Winging it - Birding for low-flyers

Winging it - Birding for low-flyers

Do you have a passion for wildlife, and do you enjoy watching birds? Are you also hopeless at identifying some of the more difficult ones? Do you feel lost without a field guide, and can you count on both hands the number of birds that you can identify by their calls alone?

If the answer to these questions is yes you are not alone. In 'Winging it: Birding for Low-flyers', Andrew Fallan recounts the highs and the lows, the trials and tribulations, of being an avid birder in a world seemingly populated by experts and high-flyers. All those with an interest in birds and other wildlife will identify with and enjoy these engaging tales. Hence, they are invited to join an often humorous and irreverent journey around the U.K.: from the heavily industrialised Thames estuary to Minsmere and the north Norfolk coast, from the Scilly Isles to the majestic scenery of Wales, all the way in fact to the rocky grandeur of the highlands and islands of Scotland. Against the backdrop of our green and pleasant land, the author examines, through his own experiences, the often spectacular beauty of our wildlife, and encourages us to seek solace in the simple enjoyment of birds.

Author: Andrew Fallan
Publisher: Brambleby Books Ltd.
Year of Publication: February 2011
Format and Pages: Pb, 146 pp
ISBN: 9780955392856
Retail Price: £7.99
Our Discount Price: £7.20

Sample text from Winging it - Birding for low-flyers

Chapter 1 (page 14/15)

I still harbour a fascination with birds of prey, and among my most treasured birding memories are my sightings of these spectacular creatures: Red Kites wheeling over the wooded valleys of central Wales; Goshawks soaring menacingly over the Forest of Dean; White-tailed Eagles spreading their enormous wings against the majestic backdrop of the Isles of Skye and Mull; Montagu’s Harriers performing a mid-air food pass over the nest in the arable fields of Norfolk; and a crazed Merlin striking terror into a group of small birds freshly put to flight by a beautiful male Hen Harrier, marauding like a silver phantom across the winter wasteland of the Isle of Sheppey in north Kent.

Chapter 6 (page 61)

Later that night I lay in my bivvy bag, my head poking out into the cold night air. Beyond the faint silhouette of the ridge high above, the skies were filled with thousands of stars, all twinkling bright against the deep inky blackness beyond. And as I lay there utterly mesmerised, as if to remind me that the show wasn’t quite over, a shooting star streaked across the night sky, leaving a sparkling trail of silver in its wake. This place was quite simply spellbinding.

Chapter 13 (page 129)

On our way to the upper valley, we were treated to a spectacular display by two Ospreys as they flew in close proximity to the minibus, almost seeming to follow us. Then, as if waiting until its audience was in prime position, one of these birds started to hover and, with wings pulled back and talons pushed forward, suddenly dropped out of the sky, plummeting vertically down towards the winding river and out of sight. A few moments later it re-emerged, victorious, with a fish in its talons and continued its flight up the valley, stooping its head every so often to take a nibble from its slippery prize.

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Reviews and readers' comments

The book celebrates a pure and unpretentious approach to birding that many birders could gain something from. The reason many of us go birding comes from a powerful and deep-seated connection that is impossible to explain to friends and family who question the attraction of traipsing around lonely marshes and woodlands, with binoculars swinging from the neck. At least, it’s something that’s hard to explain in a single conversation, but Andrew Fallan, in this short book, has more or less put his finger on the simple magic of watching birds … The book takes a refreshingly down-to-earth and holistic view of enjoying birds. It serves very well as a reminder of the great pleasure that is to be had by, for instance, forgetting about getting your head around the mirrors and tongue on P10 and instead looking in raw wonder at the refined form that is a gull against a marvellous coastal backdrop. Communicating the fulfilment in taking this basic approach is something that Fallan does excellently …  – Birdwatch magazine

There is no birder out there who never gets it wrong, although there are a great many who would have you believe otherwise so it is refreshing to tag along with an average birder who can demonstrate that the richness and beauty of birding is all about the experience not the theory. Nice one Andrew.  Fatbirder

The latest in a fairly long line of birding and twitching books, this tells the story of Andrew’s journey into birdwatching as a boy. Early trips with his brother to the marshes in Essex and Kent will ring bells with many of us who followed similar paths of birding. There are many accounts of day-trips with the triumph and downfalls that beset all young birders. For a time, Andrew gives up the hobby, but he later rekindles the interest and, with his girlfriend (now wife), he travels more widely. Andrew never makes it into what I am sure he would see as the upper echelons of birding and clearly feels a bit of an outsider – and, in that respect, I think his story will feel familiar to many people. This is a short read, but an enjoyable one, and better than I expected. - Birding World

A very enjoyable read. Jenny Steel,

Andrew Fallan has written the latest in a recent growing genre of birders autobiographies. Fallan describes how he got the bug, what this has led to through his life and many of the ups and downs of this pastime. This endearing tale recounts the continuous, occasionally desperate search for those rarities that appear in the UK occasionally, the failures and the successes, trials and tribulations of chasing birds, and reported sightings around the UK. Fallan lives in Essex, not known as a destination for great birding, and seems to spend much of the book longing for Norfolk, where he and his partner have many successes, but find themselves being brushed aside by some of the 'me first' crowd. Packham says "I do definitely concur with his thoughts on a proportion of the twitching fraternity. They actually put me off birding for a while in the same fashion that football thuggery put me off going to see the beautiful game."


Andrew Fallan’s concept of birding ‘low-flyers’ certainly strikes a chord; after all, we can’t all be the next birding equivalent of George Michael or Richard Dawkins. The author quickly classifies himself as one of the “massed ranks of birding ‘low-flyers”, someone who “cannot lay claim to any of the skills, abilities, achievements of some of the top names…within the birding community”. The diary-like chronicling of Andrew’s experience makes for a gentle read, meandering as it does from his early years exploring the fabulously-named Fobbing marshes to a life-changing trip to the Isle of Skye that rekindled his enthusiasm for the outdoors. Whilst I didn’t find myself laughing out loud at the tales, I was pleasantly reminded of many of my own early experiences in birding... BTO

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