Sunday 13 May 2012


 My son has been spending a lot of time birding with me recently. Let's face it, it's May, and if he wants to see me.... I jest, he is actually quite getting into it. Or that's what I tell myself anyway. In truth, and like many small boys, he just wants to be like his dad. Poor kid, he will learn. Already at school they must think he is a complete freak.

"So what did you do at the weekend?"

Normal child: I played on my Nintendo and watched eighteen hours of Telly.
Muffin: I did some skywatching on the patch, went to Lakenheath Fen, got loads of ticks including self-found Cuckoo, then saw a Black-winged Stilt, and then twitched a Tawny Pipit at Landguard. What is Telly?

I figure that if he comes out with me for long enough, then possibly, just possibly, it will spark a lifelong interest. And if not in birds, then perhaps in photography. He has been practically ripping the camera out of my hands recently - unlike birding, this is something I have definitely not shoved down his throat. I am of course very keen to teach him exposure theory, and how an SLR works, but he has been the driving force here. And here are some of the results. Ok, so he's a lucky boy in that he is able to use really quite a nice camera, but having good kit is in no way related to being able to take a good photo. And before anyone suggests that I set it all up and he just walked up to the tripod and pressed the shutter button, absolutely not. These were all hand held using a small lens, and he employed fieldcraft to get closer to the subjects, including keeping a tree between him and the Wheatear until the last minute, staying crouched and so on. Really impressed, especially given the setup weighs close on 3kg, and he is only eight. The post-processing is all mine, but I did nothing different versus what I might have done with my own shots. Admittedly we delete a few more, but that's all part of the process, and he has improved hugely in just a few weeks.

Please click on this to enlarge it and see just how nice it is. The catchlight in the eye is fantastic. And it's a Wheatear of course....

So now I have a birding and photography companion. When Mrs L asks what my family contribution will be over the weekend, I can just say that I am altruistically taking Muffin out so that he can pursue his hobbies. In other words, I have carte blanche to go birding whenever I want. Does it get any better?


  1. The Girl recommends he enters some competitions? Naturally, being an ex zoo-woman she suggested the ZSL one, but there have got to be a few out there...

  2. Really nice!

    A lot of accomplished naturalists seem to have derived their skills and love of the natural world from formative childhood experiences. Who knows, you could be raising the next Sir David Attenborough or David Sibley. That would be nice. If not, well, birding seems like an excellent and manly (outdoors, optics and expensive equipment, etc.) way to bond. Hope it will help to get you happily through the teen years!

    My boy turned five not that long ago and although he's very interested in nature I tend to think he would not have the patience for birding yet, but I should try harder. I know yours have bins of their own, which I'm sure helps. What do you start them off with?

  3. Started them off on Duivendijk, will move to the hard stuff later.