I’m not sure if it’s cheating, but I went to an RSPB reserve in search of more birds to add to my 2014 list. The larger reserves are excellent for spotting a wide variety of wildlife as they usually have a number of different habitats. I guess it’s essentially like a zoo without cages and all the animals and birds are there because they want to be.
On reflection, it’s absolutely nothing like a zoo…
Pulborough Brooks in West Sussex was the reserve in question.
I signed up to do a ‘Wildlife Walkabout’ – a ramble led by knowledgeable bird experts – to acquire myself a whole host of extra pairs of eyes and binoculars. My thinking behind this was that this would essentially help me look in multiple directions at once, thus maximizing my chances of seeing as many birds as possible. Sometimes I’m a bit of a genius!
Sightings came in thick and fast… Rook, Wren, Jay, Dunnock, Great Tit, Greenfinch, Fieldfare, Redwing, Nuthatch, Treecreeper, Bullfinch, Long-Tailed Tit, Linnet and Great Spotted Woodpecker, amongst others.
There was then a good run of bird of prey sightings – a Kestrel hovering over an unfortunate potential mousey snack, a Common Buzzard soaring above a distant church and, something I’ve never had a good view of before, a Peregrine Falcon in a nearby tree.
I love nature, I really do, but today I’ll admit I cursed at a Goldcrest… Not proper swearing, as I called it a “little b*****d” (TWICE) in a northern accent. It doesn’t count if it’s in a northern accent, does it? It was up in a tree just in front of me and I was trying (and failing) to take a picture of it so you all could see it too. The problem is that Goldcrests are notoriously fidgety birds, who never really settle anywhere for long. If you couple this with the fact that I have a fidgety camera shutter finger that frequently presses the button at inopportune moments, you get a lot of photographs of a whole lot of tree and a distinct absence of Britain’s smallest bird. You also get me uncharacteristically sweary.
So far, my limited bird identification skills have enabled me to positively recognise all the birds I’ve encountered (which has surprised me) – with the exception of one… Who knows what this is?
There are a number of birds I just can’t get the hang of identifying. I am pretty clueless at telling one seagull from another (they all look the same!) and I certainly can’t ID the difference between a Marsh Tit and a Willow Tit – the bird in the photo montage is either one or the other, that I know, but they are almost identical. Apparently, their songs are distinctly different, but (i) I have no idea what either sounds like and (ii) the bird in question remained silent throughout my gawking at it.
A bit of research has suggested that Willow Tits have not been seen at Pulborough for a number of years, so it is almost certain to have been a Marsh Tit – which has been seen. In spite of this Poirot-like deduction, I cannot add it to my list.
A quick look at the bird feeder added a Coal Tit to the list and another Marsh/Willow Tit made an appearance as if to taunt my bird identification inadequacies…
The total for the excursion was an exciting thirty-one. Just a couple of days in and I’ve already got just over fifty different bird species on my 2014 list. At this rate, I’m on track for in excess of nine-thousand birds… Excellent.
Don’t forget you can see what I’ve seen and where I’ve first seen it by clicking on the ‘Bird Board’ tab at the top of the page. If you fancy staying up-to-date with my dubious adventures, you can follow the blog by clicking the ‘follow’ button or enter your email address.
And if you can help me identify the mystery Tit, that would be amazing… Thanks!