A Robin on Sunday afternoon. He flew along, perched on top, flew away, figured out how to use the feeder, came back and grabbed a beak-full of seeds. I did not see this, of course. My wife pointed it out to me.
As well as birdwatching, I also write for The Archer, the local volunteer-run newspaper here in East Finchley. I have combined these two interests for several articles – most recently a re-write of my blog entry about the Big Garden Birdwatch which has made the March edition (page 8 if you follow the link!).
There is an old patch of hedgerow in the park near where I work. I can only presume that it is the remnant of a field boundary from the days when what is now North London was mostly farmland (there is most definitely an old farmhouse, now a museum, nearby).
When walking past this patch, I often hear the distinctive ‘yaffle’ call of a Green Woodpecker. This is one of my favourite bird calls, although I do find it slightly mocking – as if the woodpecker is telling me that I can hear him, but I can’t see him.
I really should take my binoculars to work so I can do a spot of semi-serious birdwatching during my lunch hour.
Today, though, I heard two Green Woodpeckers calling to each other, and I even managed to figure out which tree one of them was calling from. I couldn’t see him though. I stood watching and listening for five minutes and then, just as I was about to give up, I saw a flash of yellow-green flying from the tree to another one. I only saw it for a couple of seconds, but it was most definitely the woodpecker.
As well as birdwatching, reading is also a hobby of mine.
An ideal combination of the two, therefore, is reading books about birdwatching. There are quite a few books about birdwatching out there at the moment, by the likes of the excellent Stephen Moss (who has a regular birdwatching columns in the RSPB’s Birds magazine and The Guardian), veteran TV presenter and very enthusiastic birder Bill Oddie and old classics such as Gilbert White, still in print over 200 years after his death.
My current favourite, though, is this superb book by David Lindo. For the benefit of those readers who don’t already know, David is the Urban Birder and he can be found on TV (The One Show, BBC1), in print (Birds magazine, among others) and online (his website). As his nickname suggests, his forte is birdwatching in urban areas. This is his first book, and I am pleased to report that his infectious enthusiasm comes across in print as much as it does when he’s on the telly or when you meet him in real life (I saw him give a talk at the WildlifeXpo at Ally Pally last autumn).
In his book, David recounts his birding experiences from an early age – it’s a story of a lifelong hobby and fascination that many of us can associate with, and in David’s case it’s one that has taken him all over the world. At the heart of this book is a very simple and refreshingly optimistic message – one that I find myself quoting rather a lot. In birding, anything is possible; you can find birds anywhere. His birding philosophy, in fact, can be summed up in two words: Look up. You never know what you might see until you do.