Was back there today, addicted and needing healing, watching the marsh harriers circle and dive and glide and throw dead mammals to each other in mid-air. Also saw a very shy bittern, with a bunch of serious twitchers with enormous cameras clicking insanely away; they'd been there all day waiting to see this fucker and were almost orgasmic when the thing poked its head out of the reeds and then half an hour later tiptoed slowly across the channel. I just thought, very nice and all, but how fucking annoying are bitterns? Just show yourself and vogue, for Christ's sake, these people are mad for you. The marsh harriers are doing their thing all day, every day, extravegantly. It's not that big a deal. And marsh harriers are much more beautiful and refined and talented than bloody bitterns. You're not that great, mate! I also thought, what the fuck would happen to these people if 15 bitterns suddenly jumped out of the reeds and started dancing around in the channel? A collective aneurysm?
I also saw: shellduck, cetti's warbler, mad lapwings attacking black headed gulls (go on, boys!), bearded tit, chinese water deer, an otter, great crested grebe, little grebe, shovelers, a black swan, pochard, all as or more exciting than a bloody bittern's beak.
What's the big deal about bitterns? Precious, golden, lovely, self-conscious, dappled things that they are.
We've moved house and regularly get a Jay in our garden.
A neighbour tells me we can also expect to see owls fairly often.
Regarding feeding of birds- over Christmas they loved the fat balls I left out, so much so that they risked bankrupting me. Nuts and seeds don't seem to attract the same numbers. Or am I expecting too much, too early (y'know, they have to learn that food is available in our garden)?
So did anyone see any waxwings in the snow? I was in South Wales willing them down; not a peep. But -- lots of redwings and long-tailed tits in Cardiff city suburbs and fieldfares all over the Cotswold fields. Common scoter in the channel at Ferryside in October (I think).
I saw some waxwings in an estate in balham over Christmas. They're so stylish and really tame: you can get within a few feet of them. It was the first time I've seen them- I've been waiting over twenty years. If you check the London bird club wiki website they post the latest sightings of waxwings. Usually a supermarket car park or a suburban street has hundreds of them descend on it suddenly
Waxwings in Balham! Oh, you're really lucky. Maybe one more freezing winter and they'll be brave enough to make it to South Wales.
At the age of 7 I was given a bird book and I found it so fascinating and exciting that I ran straight out to the back garden with some bread and then ran back inside to await the flocks of waxwings and hoopoes. It's been a long, disappointing wait.
There is a bird next to were I live, that sounds exactly like the stabbing noise from psycho. It was pretty disconcerting first time I heard it. I have no idea what it is, allthough I think it must be a pet. Fuck knows why anyone would want to keep an animal that makes that racket though.
When I visited Kashmir a couple of years back there were Golden Eagles flying about everywhere. They weren't shy either. I was at a ski resort one day in the himalayas where there was a lot of Indian tourists around, and they were just swooping down to get scraps of food that were lying about, right in amongst everyone. No one even batted an eyelid.
CAB Presentation: On Becoming a Better Birdwatcher.
(By Oliver Craner, Age 33 and a 1/4)
I have always been a bad but enthusiastic birdwatcher, although I have been getting better at it lately. In this brief presentation I will describe some of the reasons why I began to bird watch and try to explain what is involved and why I continue to do it.
1. Beginning to bird watch.
I did not start watching birds because I was particularly interested in birds. I started because, as a child, I liked to draw, and paint, and look at illustrated books. I had been given books filled with pictures of dinosaurs and birds and I would take particular care in copying out the beautifully painted plates of my Collins Field Guide to British Birds. It was one step from this to looking for those birds in real life – particularly the exotic multicolored vagrants I loved to draw and color in with bright felt tip pens. So I hung a net full of peanuts from a tree in my back garden and waited for flocks of hoopoe, waxwing and bee-eaters to arrive. Of course, they never did. This was disappointing but it was also a challenge, and stirred what turned out to be a prime motivation of any ornithologist, good or bad: that is, the determined, hopeful search for the exotic rarity amongst the boring brown flock. This is part of the grim superiority of amateur bird watching on the British Isles over the twitching safaris of intrepid and obsessional Bill Oddies: the boring brown flocks are immense, but the odd seasonal beauties and off-course vagrants are also many. The joy of starting to look for birds in the full ignorance of youth is that you expect to see dazzling rarities as due course. But I have yet to see a real hoopoe, waxwing or bee-eater.
2. How to bird watch.
I have always been a poor bird watcher. For years I showed up at nature reserves without research or serious equipment. My binoculars belonged to my grandfather and had seen decades of active service. I knew nothing of seasonal migration or plumage. I arrived and hoped for the best and usually came away with nothing more than a fleeting glimpse of fleeing songbirds in thick foliage. Serious bird watching is an uptight, tense, neurotic activity that can often turn aggressive, hence the aptness of the term “twitching”. Chasing rare birds around Britain is not something to be taken lightly. It requires a peculiar and ego-driven dedication as well as a heavy investment of money and time. It involves telescopes and digital cameras with extreme zoom lenses and excessive petrol miles. In fact, all you really need is a pair of decent binoculars, a sharp eye and a field guide. Learning songs and seasons and plumage is interesting enough and often helpful but it is not really essential. You don’t need to know all that much to access the other motivational drive of bird watching, which is the ability to decode landscape. Recognizing birds, like understanding plants or weather, provides a simple key that opens up the visual and rhythmic secrets of the natural world. This is not a twitching thing.
3. What I do.
And this is not just true for the country, but the city too. I have been a member of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds for a number of years and last year I worked as a member of the RSPB team monitoring peregrine falcons nesting on the clock tower of Cardiff City Hall. This was a perfect example of how even a minimal awareness of birds can help to unlock and enrich your surroundings. People are always amazed to discover the fastest bird of prey in the world nesting and hunting in the heart of Wales’s civic centre. Once they are shown this, their surroundings are transformed. I enjoy working for the RSPB not because I am an expert, but because I am not an expert. I often need help and guidance and I can get that, strangely enough, by learning to help and guide others.
4. At last, becoming a better birdwatcher.
I have become a better bird watcher over the years because of the slow, natural accumulation of knowledge, and because of working for the RSPB and buying a new pair of binoculars. But I will never be a twitcher. I still enjoy going out looking for birds because I love to explore the natural landscape, I like to draw and paint it, to run and swim and surf in it – and, along with waves and weather, what animates the landscape, is the teeming wildlife. And none teems with greater color and variety than our native and migratory bird life. I cannot claim much more for ornithology than the beauty of variety and color but, in this case, it is enough for me.