What the Robin Knows – How Birds Reveal the Secrets of the Natural World by Jon Young | Hardback | May 2012 | ISBN: 9780547451251 | NHBS Price: £18.50

Publishers View: A lifelong birder, tracker, and naturalist, Jon Young is guided in his work and teaching by three basic premises: the robin, junco, and other songbirds know everything important about their environment, be it backyard or forest; by tuning in to their vocalizations and behavior, we can acquire much of this wisdom for our own pleasure and benefit; and the birds’ companion calls and warning alarms are just as important as their songs.

Birds are the sentries–and our key to understanding the world beyond our front door.

Unwitting humans create a zone of disturbance that scatters the wildlife. Respectful humans who heed the birds acquire an awareness that radically changes the dynamic. We are welcome in their habitat. The birds don’t fly away. The larger animals don’t race off. No longer hapless intruders, we now find, see, and engage the deer, the fox, the red-shouldered hawk–even the elusive, whispering wren.

Deep bird language is an ancient discipline, perfected by Native peoples the world over. Finally, science is catching up. This groundbreaking book unites the indigenous knowledge, the latest research, and the author’s own experience of four decades in the field to lead us toward a deeper connection to the animals and, in the end, a deeper connection to ourselves.The Author: Jon Young is on the leading edge of animal tracking and understanding bird language. He has been exploring animal communication for 35 years and was mentored by the famous tracker Tom Brown Jr. as well as a tribal elder in Africa. Jon developed the 8 Shields Cultural Mentoring System, a model that has influenced more than 100 nature programs in communities in the U.S., Canada, and Europe and is also creator of the Shikari Method for data collection, which is used by the USFWS. Jon has given over 1000 public presentations and has mentored numerous students of his own. Married, with six children, Jon lives in Santa Cruz, California.Fatbirder View: I am fond of telling anyone who will listen that the world divides into two – and I then give out the names of these two divisions. This is a useful discussion point as the way in which the world divides is myriad, from the obvious men and women to the more subtle left and right of politics even to the totally esoteric ‘cumber bitches’ and ‘pine nuts’ according to which of the stars of the latest Star Trek movie you are a fan of. Well it is now clear to me that the world of birds also divided between birders and birdwatchers, into hunters and trackers. Keen listers will be hunting for their quarry intently and single-mindedly. What clues they absorb from their surroundings will be strictly focused, as conduits to finding the bird they seek. Because they are chasing down a particular beast they stay more or less unaware of what is going on around them unless it helps them to find that target species. If they are not new to the art of birding or nor completely crass they will be using stealth and good fieldcraft, not stomping about bashing bushes. However, as Jon Young has so eloquently demonstrated in this brilliant book, they will miss a great deal along the way because of that single mindedness and, moreover, they may be doing themselves no favours. If they were more aware of how each footfall reverberates among the critters all about, they might well be more successful in there hunt. On the other hand, if you set about seeing the natural world and how each creature reacts to your presence you will begin to absorb the tracker’s skills and by having less impact on the wild world enhance your chances of seeing much more of nature at rest and, in all probability, you will connect with the species you most wish to see.

In essence the book is about how to interpret the reactions of birds and beasts because how each reacts will be being picked up by other species. If the foxes and deer are not threatened by your presence then many birds will be more confiding. If you can see the difference between a bird’s reaction to a stalking cat and the same bird’s reaction to a passing raptor you are more able to shoo away the cat and watch the accipiter fly through the woods.

For me there was also the affirmation of those of us who sit and quietly absorb rather than rush off in pursuit of the rare or unusual. I find as I age I become more and more absorbed by and delighted by watching everyday species. By patiently waiting for birds to return to my garden feeders when I am sitting five feet away I am also becoming more and more aware of the butterflies and bees, the odonata and other creeping things.

The good news for us all is that the more we set out to make ourselves aware of the language of the birds in our yard, the more the skills seep into our unconscious mind.

The evidence suggests that humanity’s development from apes to sapiens was fueled by the growth in brain power needed to process huge amounts of data from the natural world without even thinking about it. Thereby developing skills sadly still only extant in those hunter-gatherers not yet absorbed into dominant cultures.

There is a great deal in this book and the companion DVDs, far more than can be covered in a simple review… and probably more than can be absorbed by yours truly. Nevertheless, I’m hoping some has seeped in to inform my birding practices. In any event I definitely have a clearer understanding of what I should be looking for as I sip my cup of tea in my garden chair when I rest from weeding the patio pots.

Buy this book from www.nhbs.comSee Also:

Bird Language DVD Set: How to interpret the Behaviors and Patterns of Nature

Would you like to be able to recognize the signs of an approaching jogger two minutes before their arrival?

Join expert tracker and nature mentor Jon Young in this two-disc journey examining the language of birds. This set will give you the tools you need to see the landscape through the eyes of the birds, and bringing you to a more intimate relationship with the world unfolding outside your door.

Jon Young distills 35 years field knowledge of bird behaviors to bring you the basics of Bird Language. Learning to recognize the meanings of vocalization types and body signals of common birds, you will clearly see the essential role they play in the lives of the birds.

Disc 1 – Bird Language Basics:
Through animations, nature footage and Jon Young’s compelling narration, you will learn the basic tools necessary to begin deciphering the language hidden in the vocalizations and behaviors of common song birds. In Bird Language Basics we will examine the 5 Voices of the Birds, the 12 Shapes of Alarm, and the five “Best” Bird Language Birds. You will never look at a song bird the same way again!

The animations in Disc One highlight big-picture patterns of bird language that allow you to step into the world of birds and animals unfolding beyond the boundaries of our awareness. Like the Kalahari Bushmen of Africa, people in both cities and rural areas can use knowledge of bird language as a dynamic indicator of predator-prey relationships.

This updated second edition includes new expanded footage of the Five Voices of bird language in action.

Bonus Disc 2 – Bird Language Groups:

With decades of teaching Bird Language, Jon Young has distilled the process down to a fun and efficient Bird Language Group learning model.

Follow five experts in Bird Language Groups, as they conduct their own bird sit, mapping session and debrief, and explain the conduct, conventions and systems necessary to run a Bird Language group in your neighborhood.

In this disc, you will become acquainted with mentoring methods for teaching bird language developed by Jon and other instructors at the Wilderness Awareness School and the 8 Shields Institute. This method of group bird sits and bird language mapping is demonstrated in a way that enhances the experience of both the beginning and experienced naturalist.