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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.
Imagine: you're flying high over the Himalayan mountains, on a journey filled with danger. The temperature is far below freezing, the air is thin, and golden eagles swoop out of the sky to attack you. This is just one of the 20 incredible migration stories in this book. Animals of all shapes and sizes make epic journeys across our planet, through harsh weather, avoiding hungry predators, in their efforts to survive. Travel around the globe with some of the world's most incredible animals and discover their unique migration stories. Follow the emperor penguin through snow, ice and bitter temperatures; watch as the great white shark swims 10,000 km in search of seals; track huge herds of elephants, on their yearly hunt for water and be amazed at the millions of red crabs, migrating across Christmas Island. With stunning colour illustrations, uncover the astonishing migrations of 20 creatures, in this truly inspiring narrative. Written by Mike Unwin, a UK Travel Writer of the Year, and illustrated by Jenni Desmond, winner of the New York Times Best Illustrated Children's Book, prepare yourself for a journey like no other. Follow the amazing migrations of these 20 creatures: Arctic tern, barn swallow, bar-headed goose, ruby-throated hummingbird, osprey, wandering albatross, whooping crane, emperor penguin, African elephant, blue wildebeest, caribou, straw-coloured fruit bat, humpback whale, green turtle, Southern pilchard, salmon, great white shark, monarch butterfly, globe skimmer dragonfly, Christmas Island red crab
A wonderful introduction to 20 garden creepy crawlies. Perfect for young children to go hunting in the garden or the park for various bugs having discovered through the book where they are most likely to be hiding. Additional fact boxes ensure the kids will learn lots too. For more titles like this please see RSPB: My First Book of Garden Birds and RSPB: Nature Guide
Fantastic fun-filled year round ideas and activities for all the family to enjoy, like how to track foxes, making your own wormery, designing your own seashell wind-chime, growing your own salad and making a home for a hedghog. The emphasis is very much on having fun both outdoors and indoors but away from those computer games!!! Children can even build their own personlised nature journal. For more titles like this please see RSPB: My First Book of Garden Bugs and RSPB: My First Book of Garden Birds
Captivating illustrations and lively text make this a terrific first guide for young children about the wildife they can find in their garden or around a nearby park. Through questions and answers, children can discover twenty common garden animals, each of them stunningly illustrated in its natural habitat. Clues to each animal are given and then the reader can turn the page to discover the answer and to learn even more facts. To view other titles in our 'Get Out and About' genre click here.
Be truly inspired by these powerful true stories of animal heroes: meet heroic bears, drone-catching eagles, loyal dogs, sassy cats, and much, MUCH more! This book brings you the heart-wrenching stories of the real animals who traversed treacherous paths, made daring rescues and went above and beyond to save human lives. When faced with human conflict, these animals have all shown bravery, friendship, or brought comfort. Journey throughout history from Hannibal's elephants to a guide dog in the Twin Towers. Uncover 34 amazing animal stories - and celebrate their humans. With a heart-warming introduction from Michael Morpurgo. Illustrated in vivid colour by five different illustrators, and with knowledge from the experts at the Imperial War Museums, this is a book to treasure and share.
Captivating illustrations and lively text make this follow-up to the bestselling My First Book of Garden Birds the perfect first introduction to garden animals. Inside, young readers meet twenty common garden animals, birds and insects in a fun question-and-answer format. Try to guess the animal from the clues then turn over the page to discover its name and more facts.
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.
Animals of all shapes and sizes make epic journeys across our planet, through harsh weather, avoiding hungry predators, in their efforts to survive. Travel around the globe with some of the world's most incredible animals and discover their unique migration stories. Follow the emperor penguin through snow, ice and bitter temperatures; watch as the great white shark swims 10,000 km in search of seals; track huge herds of elephants, on their yearly hunt for water and be amazed at the millions of red crabs, migrating across Christmas Island. With stunning colour illustrations, uncover the astonishing migrations of 20 creatures, in this truly inspiring narrative. Written by Mike Unwin, a UK Travel Writer of the Year, and illustrated by Jenni Desmond, winner of the New York Times Best Illustrated Children's Book, prepare yourself for a journey like no other. Follow the amazing migrations of these 20 creatures: Arctic tern, barn swallow, bar-headed goose, ruby-throated hummingbird, osprey, wandering albatross, whooping crane, emperor penguin, African elephant, blue wildebeest, caribou, straw-coloured fruit bat, humpback whale, green turtle, Southern pilchard, salmon, great white shark, monarch butterfly, globe skimmer dragonfly, Christmas Island red crab
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.
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.
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.
Take a journey through the garden and discover the bugs that are living there. The beautiful illustrations create the world of the garden, combined with text that leads young readers to the hiding places of various bugs. inviting them to guess what creature they have found. My First Book of Garden Bugs is the perfect introduction to the names of some common garden insects, along with interesting facts about them.
RSPB Nature Guide is full of activites for every season and every weather. Get out and about by tracking animals, learn how to draw a frog, create a wild patch in your back garden, and much more. Or exciting things to make and do, including plenty of pages to customize and revisit as the reader builds their personalized nature journal. With activities and new skills for every season, readers will enjoy getting active as they explore the wild world around them.
A beautiful picture book about garden birds that will appeal to families with young children. Rachel Lockwood's wonderful illustrations will delight children aged from two to seven, and will help them to discover and identify the most common birds in their everyday surroundings. Each bird is introduced on a right-hand page in an illustration where it is partly obscured or turned away from the viewer. The text gives some clues and invites readers to guess the bird's identity. The reader then turns the page to find out more. 'A beautiful picture book that will appeal to children aged 2 to 7 and will help them identify common birds in their everyday surroundings.' Publishing News 'This beautifully illustrated book by the RSPB is a lovely way to introduce younger juniors to the UK's birds.' Scholastic's Junior Education, April 2007