Chris Packham's Birdwatching Guide - From Beginner to Birder

A review of Chris Packham's brand new book about birdwatching.


"Sometimes it's just a glimpse that makes the heart flutter - that flash of blue, flick of wings, twist of tail, or diamond twinkle of light that sparks from a hidden eye." 

What is it about birds that gets the great British public excited? Maybe one or all of the above magic moments that Chris Packham mentions in the introduction to his latest book, but the success of the RSPB's Big Garden Birdwatch each year shows that it is perhaps because birds are probably the most accessible wildlife subject for everyone to get involved in watching and enjoying. It might be just a side interest, or a way to get your children into appreciating the great outdoors and wildlife, but it can also turn into a true passion that can even become an obsession many would argue.

"There cannot be a human on Earth who hasn't seen a bird, but seeing is only part of the story - learn how to really look at birds and watch their behaviour, then you'll fall completely in love with them."

This is the mantra for Chris Packham's Birdwatching Guide - From Beginner to Birder. Across its 4 main sections and 160 pages it breaks down all you need to know about the birds themselves such as their behaviours and physiology, how to attract birds to your home, what species you can expect to find in different habitats, and what sort of gear and fieldcraft you will need to get the most out of your birdwatching adventures.

I guess you could say it is a roadmap of sorts for those with a budding interest in birds perhaps and wanting to know more about how to develop their knowledge and enjoyment of watching them. But it is more than that, it has been written to try and instil a wonder of birds in anyone and to encourage us all to just stop, look and listen more often to the natural world around us, and take joy and warmth from it.

"You don't have to be an expert, you don't need posh binoculars, and you don't need to live on a nature reserve. All you need is a quiet moment, some curiosity, and perhaps a mobile phone to help with identification."

There is practical advice given across many topics. For example, how to behave in a bird hide for those who have not yet ventured into such public surroundings, what to look for in a pair of binoculars, and the basics of bird identification - how to begin to narrow down what you might have seen based on several parameters such as size, shape, colour, behaviour and location for example. 

The last chapter of the book is split into sections covering what sort of bird species might be found in different habitats either around you or further afield such as gardens, parks and park lakes, urban areas and waste ground, as well as rivers, mashes, sandy shores, forests and woodlands, and several more. These all have a selection of the most common species likely to be encountered as well as rarer species all with short notes against them, and for any young birders in particular, the perfect place to start marking off birds as they are seen as I am sure many of us have done ourselves with our early bird books (well I did anyway.)

The final page is helpfully titled "Next Steps" and includes a list of useful websites to look at for more information, other books to read on the subject, and becoming more and more useful, what apps are recommended to help you identify the birds around you by sight or even sound on your phone or tablet. 

All in all a great read and ongoing reference for anyone with a growing interest in birds and birdwatching, plus a perfect gift for anyone you'd like to encourage to enjoy the natural world around them and the birds that live in it.


Chris Packham is a top tv naturalist and an award-winning conservationist, photographer, and author. As a young scientist, he researched kestrels, shrews, and badgers, and studied zoology at Southampton University. His career began with the award-winning Really Wild Show for the BBC, and he is now co-presenter of the BBC's Springwatch, Autumnwatch, and Winterwatch. His 2017 memoir Fingers in the Sparkle Jar was a no.1 Sunday Times bestseller.


Price: £12.99 £12.34

Publisher: Dorling Kindersley

Type: Hardback

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