I’ve been asked the question a few times when I’m wandering about the countryside. It’s a reasonable conclusion for people to make. The green jumper and binoculars must be a dead giveaway. The truth is, I’m not really a birdwatcher. I’ll watch anything, me – bird or beast. It’s all part of getting to know my local area.
I went for my Sunday stroll this morning – not quite at dawn – I couldn’t get out of bed early enough. Since the crops have grown up the Chinese Water Deer have taken to hiding in the middle of the fields, only their ears visible, like the periscope of a submarine. CWD seem to prefer the middle of fields. As a rule, if you see a small deer in a hedgerow it’s likely to be a muntjac; if it’s in the middle of the field it’s a CWD.
If the mammals were quiet today, then the birds were full of life. It’s spring and they’re putting their heart and soul into defending territories and finding mates. I spent an hour or so wandering around watching birds and listening to birdsong. It seemed like every tree had it’s resident bird, sitting somewhere near the top and singing away for all they were worth.
Have you ever really listened to birdsong? I’m mean really listened, not just been aware of it as background noise? Here’s a challenge for everyone then. Take a walk outside – in the countryside, in a wood or in a park – and listen to the different birds as you go. Look at the trees and bushes they are calling from. Find out how far they are away from each other. Listen how they interact with each other. I guarantee that if you pay attention then you’ll be amazed.
I’m trying to learn the songs of different birds at the moment, and it makes a real difference to get out and actually see the birds as they sing. Today there were thrushes, robins, chaffinches, great tits, blue tits, a cuckoo (first one of the year for me) and – oddly – a peacock. None of these are rare birds (the peacock was a bit unusual, I assume it was a pet in a garden), but being aware of them gave a whole new dimension to the walk. I’d recommend it.
This morning was another first for me in birdwatching terms. I saw a hawk being mobbed by crows. I’ve heard of this happening but had never seen it before. An aerial dogfight was played out before me, with the hawk and crows twisting and turning across the sky. They were unfortunately too far away for me to identify the hawk, but impressive nonetheless.
So am I a birdwatcher? Well, I can’t recognise many birds, and I don’t feel the urge to travel the country looking for rarities, but yes, I think I must be.