Illustration by Julia Stone
Our feathered friends have become the number one topic in our house, thanks to it being the current project in Lotte’s first grade class. As well as the fact that each walk to school now takes twice as long as we try to identify the various sparrows, tits, blackbirds, ducks, crows and pigeons along the short stretch of the Panke river we walk along to reach the U-Bahn station. She has a book as well, a lovely thing from the RSPB that has pictures of the most common birds and tick boxes so that she can start her collection. In school the project allows the teacher to cover all kinds of things, from reading and writing to drawing and maths, without the kids cottoning on that they are actually learning. Because after all, birds are fun.
It reminds me of my own childhood. Living in West Lancashire, we of course went on numerous school and family trips to Martin Mere. In the summer holidays at Rhoscolyn, there would always be at least one visit up to South Stack and the cliffs, trying to spot different birds before going home and flicking through my Uncle’s book trying to work out what it was that we saw. Lotte’s current interest in birds is another reminder, if one were needed, at the possibilities for fascination that are all around us if we just open our eyes. Yes, those birds we see by the Panke might be incredibly common, but it does not mean we should take them for granted.
Perhaps because of Lotte’s fascination – which is incredibly infectious – I have been searching out some bird resources on the web. English-speaking Berliners or birders interested in coming to Germany should know that there is now a Berlin and Brandenburg birding guide, with tips for both inside and outside of the city, written in English. It also happens that the lovely “Our Garden Birds” by Matt Sewell, covered here on Under a Grey Sky before, is now available in a German language edition. And I have had great fun with Lotte with this bird identifying tool from the RSPB, which makes the whole thing less daunting when a six year old asks you, “and what’s that one Papa?”
Words: Paul Scraton
Illustration: Julia Stone