“I want to sing like the birds sing, not worrying about who hears or what they think”. Rumi

Except that the birds aren’t singing very loudly today.

There’s a heat wave moving across Australia this week. As I sit down to write this post and share a long overdue book review, it’s a sweltering 41°C outside.  The trees are wilting and the birds seem to have gone into hiding. Normally I hear them in my backyard, cockatoos squawking, chatty lorikeets flitting about in the trees and kookaburras laughing in the distance.

But not today, as they seek shelter from the incessant heat. I’ve refilled the bird bath and put extra bowls around the backyard. It’s important we help our feathered friends as many of them struggle in extreme heat.

As night falls, I’ve no doubt they’ll be out again. We’ve lived here, in our little pocket of green on the outskirts of Melbourne, for over 23 years and love it as much today as when we moved in. The garden’s changed over the years, we’ve lost a lot of trees from drought (my lack of a green thumb hasn’t helped) and native trees have somehow sprung up. What hasn’t changed, however, is the prolific birdlife.

Some days I step outside and feel as though I’m living in a bird sanctuary.  The sounds of cockatoos, galahs and kookaburras always make me smile. When the kids were little the birds would land on our decking (they still do) and it was always a delight. I’m sure it encouraged their love of nature.

I was approached by Denzil Walton late last year to read and review his book and, as an avid nature and bird lover, the subject piqued my interest and I was keen to dive right in.  img_2377

I’ve been following Denzil’s blog Discovering Belgium for many years. Here in this book, Encourage a Child to Watch Birds, he deviates slightly from his usual travel tales and shares his enthusiasm for this subject.

Denzil’s written a highly engaging book aimed for caregivers of children between 7 and 12 years of age. However, anyone with young children and an interest in birds will find this book enjoyable. It teaches us the difference between simply looking at birds and really learning about them.

His aim he says is

To provide ideas and practical tips to motivate a child’s interest in nature. I hope that these ideas inspire children to develop a hobby that they will enjoy now and possibly in their later life.”

As a lover of nature this book hit the mark and, even though my kids have grown up, I can confidently say he’s achieved his goal.

Denziil’s love of nature is evident in his writing as he guides us through many varied aspects of bird watching. He lists ten ideas ranging from how to encourage a child to watch birds to learning their sounds and how to recognise and record them. He offers fun ways of learning and remembering bird sounds right through to the correlation between bird song and our peace of mind. He offers practical tips that range from choosing a good set of binoculars and the best field guide book through to knowing what to feed birds and how to care for them.

At the end of each chapter Denzil offers a set of projects along with questions to keep a child engaged. There’s hands on activities, loads of tips and engaging ideas which can be read and implemented independently.

His guide is a delightful journey into learning how to care and watch out for birds and a wonderful resource for anyone wanting to inspire young children to enjoy birdlife, whether a parent at home or within a nursery or kindergarten. Despite the lack of images in the book there’s a link to Encourage a Child website which includes lots of other pictorial resources.

Regardless of where you live in the world, this book is a fabulous incentive to get children away from their computer screens and outdoors. It’s a reminder to the beauty you can find if you keep your eyes open to nature. You don’t have to live in the countryside, the ideas in this book can be used anywhere, in parks and gardens and even apartment buildings.

Bird watching is a great way to disconnect from the screen and reconnect with the outside world. What a wonderful hobby for parents and children to take up together.

Total read time is approximately thirty minutes but the ideas you’ll gain could bring you endless hours of pleasure.

Rating 4 out of 5 stars.

Ebook of Encourage a Child to Watch Birds is available on Smashwords and also here on Amazon UK & Amazon US.

Photo courtesy Denzil Walton

Here’s to keeping our eyes open to the wonders of nature around us.

In light and love as we continue the journey.

“A bird does not sing because it has an answer. It sings because it has a song.” Here’s a snippet of a magpie singing her song on my decking in Spring last year when it was cooler.


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