Over the last half century, BBC television has established a reputation for the quality of its wildlife coverage. While much of the earlier focus was on overseas travel and the exotic, a change has been taking place. Many people now go and look at the exotic themselves. Meanwhile, there has been a growing awareness of the wealth of wildlife on our doorsteps - in the wild places, in the agricultural areas, and within the very heart of British cities.
Bill Oddie has secured a prominent role as a presenter of wildlife programmes. You sensed, at first, that he was almost embarrassed to admit - publicly - that he was a bird watcher ... as if it was some indication of moral or mental fragility. But he has presented a series of BBC wildlife programmes without ever losing his obvious enthusiasm: it's as if he still can't believe he's being paid to do something he loves.
It is the sheer joy and sense of wonder that Oddie brings to this latest series which is so vital to your enjoyment. He's a bit like John Peel in his ability to communicate - he talks directly to you, not to a million other people. You never sense he is talking down (pretty difficult in Oddie's case, admittedly): you appreciate that he has a lot of knowledge and a lot of experience ... but that his pleasure and joy in watching wildlife is not simply cerebral or escapist.
Oddie connects with the natural world in a spiritual way - in the sense that he emphasises that life and its vast variety is a source of wonder, a source of pleasure, but also an ever-changing tableau which should give you cause to sit back and give thanks for sunshine, for wind and rain, for the sheer, everyday pleasures and joys of living. And the joy is all the greater because it is something we can all share and communicate with one another.
Oddie emphasises that enjoying wildlife is something that can take place from your bedroom or office window. He presents a well-organised little tome to guide you through the varieties of species and activities you can expect to find each month of the year, directs you to the best venues for observation, gives you practical advice on how to stay comfortable and get the best close-up view, but he's not marketing wildlife as a sort of Cook's tour. He's not suggesting you accompany a busload of enthusiasts to go see a fox or watch a kingfisher.
This is a private pleasure, something you can do in your own time - switching off to watch and observe - and a public treasure to share with others. Find local enthusiasts to point you in the right direction, but enjoy yourself; you can find hours of (free) relaxation watching squirrels or birds, or even a ladybird patrolling a rose.
This is a neat little introduction, something you can read in conjunction with the television series (or DVD), and something you can use to stimulate the imagination of your children. Parents can unashamedly use this as a little crib guide - go on, impress your kids with something you read ten minutes ago!
Appreciate our wildlife! Do something each day to encourage it - plant native shrubs and flowers in your garden, preserve nettle patches and 'weeds', walk and take the time to look around instead of using the car! Bill Oddie has a delightfully gentle and generous style of communication and you will find this an excellent starter to stimulate you and your family to take a more knowledgeable interest in the wild.