The Urban Birder
London: New Holland Publishers, 2011
222 pp. £9.99 hardback
David Lindo is a rising star in the world of celebrity birders, due to his exposure in various BBC television and radio programmes, a column in Bird Watching magazine, as well as appearances in BBC-related wildlife/countryside publications. Now there is a book: The Urban Birder.
Avid self-publicist or man on a mission? After following his work for some time, thoughts should be placed firmly in the latter. David Lindo makes it perfectly clear: his goal is to demonstrate to readers why he calls himself the urban birder. The Urban Birder is an almost natural progression in his project by taking the readers on his own journey of discovery.
The book describes the story of becoming more and more involved in birding in cities and towns. Growing up in Wembley, West London, Lindo moves through various faces and places, arriving eventually back in the western half of London. His journey is nicely described with anecdotes and stories of childhood excursions, teenage trips and adult explorations. Although overall chronological, individual chapters might move back and forth a bit, never annoyingly, always within the frame of the story.
At first, it might seem that these are just fun stories of a black man growing up learning and making mistakes about birds. But there are two sides to this book. One is the journey of discovery that David Lindo himself has gone through and that has led him to become enthusiastic about urban avifauna. The other is about the idea of the urban birder.
So what is the Urban Birder? It is a moniker David Lindo has chosen for himself to emphasize the importance of birding in urban areas and the conservation of urban wildlife. Of course, he is not the first person to do this (he acknowledges Eric Simms‘s Birds of Town and Suburb), but he does stress that it is not so much about him as a person and more about the recognition of the possibility of birding in urban areas.
Overall, this is a fun book to read with an important message. The idea of the urban birder, although not new, is something that needs to be repeated over and over. If you want to go birding, you don’t need to go out to high-profile areas, there will be a bird around the corner, in the garden, the nearest park. Birds are everywhere and can pop up anywhere, in towns and cities like anywhere else.
Throughout the book, David Lindo sprinkles little bits of advice to the reader to stay alert: ‘keep you eyes peeled and your mind open then you would begin to see wildlife in urban areas that you just never expected’, ‘if you look then you will see’, ‘if you listen then you will hear’, ‘always question the identification of a bird’, ‘looking up is a major part of birding’. The latter is especially important and perhaps the single phrase to take away from this book: ‘look up’.
PS A completely different review could have been written about another aspect of the book. David Lindo mentions issues to do with being black and birding about three times in the book, every time with humour and understatement, but always with an undertone of concern. Birding is still predominantly an activity of white men; hopefully the statistics and attitudes towards this will change. At the end of the day, we need more birders!