An Up Close Look At Wild Animals

Published in November 2011, David FitzSimmons’ latest book, “Curious Critters” offers a collection of vivid photographs of animals you might not normally get to see close-up. My four year old son is absolutely intrigued by the way this book brings nature’s animals to life while sitting right in our own home.

While this book’s primary focus is the amazing images FitzSimmons captures of several animals, it also includes a brief blurb about each animal. What I didn’t expect from this book was the conversation that it would stimulate between my son and me. Many of the animals in the book I have encountered throughout my life, and it allowed me to share some of my own stories with him. For example, until looking at a picture of the Crawfish, I never thought to tell my son about the one I had as a pet for nearly a year following a school science project in fourth grade.

When I first thumbed through the book, I was a little nervous that some of the animals would scare my son (he scares easily), but this wasn’t the case. Instead, it just triggered a slew of questions that poured out of his curious mouth: “Is that like the frog I touched in the backyard?,” “Why is that bat mad?,” “Haven’t we seen that bird outside?” and so on. I was actually surprised by the way this book sparked his interest. This is the first book of photographs I’ve shown my son—all of his other books are fiction and feature illustrations.

My son and I both love to take pictures. I have my digital SLR camera and my son has his own vTech digital camera. What’s stopping us from going out and taking pictures of animals? We needed a little advice, though and David FitzSimmons offered us some great tips for interacting with wildlife in an ethical way:

5 Tips for Ethical Interactions with Wildlife

  1. Learn about animals. Studying an animal will allow you to know about its habitat and behaviors. Predators may be quite aggressive; prey species often take flight quickly. Such information allows you to know how close you can get and what signs warn of backing off.
  2. Catch and release quickly. Catching a frog or finding an intriguing insect is great fun. Enjoy studying them, and then release your specimens back into their native habitats.
  3. Avoid nesting locations. Nests are vulnerable. Minor disturbances can discourage animals from finishing nests that they are building. Approaching active nests can stress adults and juveniles, so get a pair of binoculars, and enjoy nest building and care from a distance.
  4. Call experts for injured, orphaned, or sick animals. Many rehabilitation facilities will take injured or orphaned animals. In fact, many of my Curious Critters photos depict wild animals being cared for at rehab centers. Prudence, not to mention local laws, dictate expert handling of diseased animals.
  5. Share nature with others. Take hikes with your family and friends. Photograph, draw, and write about the wildlife you encounter. Then share your interactions with others. When you pass along your enthusiasm for nature, it encourages others to enjoy and conserve the natural world.

FitzSimmons also recommends a great “Cell Phone Photography Project.” Since not everyone has a camera, but it seems like everyone has a cell phone with a camera in it this is a wonderful idea. Plus, how often do you find yourself someplace without your bulky camera, but you still have your cell phone? FitzSimmons suggests, “Go for a hike and challenge each family member to take five photos along the way. Review the images together, picking a favorite from each family member. Then share! Right away, email the photos to others. Sharing nature encourages others to get out, enjoy, and care for nature.”

Go pick up a copy of “Curious Critters,” and get inspired. There are animals for you and your children to learn about, and this book really brings the animals to life with its crisp photographs. And, once you’ve looked at the pictures, try to get out and see the real thing, making sure to follow the tips outlined above by FitzSimmons. “Curious Critters” is available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Jennifer Azzariti