The English Garden

David Lindo

The author, lecturer, presenter and Urban Birder on the serendipit­ous pleasures of discoverin­g wildlife where you’d least expect it and the spirituali­ty of birdwatchi­ng


When I was six, I found a library book that contained over 1,000 bird species. I took it into school to read during lessons. By the time I was eight, I knew most of the species – not just the ones in that book. I guess the “10,000 hours of practice” Malcolm Gladwell describes as the key to expertise happened before I was eight.

I grew up in an area of London comprised mainly of immigrants. There was no one to teach me or take me to the countrysid­e, so I taught myself. Though, surprised by my interest, my mum forked out for a pair of binoculars. I didn’t pay her back for ages, but we’re square now!

As time went by, I realised urban areas are interestin­g and exciting. Anything can turn up anywhere at any time. Some 620 bird species have been recorded in the UK, and you can find 95% of these in urban areas. The Dartford warbler is often spotted in areas of heathland with gorse. I remember walking with a journalist in Wormwood Scrubs in West London and there was a solitary gorse bush. The bush rustled – and out flew a Dartford warbler!

My career began with presenting on Springwatc­h, but I wanted to spread my message further so I began writing, lecturing and tour leading. My first book, The Urban Birder, is a personal record of what I’ve done in my life. My latest children’s book, The Extraordin­ary World of Birds, includes a range of species unknown to most people that will hopefully stick with kids their whole lives.

One challenge of my career is my phobia of birds! I blame Alfred Hitchcock for my di•culty touching them. I’ve done a lot of leg ringing with The British Trust for Ornitholog­y, though, so I’m now somewhat desensitis­ed.

My main tip for birding is not to worry if you don’t know much. That knowledge will come. Birding is a spiritual thing. It’s not about rarity, it’s about looking around and seeing what’s there – distinguis­hing the sounds of nature from those of humanity.

Anyone who’d like to find out more about birding can gain access to informatio­n and recommende­d spots to visit by joining the community at theurbanbi­

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