Here is the second guest blog by author, naturalist and Nature's Home contributor, Mark Cocker as the countdown to Christmas begins. You can read Mark's first blog here

Like fallen angels, they scuttle round your feet at the railway station or the park bench in most cities. They’re pigeons. No two individuals ever seem the same and all keep a weather eye for handouts or scraps. Worldwide this most metropolitan of birds must be the most overlooked and under-valued of all wild species. Yet that isn’t the whole story.
 
About 6500 years ago this remarkable creature began a global journey alongside us, when it opted to nest in the mud-built structures of the first cities on Earth. Perhaps it was those soft throaty emollient calls of doves? Or was it that chest-out posturing courtship display of the cooing males, but among the pigeon’s first roles was its place as a symbol of love and fertility. It became a bird sacred to the Sumerian goddess Inanna or to the Babylonian Ishtar.
 
Europeans have a tendency to think that the dove’s entry into the human story began with the Flood and that bird sent out by Noah to see how the land was faring. When she returned with a live-affirming sprig of olive, Noah knew that peace had been restored between the Earth and its people. Yet the dove’s place in the Book of Genesis was not an innovation. It drew on thousands of years of history.

Feral pigeons take to the air by David Tipling: www.davidtipling.com
 
It was a natural step for the dove to be enfolded into Christian symbolism, serving as an emblem for the Holy Spirit - that will o’ the wisp force which inspires prophesy and all human creativity. What better metaphor for the indefinable essence that binds all people and makes us all aspire to a higher life than a bird on the wing?
 
That is the central place of birds in our imaginative worlds. They express our highest ideals. It is the reason why this coming holiday the creature featured on more of your Christmas cards than any other will be the dove. Usually a white dove.
 
But sometimes, when you’re in a real city and you look up and you see those real, tawdry chip-eating grovellers, with their feathers made grimy by fumes or dirt, flying off on those light-rinsed angels’ wings; they remind you of a wider world that is beyond and above all buildings and everything that we have achieved. And In those moments of reflection even a grey street-living pigeon will do. 

Save £10 on Birds and People if you buy from the RSPB shop

Birds and People by Mark Cocker and David Tipling (Random House £40) is a hugely acclaimed and encyclopaedic exploration of the cultural place of birds in human lives. 

You can save £10 on this superb book by purchasing the book from the RSPB shop website

The perfect Christmas Present!