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As a beginner trying to teach my son and his mother, I need advice on books, also any local groups we could join (East London Area) and could you advise me on binoculars?

Sent in by James Johnson, London

It's great to hear that you and your family are getting into bird watching, and hopefully interested in other wildlife too. There are so many useful books out there, from pocket guides that are handy to have with you in the field to comprehensive ID and reference guides for those species that might need further research. I would recommend popping into your nearest RSPB shop and having a look at the books available, the staff will hopefully be able to point you in the right direction.

I would also recommend that you all take a pocket sketch book and pencils with you, it always helps to write down what you have seen and if you have seen something you don't know, a quick sketch of the features can help put a name to it later. Of course you could go down the technology route of taking pictures or using some of the wildlife identification app's that are now available.

As for local groups in the south east, we have a few options in the south east London area, you can search for one on the link provided (top right).

With regards to binoculars, my advice would be to try before you buy. What works for one person might not suit the next so it is important to get to grips with them. As a quick guide, binoculars have a two figure identifier such as 8 x 42. The 8 refers to the magnification and whilst the 42 refers to the diameter of the biggest lense and therefore the amount of light.

What you go for depends on what you want from them, for example a pair of 8 x 42 binoculars will be great for watching birds at nature reserves. However they are usually quite large and might not be suitable if you are looking for a small and lightweight pair to fit in your glovebox or for travel, in which case trying out some 8 x 25 or 8 x 32 pairs might be better. The smaller pairs may also be better for the younger naturalist. Most of our reserve shops also have optics available, please pop along and give some a try. You can search for your nearest using the links (top right).

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