Inn Search of Birds
Pubs, People and Places
• A unique account of birds on pub signs, their history and natural history, and their association with art, music and literature
• Ideal for both birders and people who enjoy visiting pubs
• Informative, amusing and quirky
216 × 138mm
c 288 pages
Most birders keep lists of the species birds they have seen, but do any keep a list of pub birds, that is birds on pub signs and in pub names? This book is about these pub birds, their natural histories, folk-histories and those of the pubs that bear their names, some of the people involved in the story, and the memories that pub birds have evoked over a birding lifetime.
This may appear to be a niche aspect of birding but before the advent of modern technology, pubs in ‘good birding spots’ were often the best place to find out from other birders “What’s about?”, preferably over a pint. On the eastern edge of the Yorkshire Dales at the entrance to Wensleydale, are four pubs all named after Black Swans within a five-mile radius. Intriguing, but why there? They sparked John Lawton’s interest in pub birds and the list that began then spans eleven years, based on a sample of 711 pubs named after birds or things that are ‘bird-related’. There are 117 identifiable species of birds, 17 non-specific birds (for example duck), and four mythical species, plus 35 pubs named after bird-related things.
Technical stuff aside, pub birds are fun. Whilst being as accurate and informative as possible, this book is not meant to be too serious. Whilst ‘plain vanilla’ swans get boring, the Swan and Cemetery (in Bury), the Swan and Railway (in Wigan) and three pubs called The Swan with Two Necks (in Bristol, Clitheroe and Wakefield) cry out for an explanation. As do two Welsh pubs both called The Goose and Cuckoo in Llanover (Monmouthshire) and Llangadog (Carmarthenshire).
The resulting aviary of 117 species doesn’t quite range from A to Z, but the list does run from The Blackbird on Earls Court Road in London to a Yellow Wagtail in Yeovil. The book covers the commonest pub birds, why they are so named, their geography and history, and also pub birds in art, literature and music. There is even a short chapter on nests, babies, feathers and bird paraphernalia. Throughout, the author has woven some of his fondest memories of pub birds into the story and from time-to-time he may even have gone into the pub for a pint.
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