When I was a youngster I was forever outdoors exploring all the nooks and crannies and marvelling at the wild world that unfolded before my eyes, ears and nose. In the garden, down the woods, at the beach, along the riverbank — there was a never-ending world to explore, literally on my doorstep.
The Complete Naturalist (published by Bloomsbury in association with the RSPB) is a book that my 14-year-old self would have been absolutely thrilled with. It’s packed with interesting and useful information, tips, projects and investigations to help you get more out of your wildlife watching and discover more about the plants and animals you share your world with. The author, UK-based wildlife TV presenter and writer Nick Baker (whose credits include “The Really Wild Show”, “Autumnwatch” and “Springwatch”, as well as books like “The Nature Tracker’s Handbook” and “Nick Baker’s Bug Book”), has managed to cram a whole lot into this volume.
In the book Nick covers the basics of wildlife watching, offering advice on choosing different kinds of wildlife-watching equipment and shares techniques and tactics you can use to watch wildlife without being seen. He goes on to take a detailed look at the different wildlife groups we tend to observe: birds, mammals, reptiles & amphibians, fish, invertebrates and plants. Each section presents helpful information on the different groups, how to find and watch them effectively and suggests projects and investigations you can try (like building your own moth trap, making plaster-casts of mammal footprints, or constructing an underwater viewer for watching the denizens of streams and ponds).
This would be a fabulous book for a teenager or young adult who’s keen on wildlife — or anyone really with a budding interest in wildlife who’d like to develop their knowledge and practical skills. It would also be a brilliant book for the family wildlife bookshelf, with plenty of ideas to help parents (and teachers) encourage a new generation to engage with the natural world around them.
For me, with decades of nature watching on the clock, much of the material Nick covers here is familiar territory, but it’s always good to get a fresh perspective, and the occasional reminder of things you’ve forgotten over the years — so it’s been well worth a leafing through the pages.
All in all this is an excellent book for anyone with a growing interest in wildlife who wants helpful, down-to-earth advice on taking their hobby to the next level. Hats off to Nick on a job well done.