by Mark Cocker
Reading history and reviews
Finished on 20th May 2010Nature writer Mark Cocker describes how he became obsessed with rooks (a member of the crow family) almost out of necessity, after moving to a rather isolated part of Norfolk where more exotic species were harder to come by. Not seen as particularly interesting by most birdwatchers due to its ubiquity, he begins to realise that far less is known about the rooks' habits than might be supposed. Rooks are intelligent and social birds exhibiting some complex behaviours, which Cocker attempts to understand through painstaking observation - as his daily schedule begins to follow the rhythms of the rooks' lives, he counts them crowded in fields at twilight; attempts to follow their routes as they fly en masse between roosts; becomes a keen spotter of rookeries as he travels around the county and beyond; and delves into the rich folklore surrounding the birds.
I really wanted to enjoy this book and I felt a bit disappointed that it turned out to be just okay. The author clearly loves his subject and wants to communicate what he finds so magical about rooks, but I felt that the writing was often a bit too dry and precious to convey his excitement. Still I did get a real sense of how crows and their kin form a part of the fabric of Britain, especially when Cocker talked about how many of the rookery sites have existed for hundreds of years - and when I suddenly recognised the distinctive cawing one morning (while visiting a more rural place than the one I live in), I felt a little excitement that perhaps mirrored Mark Cocker's great enthuasism for this surprisingly enigmatic common bird.