A Life in the Trees

a Personal Account of the Great Spotted Woodpecker

By: Declan Murphy

(3 customer reviews)


The Great Spotted Woodpecker was first bred in Ireland in 2009. Since then the author has followed the daily lives of this species, a family of whom had taken up residence in a wind-torn Spanish chestnut tree near his home in the depths of County Wicklow.

This unique and personal account of a family of the Great Spotted Woodpecker raising their young brings the reader deep into the world of this fascinating species: a world of hope, love, death, new life and ultimately success. It explores the richness and diversity of the natural wonders found in County Wicklow against a backdrop of a more general overview of the species in Ireland.

It includes a foreword by filmmaker John Boorman, and features illustrations by Killian Mullarney and Flemming Christoersen with stunning colour photographs by Dick Coombes. It is a book is to be treasured by everyone – not just ornithologists, but those with an interest in the natural world around them.

Declan Murphy is a Wicklow-based author, speaker and birdwatcher.

‘As engaging an expression of a true naturalist’s passion as Ireland has produced … So immediate and concerned is [the author’s] account that one comes to live it with him, if spared the scourge of midges that penetrate his dark and humid hide.’ THE IRISH TIMES


3 reviews for A Life in the Trees

  1. Lilliput Press

    4.6/5 – A lovely book. The writing flows, it’s a quick read, and the authors fascination with birds and wildlife is contagious. Declan Murphy had me on the first page, when he talked of growing up with David Attenborough, Gerald Durrell, Eamonn De Buitlear and Gerrit Van Gelderen – their work had a huge impact on my younger years also.
    Like the author, I felt slightly cheated as a young Irish birdwatcher that the UK had so many more exotic bird species than Ireland – Nuthatches, Bittern, Avocet and, most of all, Woodpeckers. The arrival of the Great Spotted Woodpecker in Ireland is a great story, which is covered summarily early in the book. More enjoyable is his account of two seasons watching a pair of Woodpeckers, and the challenges they have raising their chicks. Be prepared! Nature can be brutal, and it’s a bit of an emotional rollercoaster ride at times! (But I won’t spoil the story by giving more detail). I’m deeply impressed (and a bit envious) with Mr Murphy’s commitment and the time he was able to spend in his hide. On another note, his description of his over-enthusiastic efforts to build a large timber hide gave me a good belly-laugh. A great read – highly recommended! – BRIAN

  2. Lilliput Press

    Very entertaining book on woodpeckers and the authors extraordinary adventures, insights, observations and shared high and low emotions living with these birds and amongst natures wonders and elements. His quirky nature is at one with his surroundings. Had some good laughs reading this and also learned much on these birds and nature. And the one key trait…jump 100% into whatever you believe in and leave your mark. – SHAMEY

  3. Lilliput Press

    I loved this book! The quiet and persistent and genuine passion for our world, nature and especially these Great Spotted Woodpeckers is evident. It is not floridly obvious but rather quietly and honestly related on every single page of this lovely volume. It has spurred me on to go out and seek these beautiful birds in my locality. There is a piece of me that wants to just ask the author precisely whede to look and listen but his book has reminded me that the particular joy of birdwatching is, often, that solitary and unconfirmed, but truthful, sighting of the right bird in the right place at the right time…or at least two of those!! – ANNA

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Weight 0.5 kg
Dimensions 136 × 216 mm
Publication Date

30 Nov 2018



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