Whether you be an experienced birder or a first timer there is always pleasure when bird watching. They are such fascinating creatures, and with around 10,000 species in the world there is always something new to discover or to smile at!
Here in Portugal the avifauna include nearly 500 species, and whilst there have been fabulous days when we have spied more than 10% of the species we’ve still got a long long way to go before we could say we have seen all of Portugal’s bird species. But that’s what makes it so much fun everytime we go out; birding is as much about luck as it is skill.
The fact you don’t need to be an expert, just be someone who enjoys and/or is curious about the world around (or above) them is why birding is also a great hobby to introduce to children.
There is always something they can spot and learn, and best of all bird watching encourages both them and us to be observant of our environment and connect with nature. I was therefore delighted when I was contacted by Denzil Walton about his new book “Encourage a Child to Watch Birds“. I knew Denzil from his superb website ‘Discovering Belgium‘ but until the end of last year had not realised he was also an author. The book is as great as his blog writings, and I’m not the only who thinks so, check out this excellent review by Audrey Driscoll, author of the Herbert West series.
‘Encourage a Child to Watch Birds’ is activity led, and what I love about it is that Denzil has identified activities for everyone whether you live in the middle of a city, by the sea or in the countryside.
After an excellent introduction, his first proposed activity is to simply watch ducks in a park, something I am sure all of us have done and still do! But rather than just stopping with ‘oh there’s a duck’ he encourages us to really observe them by asking a range of questions such as ‘How many are there’, ‘Do they all look the same’ to ‘What might a duck be doing when it’s upside down’! He also encourages to see what other birds might be on or in the water.
You don’t though have to start in the park with Denzil you can jump to whatever chapter is right for you and the child you are with. So you might find yourself leaping ahead to chapter three because you cannot answer the question ‘What’s that bird over there’ or maybe chapter four because you cannot get close to the bird having remembered what I said the other day and want to buy a pair of binoculars!
Chapter seven is one of my favourites as it encourages us to listen to the birds, sometimes the only way we know they are present. It isn’t easy learning bird sounds, but most of us probably already know more than we think. And Denzil suggests some great projects to help build upon what we do know.
The last three chapters are probably for those who really develop a passion for bird watching, although I do recall discovering what owls is eat being one of my favourite childhood experiences before I became a avid bird watcher! It is not only the unusual that Denzil encourage us and children to observe. His book reminds us that even the every day bird sightings are worth taking a second look at; there may be a story to be told, a picture to paint or maybe simply an understanding that even sparrows are beautiful.
As you may have guessed I really like “Encourage a Child to Watch Birds“, and would strongly recommend it to anyone wishing to spend some time away from the screen with their child, grandchild, nephew, niece, godchild or even your partner! It is well written, well set out and full of fun and interesting things to do both indoors and out. Thank you again Denzil for giving me the opportunity to read it, I can’t wait to see the next one in the series.