Mike Unwin - Author

About the Author

Mike Unwin is a freelance writer, editor and illustrator with 12 years' experience in natural history publishing. In 2000 he won the BBC Wildlife travel-writing competition. His children's titles include the bestselling RSPB My First Book of Garden Birds.

Q & A with Mike Unwin

 

What is your favourite species of bird, and what are its characteristics?
If pressed, I’d have to say Sparrowhawk (with apologies to Dipper, Barn Owl and Black-throated Diver). This dashing bird was hard to find when I was starting birding, even though my bird books described it as ‘common’. Now it seems to be everywhere — yet a sighting always takes me by surprise. Usually it’s just a glimpse of wings and tail, so getting a good look at that fierce glare and those delicate markings is always a thrill. Some misguided people claim that Sparrowhawks need to be ‘controlled’. This just makes me like them even more!
 
Outside the UK, my favourite bird is probably the Purple-crested Lourie (the national bird of Swaziland, where I once lived). It bounds through the branches, flashing its scarlet wings, and calling raucously from the treetops. A real character.
 
Where is your favourite birding destination and why?
Favourite childhood haunts hold special memories. These include Thursley Common in Surrey, great for Hobbies, Woodlarks and Dartford Warblers, and Pagham Harbour in Sussex, where I first got to grips with winter waders. I’m also very fond of two RSPB reserves where I was once a volunteer warden — Arne, in Dorset, and Titchwell, in Norfolk — and still feel that the birds know me there! These days though, the northwest coast of Scotland gets my number one vote. Not the biggest variety of birds, but some special species, lots of other great wildlife and the most beautiful backdrop in Britain.
 
I visited many wonderful birding places while living in Africa. One of my favourites is the Kalahari Trasnfrontier Park — in South Africa and Botswana. I love all the dry country species there, such as coursers, sandgrouse and bustards. It’s also fantastic for birds of prey, and the camps are full of good stuff — from enormous sociable weaver nests to roosting owls.
 
How did you first become interested in birds and how long have you been a birder?
Birds have been a passion for as long as I can remember. I was certainly already hooked by the age of six (when I remember seeing a Golden Eagle on a family holiday to Scotland). Of course it helped that my family were keen, so we had bird books in the house, fed birds in the garden and looked out for birds on holiday. And my granny gave me her old binoculars, which lasted me for years (though only one eyepiece worked). For me, birds always went hand in hand with drawing — I wanted to draw whatever I saw, and wanted to see whatever I drew. And it’s not only birds: I like all other wildlife too, especially snakes and cats.

Featured books by Mike Unwin

Other books by Mike Unwin

What on Earth: Birds

What on Earth: Birds

Author: Mike Unwin, Paulina Morgan Format: Paperback / softback Release Date: 21/03/2019

Birds are everywhere but what do they do and why are they important to our planet? Explore how they help pollinate plants and disperse seeds or recycle nutrients when they scavenge and poke around! Discover all you need to know about our feathered friends and their place in our world through experiments, investigations and hands-on tasks. This series takes a cross-disciplinary approach, including links to culture, history, arts and crafts, as well as the science behind each topic. Each spread encourages children to engage with the natural world through exploration, creativity and investigation.

My First Book of Dinosaurs

My First Book of Dinosaurs

Author: Mike Unwin Format: Hardback Release Date: 06/04/2015

Explore the super-sized world of dinosaurs with this amazing book. Some dinosaurs had sharp teeth, some had horns and some had feathers! But can you guess who's who? This fantastic introduction to dinosaurs will delight every child with its engaging question-and-answer format. Features a large variety of fun facts and stunning, detailed illustrations which bring each prehistoric creature to life.

My First Book of Zoo Animals

My First Book of Zoo Animals

Author: Mike Unwin Format: Hardback Release Date: 14/08/2014

From amazing apes to fearsome lions, see what you can find as you turn the page and take a journey round the zoo. This fantastic introduction to zoo animals will delight every child with its engaging question-and-answer format. Features a large variety of fun facts and detailed illustrations.

RSPB Bird Encyclopedia

RSPB Bird Encyclopedia

Author: Mike Unwin Format: Hardback Release Date: 14/08/2014

This beautiful RSPB Encyclopedia will take you on an incredible journey through the world of birds, helping you find out about the amazing feathered creatures that share our planet. From tropical parrots and toucans to sea birds and eagles, find out all about birds with this informative first guide and reference book. Packed with brilliant photography, fun facts and top bird tips, learn, explore and be amazed by birds big and small.

My First Book of Baby Animals

My First Book of Baby Animals

Author: Mike Unwin Format: Hardback Release Date: 27/02/2014

A gorgeous book packed full of fantastic illustrations and fun facts that every child will love. From cuddly polar bear cubs to curious kittens and playful puppies, this book is a must for anyone who simply cannot get enough of baby animals.

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