Say Goodbye to the Cuckoo, By Michael McCarthy

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The Independent Culture

Celebrated by talents as various as Keats and Eric Maschwitz ("'There were angels dining at the Ritz, And...' You know what's coming," adds McCarthy), the nightingale is one of the 50 bird species that fly from Africa to spend the summer in Britain.

Over 16 million in total, they include swallows, swifts, nightjars, thrushes, wagtails and the stone curlew, "one of the weirdest-looking British birds with bulging eyes."

In this lyrical, poignant, fascinating book, The Independent's acclaimed environment editor seeks out these welcome visitors. Mark Cocker introduces him to the mimicry of the marsh warbler: "That's blue tit. That's linnet. That's swallow. Hear the greenshank." It rends the heart to learn that avian immigrants are in precipitous decline due to environmental change both here and in Africa.