October, I’ve been reading Stephen’s books and would definitely recommend him to anyone interested in nature writing. His book, How to Birdwatch really helped me to improve my birdwatching. He answered a few questions basic questions that had kept me from progressing –  namely which bird book should I buy? How should I use the bird book?  The book has plenty of useful suggestions for novice birdwatchers.   For example, he recommends that that you take a notebook into the field and observe the bird as closely as you can, sketching it, if possible, and focusing on identifying it later. This helped me to enjoy being in the field more and worry about identification less.

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Written during lockdown, Skylarks with Rosie is a great reminder of what we went through during the pandemic.  The style is accessible and written in diary form it is a helpful pointer for beginner naturalists about what to look out for during each month in the UK.

Written with Brett Westwood, Natural Histories: 25 Extraordinary Species That Have Changed our World tells the story of 25 extraordinary species. Taking an object from the Natural History Museum, it tells bizarre and fascinating stories that demonstrate nature’s ingenuity. 

Living in the UK now, after spending 23 years in South Africa, I miss the abundance of wildlife on the tip of Africa. However, one species that South Africa lacks is the swan. These mesmerising balletic birds that glide gracefully along so many of the UK’s waterways, driven by invisible frantic paddling seem, somehow, quintessentially English. Stephen’s biography of the bird, The Swan, is part of a series that includes the robin, wren and swallow, all equally worth reading, I’m sure.

Next on my bedside table is The Accidental Countryside, about how wildlife is adapting to urban environments.

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