be a birder

Be a Birder is a book on discovering the joy of bird watching and how to get started, by popular TV  ornithologist Hamza Yassin. This beautifully illustrated guide featurs 50 of his favourite birds, to learn to understand their habitat, behavour and movements. Starting with the goldfinch in your garden, he then covers tawny owls in woodlands, kingfishers in rivers, Arctic terns, peregrine falcons and more. Hamza

Don’t play birdsong near birds, makes them vulnerable to predators. Never face indoor foliage to outdoor windows to help stop birds flying into windows (use blinds/screens and turn out unnecessary lights). Also take time to listen to birdsong.

The Wildlife Trusts has tips to site nest boxes (wind/rain/sun directions), best brands and safe cleaning. Nestbox Company offers boxes for various species. The best way to help is to leave nature alone, so birds have trees and roosting places, without human interference

Don’t give leftover crusty/stale/salted/buttered bread to garden birds or wildfowl, as it can choke, harm or smear on feathers (affecting waterproofing/insulation). A little fresh soaked wholemeal bread may be okay. But if everyone does this, people, birds end up eating our food, rather than their natural diet. Leaving bread out also attracts unwelcome garden visitors, like rats.

a day in the life of a bird family

A Bird Day is an English translation of a Swedish children’s story, looking at an ordinary day, told through the life of a bird family. ‘Wash your beaks, it’s time for lunch – flies again today’, says Dad. After lunch the young birds  get sent off to play – they sing, hunt mosquitoes, compare leg size and poke grubs. This is how birds spend a day.

Author Eva Lindström reflects the familiar and absurd in human behaviour, through this funny bird family. Readers will recognise the dynamics of bickering over fried mosquitoes and worm pie – only the youngest is allowed to pick out the worms.

the kingfishers on River Nene

Call of the Kingfisher is an enchanting book by a composer and wildlife recordist, who celebrates all the wild things that live on a short stretch of Northamptonshire’s River Nene, especially beautiful blue and orange kingfishers (with bonus birdsong recordings).

For 40 years, the author has walked beside the River Nene at Oundle (a lovely but little-known part of England where bandleader Glenn Miller performed his final concert, before going missing). For a whole year, Nick gave the waterway all his time, so the more he saw the resident kingfishers and heard their high whistling calls.

Also exploring the history and landscape (from Roman and Bronze Age sites to watermills and centuries-old stone churches), he also watches forest dawns and dusks, listening the precious songs of nightingales. Alongside the background tapestry of greens and browns, sights and sounds – all shot through with blue and orange threads of a kingfisher’s glowing feathers.

fantastic aerial displays of swallows

swallows along the coast Gill Wild

Gill Wild

Swallows are common birds that are often found near farmland and open pasture (near water). Known for their aerial displays, they often can be seen building mud/straw nests in spring, and then leave after chicks have fledged, to return to their winter home in South Africa (feeding on insects as they fly, as they navigate often stormy weather).

You can recognise swallows by their blue-black glossy plumage, white breasts (with black bands) and dark red heads (they also have distinctive forked long tails). They are similar to swifts (which spend most time soaring high in the sky), unlike swallows that often roost in reedbeds or perch on wires. You’ll often hear them ‘chattering’ away to each other, preparing for their long journey home.

Other birds of the same species are house martins (they often build mud cup nests beneath house eaves ). Sand martins (smaller with brown chests and shorter forked tails) tend to nest in sand bank burrows.

Read The Swallow: A Biography by Stephen Moss (an esteemed author who teaches nature writing at Bath University). In this book, he documents a year of observing these birds close to home, and traces their lifestyle and journey, as they arrive from their long winter migration. Includes beautiful illustrations throughout.

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