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  • Published: 15 June 2010
  • ISBN: 9780099516491
  • Imprint: Vintage
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 272
  • RRP: $28.99

The Running Sky

A Bird-Watching Life

An extraordinary, inspiring book about a lifetime of observing birds

Storm petrels fly from a midnight sea in June to their nesting holes in a two-thousand-year-old stone tower; a million starlings gather to roost from all points across a freezing winter sky; migrant redstarts, only weeks out of their nest, set off over alien seas on their way to Africa; a pair of airborne swifts lie together for an instant as they mate hundreds of feet up in the sky.
The Running Sky records a lifetime of looking at birds.There have been many books on the birdwatcher’s awkward obsession, but there has been nothing until this that so brilliantly restores us to the primacy of looking, the thrill of watching and thinking about the flying wild creatures that share our planet.Tim Dee writes about what he has seen in a language we have never read before but will recognise as accurate and familiar, with insights new-minted yet immediately understood, in prose that is at once precise and poetic.
The Running Sky follows the birds’ year from one summer to the next.Tim Dee maps his own observations and encounters over four decades, tracking birds – well-known and bizarre, flying free, in the nest, in his hand as he rings them, or dead and stuffed on his mantelpiece – from northern Shetland to south-west England via downtown Los Angeles and a tobacco farm in southern Zambia.He writes about near-global birds like sparrows, starlings and ravens, and exotic species, like electrically coloured hummingbirds in California and bee-eaters and broadbills in Africa.The book begins in the summer with clouds of breeding seabirds in Shetland and ends with crepuscular nightjars like giant moths in the heart of England, and takes us outside, again and again, to stand – with or without binoculars – under the storm of life over our heads, and to marvel once more, as all humankind has, at what is flying about us.
In the current resurgence of British nature writing, The Running Sky will take its place in the very first rank.

  • Published: 15 June 2010
  • ISBN: 9780099516491
  • Imprint: Vintage
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 272
  • RRP: $28.99

About the author

Tim Dee

Tim Dee has been a birdwatcher all his life. His first book, TheRunningSky (2009), described his first five birdwatching decades. In the same year he collaborated with the poet Simon Armitage on the anthology The Poetry of Birds. Since then he has written and edited several critically acclaimed books: FourFields (2013), a study of modern pastoral, which was shortlisted for the 2014 Ondaatje Prize; GroundWork (as editor, 2017), a collection of new commissioned writing on place by contemporary writers; and most recently, Landfill (2018), a modern nature–junk monograph on gulls and rubbish. He left the BBC in 2018 having worked as a radio producer for nearly thirty years. He lives in three places: in a flat in inner-city Bristol, in a cottage on the edge of the Cambridgeshire Fens, and in the last-but-one house from the south western tip of Africa, at the Cape of Good Hope.

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Praise for The Running Sky

The Running Sky has the makings of a classic. It's beautifully written, extraordinarily vigilant, and very moving. Most remarkable of all, it manages to give a sense of the bird world as being something which embraces and contains our own - which means that, as we read it, we learn a lot about ourselves as well as the fellow creatures flying through, over and around our own lives

Andrew Motion

Lyrical...sure to become a genuine addition to the literature of birds

Daily Express

What makes his book wonderful is his passion... He captures the thrill and puzzlement of watching birds as I have never previously seen it captured

Sunday Herald

Its author has a forensic eye for detail and a gift for poetry...an intimate and erudite account... he is in the front rank of contributors to the literature of natural history

Daily Telegraph

Serious and playful...creates a powerful and intensely poetic paean to what others have called the wonder of birds


Thrillingly original memoir ... extraordinary

Lynn Barber, The Sunday Times

A beautifully haunting and involving memoir. The writer's passion for birds becomes his way of expressing his whole relationship to landscape and history and family: unsentimental and urgently contemporary

Tessa Hadley

The best 'new age' nature book this year

Peter Marren, Independent

Dee's extraordinary, beautifully written account of a life spent watching birds is a fine addition to the flourishing genre of British nature writing

Christopher Hart, The Sunday Times

In a class of its own ... a chastening as well as an enchanting book

Andrew Motion, Guardian

To write a book about a year's bird-watching as keenly observed as this, you have to be dedicated to the point of obsession; to write one as transcendent, you must be a poet

Christopher Somerville, The Times, Christmas Books

In a class of its own

The Week

You don't need to be a birdwatcher yourself to enjoy it

Sunday Telegraph

Thrillingly original memoir.

Lynn Barber, The Sunday Times

This moving memoir of a bird-watching life is full of "poetry-saturated observation"

Sunday Times Summer Reading

As unexpected as it is brilliant... A moving, powerful meditation on the natural world that envelops us, even in the heart of our cities

Helen Dunmore, Guardian Summer Reading

It looks fabulous - all ingenuous sidebar diagrams for extra-narrative thoughts and insights. And it has genuine soul: the novel evokes family life, in all its delight and eccentricity, frustration and love, in a way that would melt the hardest of hearts

Nicola Barr, Guardian

Haunting and passionate.... in graceful, poetic prose, compels us to look again and marvel at the 'storm of life over our heads

Huon Mallalieu, Country Life, Christmas round up

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