Mark Cocker's brilliant description of his journeys in search of crows and ravens, birds that obsessed him and changed his life for ever
One night Mark Cocker followed the roiling, deafening flock of rooks and jackdaws which regularly passed over his Norfolk home on their way to roost in the Yare valley. From the moment he watched the multitudes blossom as a mysterious dark flower above the night woods, these gloriously commonplace birds were unsheathed entirely from their ordinariness. They became for Cocker a fixation and a way of life.
Cocker goes in search of them, journeying from the cavernous, deadened heartland of South England to the hills of Dumfriesshire, experiencing spectacular failures alongside magical successes and epiphanies. Step by step he uncovers the complexities of the birds’ inner lives, the unforeseen richness hidden in the raucous crow song he calls ‘our landscape made audible’.
Crow Country is a prose poem in a long tradition of English pastoral writing. It is also a reminder that 'Crow Country' is not 'ours': it is a landscape which we cohabit with thousands of other species, and these richly complex fellowships cannot be valued too highly.
“Luminously beautiful and dartingly intelligent, Cocker's obsessive quest after the ancient trails of rooks across our dusk skies leads to an almost sacred space: a place where the landscape of the imagination and the lovingly, minutely observed realities of the natural world come to roost together”
“Here's a slim book to squeeze into that last corner of the holiday suitcase. It coins a new word for a new enthusiasm - corvophile - and it's guaranteed to ensure that you never look at a crow in quite the same way again.... After his description of the spectacle of 40,000 gathered at the rookery near his home in Norfolk, it will be hard to ever treat them with dismissive contempt again”
Madeline Bunting, Guardian
“Fabulous... Like all classic works of natural history, is is an extraordinary revelation of riches and wonders and that lie at our doorsteps, completely ignored”
“A splendid book...Crow Country's narrative of rookish discovery unfolds with splendid variety, incorporating scientific exposition, biography, environmental history, poetry, memoir and biography. Cocker has a remarkable ability to evoke landscapes and species. Your heart beats faster as he describes a pack of tight-packed wigeon flushing in fear from an icy creak. You feel the shock of recognition as a barn owl meets his gaze. It's infectiously emotional. At it's most lyrical Crow Country matches the heights of that deeply eerie work of avian obsession JA Baker's The Peregrine; yet at its most scientific, it could sit alongside the best ornithological monographs... Crow Country is a significant, beautiful work”
“Exquisitely written, passionate exploration of the local and commonplace.....Crow Country, the work of one of our most gifted and original nature writers, provides fascinating revelations about corvid behaviour and an affirmation of where that enigmatic species known as the naturalist really fits in the natural world”
“Cocker's gift is to draw you into his hobby so deftly that you quickly begin to share his every enthusiasm...wonderfully evokes what is magical about this sometimes ridiculed county”
“Cocker is a beautiful writer...the twilight and his beloved rooks bring out the poet in him...a loving observation of the wonders on the wing in everyday England”
Ann Wroe, Daily Telegraph
“A book that makes you look differently at something common, and it raises the hope that there really is a wisdom and beauty to crowds”
“Sits squarely alongside other recent East Anglian memoirs, including Richard Mabey's Nature Cure and the late Roger Deakin's Waterlog”
“The nation's most observant and intuitive of nature writers”
“As obsessive a celebration of rook and jackdaw - and of human immersion in nature - as anyone could wish”
“A vivid example of the "new nature writing" it is a lyrical and intense evocation of the world of jackdaws and rook, and an elegy on watchfulness”
Peter Marren, Daily Telegraph Weekend