I grew up in a small village in rural Yorkshire, where the primary school had only 18 pupils in total, just three of them in my year. In the absence of friends, or perhaps because of my temperament, the surrounding countryside took on a special importance for me – the birds in it especially. The cry of the curlew from the moor; lapwings on the local golf course performing pirouettes to distract you from their nest; the flash of a redstart; the barn owl in the holly tree outside our bathroom window being harried by smaller birds – such phenomena were exciting and important. They made me feel less ...


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