Book Reviews

The Cuckoo Paradox

The Cuckoo Paradox
by Ted Gerrard

Discover why Migrant Birds cannot use compasses to navigate.
Published by Samos Books (

Ted Gerrard has always been a hero of ours because of his extensive Ornithological knowledge. He has always been sceptical of many of the orthodox explanations of how birds navigate. He does a brilliant job of describing the experiments of today’s leading experts and their failings.

We agree that none of the explanations put forward so far can possibly account for how birds carry out the astonishing migrations that they achieve. “The Cuckoo Paradox” puts the key problems in the nutshell. How does the fledgling cuckoo (whose parents left long ago) set out and find its wintering grounds in the Congo basin? This is not a simple straight bearing but a complex route with necessary stops to refuel (eat grubs to put on fat) to complete. All the cuckoos start from different places all over Europe. This means that they cannot inherit a simple bearing to go to their wintering grounds as each would need a different one, the route is not straight but changes depending on the start location and stops to refuel are necessary otherwise the birds cannot make the crossing of the Sahara.

Ted does a great job demolishing all the current theories. This is not surprising as they do not give good explanations of how birds migrate.

If you are interested in the brilliant arguments which demolish a lot of famous animal navigation experiments you should read this book. We agree with Ted Gerrard that many of the present assumptions are simply not good enough, which is why we keep looking to find out how animals actually navigate.

Vesper Flights by Helen Macdonald

Vesper Flights
by Helen Macdonald

Published in 2020 by Jonathan Cape,  London.
ISBN 9780224097017

You will see we have already reviewed her other book H is for Hawk.

This book is a set of very personal essays where she really bears her soul. Her understanding and knowledge of animals and the environment that they live in are astonishing. She sees and feels things that many of us never normally notice. Of course, she is upset about the degradation of our natural world and its animals and insects. Worries about climate change and the environment may change this trajectory.

Helen Macdonald’s writing is wonderful and her emotions shine through every page. Of course, her knowledge of animal navigation is extensive.

H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald

H is for Hawk
by Helen Macdonald

Published by Jonathan Cape ISBN 978-0-224-097000-0
Nonfiction prize winner for non-fiction 2014

This book talks of the taming of a Goshawk.

Helen Macdonald says some very interesting things in her book which relate to humans and our world as much as humans and hawks where she talks about the importance of the trainer learning to become invisible to the hawk.  This invisibility is of the mind, you must empty it– of course, you are still there but you have disappeared until you relax and let yourself through again.  She says the hawk knows this moment instantly.

She also talks about the sixth sense where you need to commune with your hawk you just know what it is thinking,  just as I believe you often do with loved ones.

In our modern world, we seem to have lost these instincts but wild animals, such as hawks still have them.  I think that animal navigation depends on these things.

The Walker’s Guide to Outdoor Clues and Signs
by Tristan Gooley

This book should transform the lives of anyone who reads it as it tells us all how to read the landscape and find our way. He describes how to observe the clues and signs that our part of the landscape. Yet many of us, whose eyes are closed and through our ignorance, miss the “Sherlock Holmes” type clues, which deduce where we are and where we are going.

Tristan Gooley is the ultimate “woodsman” who has travelled with nomads and indigenous people such as the Dayaks (who live in the forest in Borneo) on how they track, navigate and live in their environments. His conclusion is that the Dayak are supremely aware of the topography of their environment and always keep a careful check on the key landmarks, such as rivers and mountain ranges, that enable them to find their way. He loves to tell how they see the way: uphill, downhill, upriver and downriver. Flat land is hard to navigate by, they say. These insights mirror precisely how an ancient Sami explained how he navigated.

Gooley’s insights into how animals operate are fascinating. There is so much literature on how all animals listen in on the “jungle net” and react to the alarms of others. He explains all this in detail.

If you are thinking of going walking read this book, it will make the journey so much more interesting. Tristan Gooley makes you see!

The Snow Geese
By William Fiennes

Here is a beautifully crafted book by a consummate author who set out to follow the extraordinary migration of the Snow Goose from Texas to Baffin Island in the Arctic Circle every year.

Fiennes joins the birds at Eagle Lake near Austin Texas at the end of February and goes North by Greyhound Bus and Train. He tells the story of the people he meets on the road, as well as observing the birds as they migrate or are stopped when finding that spring has not yet arrived and they are too early for that stage in the journey. The birds arrived in Foxe Island amongst the Inuit in early June for the short arctic summer, when they mate and rear their young and the artic bogs are too wet for the hunters to venture out.

Fiennes tells of the annual rhythms which time bird migration and Emlin’s research on birds orienting by the stars and his famous funnel.

The Elephant Whisperer

By Lawrence Anthony

This book talks about how Anthony makes an incredible decision to introduce elephants into his reserve Thula Thula in Zululand where he discovers he can communicate with them as he needs to tame them to operate in his reserve.  This book is a fascinating description of his efforts to make his reserve work and his conservation efforts as he wins against all the opposition of animals, weather and people.

He got better at communicating with his elephants and learned the art of listening to the elephants and listening to their modes and emotions.  Later on, he comes to just know when they were around even if he could not see them.

Here is a quote from him:
“Granting respect to animals is as important as it is with humans.  Animals have an uncanny ability to pick up on your state of mind, especially if you are antagonistic or hostile. All it takes to make progress is an open-minded attitude, with a bit of patience it eventually clicks into place. The best part is you will recognize it when it happens. Believe me, anyone can do it, and as many people already know, it is so worthwhile. There are no deep secrets, no special abilities and no psychic powers necessary.”

Radar Ornithology
by Eric Eastwood

First published in 1967 (probably not now in print but available second-hand)

Eric Eastwood writes as a physicist having studied radar during the war.  His radar work leads to the development of the use of radar to track bird movements. They found that they got rogue echoes which they called “angels” which they soon discovered were birds.  A lot of this book has excellent descriptions of how radar works and what it can do, please note that the words “PPI” describe the radar display screen.  He was helped in this book by a reputed ornithologist Dr David Lack.

This book includes a lot of hard experimental data on bird movements.  You will see my summary of this work under “Bird Navigation” on this site.

Dogs that know when their owners are coming home and other unexplained power of animals
by Rupert Sheldrake        

This is a truly seminal book first published in 1999. The title tells the story; this book is packed with anecdotes and careful scientific experiments

The book covers telepathy between owners and their animals and between animals themselves, a sense of direction and migration are all covered in this book.  He points out the failings of the scientific taboo that refuses to investigate the close emotional relationships between domestic animals and ourselves and so discovers the extraordinary power of communication and sense of direction that these animals and humans possess.

Since 1999 Dr Sheldrake’s ideas have been investigated and upheld by an increasing number of experiments and books.  This book is so inspirational to all we try to do at  We have asked many dog (and cat) owners if their dogs know when they are coming home and over and over again they say this is true.  We really want feedback to add to Dr Sheldrake’s examples.

The Sense of being stared at and other aspects of the extended mind
by Robert Sheldrake

Dr Sheldrake covers the whole range of unexplained skills, phenomena and also of effects at a distance and telepathy.  This work covers Humans and animals.  Yet again Dr Sheldrake covers areas we are all familiar with in our lives but as they are not explained by “modern” science people try to ignore the reality of these things and try to find other explanations, which invariably do not fit the facts.  We particularly like the chapter on “The evolution of Telepathy and his explanations of how flocks of birds and schools fish operate.

There is a very extended appendix that meticulously sets out experiments and the results that prove conclusively that these effects are real. This is all carried out at the highest level of scientific rigour by a professional Biologist.

The Science Delusion – freeing the spirit of enquiry
by Robert Sheldrake

Dr. Rupert Sheldrake is a biologist and a maverick in that he questions many of the dogmas of Classic Science.  We at come across this refusal of those in the scientific community to engage in debate about issues that Dr Sheldrake raises along with his very persuasive evidence to support his questions.  We particularly like his contention that memories are not stored as traces in our brains but stored out “there”. [in the Universal Information Field (our use of this term)].  We like his treatises: “is matter unconscious?”, “the illusions of objectivity” and is “nature purposeless?”.

He believes in hard verifiable evidence to support his ideas and questions, even when this produces results which are not readily accepted today.  Rupert Sheldrake is one of our heroes and points the way to how animals actually navigate.

Bird Sense – What it’s Like to Be a Bird
by Tim Birkhead

If you are interested in Birds, this is a must-read by a lifelong enthusiast about everything bird. The book is divided into neat sections: Seeing, Hearing, Touch, Taste and Smell. Magnetic Sense and Emotions.

Not only is recent research work described, but also there are wonderful quotes and visits to past work.  I loved the interesting asymmetric eyes of the Owl and how this helps them.  I thought the description of the olfactory bulb of birds carried out in the 1960s by Betsey Bang and Stanley Cobb was a fascinating story.  Also, in the Smell chapter is a description of the honey guides and Gaby Nevitt’s great work on Albatrosses.

We at are not happy with the chapter on Magnetic Sense as this is the area where there is the most confusion interpreting what is going on, especially when one of our heroes David Keays has proved that pigeons do not have the magnetite array proposed to sense magnetic fields in their beaks.  However, the work on Guillemots Shearwaters is fascinating.

Nature’s Compass (the Mystery of Animal Navigation)
by James L Gould and Carol Grant Gould

As the authors say in their preface the time has come to produce a comprehensive book on animal navigation (outside the difficult-to-read and highly focused information delivered in special scientific papers).  This book really delivers on its promise and covers all the modern work in easily digestible form, plus interesting work by Professor Gould himself: I liked the piece on bee navigation – they have terrible vision.

The book is a proper scientific introduction to an area where the answers are not fully known despite all the work that has been done, giving all the current research and information in all its complexity.  As the authors say different species use different strategies, but also have different contexts and age makes a difference. Animals use different cues at different times in a journey too.

You will need to be ready to understand complex ideas used in celestial navigation and understand how the world’s magnetism works.  There are good diagrams to help with this.

On the whole, this is a book for students who are interested in this field and need to get a really thorough understanding of the whole breadth of the field as of today.

We, at, love the humility of the authors when they say where experiments look wrong and where there is no known explanation for how the animals navigate in certain circumstances.  This of course is exactly why exists to probe these areas and check to see if these fit the experiments so ably described here.

The last chapter on migration and the future is very interesting.

Science and the Akashic Field
by Ervin Laszlo

This book is brilliant in that it succeeds in unifying the ideas of quantum theory and religion and other unexplained events.  As the subtitle of the book describes it, it develops “an integral theory of everything”. As we have discussed in the section on dowsing, the problem we have is the understanding and acceptance of the instantaneous transmission of information across the universe. His chapter on “the concise catalogue of the puzzles of coherence” discusses the transpersonal world of connectedness – how people seem to be able to transfer thoughts between themselves.  Obviously, this fits the articles we have posted on how Dolphins communicate.

In the chapter entitled “The Crucial Science Fable In-formation in nature” keeps coming back to the universe being driven by the Universal Information field which seems to drive and order the Universe.

This book provides for an easy-to-read and thoughtful underpinning of the ideas we are using to show how animals (including humans) communicate and operate.

Consciousness, Intent and the structure of the Universe
by Jeffrey Keen

Jeffrey Keen is a physicist, mathematician and dowser.  This book explains the ideas behind how dowsing works.  In part one, he describes his 24 principles and at the end of the book describes his evidence for the Cosmic Universal Information Field

This is important to Animal Navigation as dowsers are humans and can describe their art as animals cannot.  Huge efforts are being made by the dowsing fraternity and especially Jeffrey Keen et al in the Dowsing Research group to understand and explain how dowsing works.  We at feel that this understanding is critical to how understanding how animals navigate.

The introduction of this book is by Prof. Dr E Lazlo (see above).

Decoding Reality – the universe as quantum information
by Vlatko Vedral

Vlatko Vedral is a professor of Quantum Information Science at Oxford University.

As Vedral himself says, this book argues that information (and not matter or energy or love) is the building block on which everything is constructed.  He postulates that every little constituent of our Universe may be able to stimulate any other. He also equates the Universe to a quantum computer which has recorded everything since the beginning of time.  We call this the Cosmic Universal Information Field but he would refute this idea.

He describes exactly how big this quantum computer is and how fast its information processing takes place (see the chapter: sand reckoning).

His book is very easy to read and develops a fascinating and complete description of the quantum world.  In our opinion, it is a must-read to understand the world from a quantum perspective.