Review: The Art of Mindful Birdwatching

Mindfulness, it seems, it now everywhere. This ubiquity, not to mention the proliferation of adult colouring books, has arguably lessened its perceived value – not to mention created the impression that each new mindfulness-related offering is simply jumping on the bandwagon.

The Art of Mindful Birdwatching, then, faces something of an uphill battle, particularly as it seeks to appeal to both novice and expert birdwatchers alike. Pleasingly, however, it evades the obvious pitfalls with all the grace of a bird in flight and proves to be a thought provoking and worthwhile read.

Over the course of five chapters, which by no means have to be read in order, author Claire Thompson blends an introduction to mindfulness with personal anecdotes and practical advice. Thompson works for BirdLife International and her expertise and passion for the subject shine through, her anecdotes reflecting birdwatching experiences from both her everyday life and her travels all over the globe.

This book is best enjoyed as a journey rather than a textbook, as the information is not conveyed in an ordered fashion but rather throughout the course of the book’s 139 pages. While this can be frustrating at first, the overall effect is to immerse you painlessly into the subject and subtly awaken a greater appreciation for the birds around you. This reviewer found herself suddenly noticing even everyday garden birds in a much more meaningful way, passages from the book springing to mind at she did so.

Credit should also be given to the publishers for the gorgeously designed and textured cover of the book, another reason why this volume would make a wonderful gift for birdwatchers.

There are, however, a few faults, chief of which is the book’s sweeping generalisations around the effects of losing touch with nature. These could have been further fleshed out and, in an ideal world, also referenced to better support the author’s argument.

Overall, however, The Art of Mindful Birdwatching is an excellent introduction to a worthwhile subject, crafted in an enjoyable and accessible manner. Even seasoned birders should find something to make them look again at the things they take for granted, while all readers will, effortlessly, come away with a more thoughtful approach to the world around them.

The Art of Mindful Birdwatching, by Claire Thompson, is published by Leaping Hare Press and available in bookshops and online.