I’m afraid I’m not a very good birder.
I started keeping my list of Bedfordshire birds about two and a half years ago (see Birds of Bedfordshire: No.45 – The Dunnock). At that time the list stood at 45 species positively identified. I totted up the list again today, and in the intervening time it has only risen to 54. Some people see that many birds in a morning, so I’m obviously taking it slowly.
Ever since I visited Malltraeth I’ve had birds on my mind. I had an hour or two free this afternoon, which wasn’t enough time for any serious badger watching, so I decided to head up to the lake to see if there were any birds around. After a mere 45 minutes of enthusing, cajoling and finally bullying, I managed to get Scarlett into her shoes and coat and into the backpack baby carrier, and we set off. At which point she promptly fell asleep.
For some reason I associate the lake with birds. It may be because it’s a different habitat to the rest of the local area and so attracts different species than the usual hedgerows, fields and woods. This was the case today, as there was a small flock (10 or so) of Goosanders in residence. Goosanders are fish-eating ducks with long, thin and slightly hooked bills. I’ve seen their relatives, Mergansers, in Wales. Unfortunately I couldn’t get very close as they were quite wary, and I wasn’t helped by a pair of Canada Geese on the bank who seemed to have taken on the role of sentries and honked crossly at me when I tried to come near.
Now, my (somewhat short) list of birds represents only those species that I have positively identified. There’s loads more that I’ve seen and not taken notice of or not known what they are. For instance, there was a flock of small, sparrow-sized birds in the top of a tree near the lake. I disturbed them by getting too close, at which point they flew off to another tree. I’m not familiar with birds that flock and perch high like this (most that I know stick to hedgerow height), but they were too far away and the light too poor to get a good view. They could be a great rarity. They could just be sparrows. If anyone has any ideas, based on the photo, please do let me know…
This is what makes birding interesting for me. I have need yet to go dashing off to places to see a rare visitor (though I perfectly understand those that do, and I’m certainly not criticising them). No, there are still plenty of birds within walking distance of my house yet to find and identify, and I can have the pleasure of discovery within my local patch. It’s an advantage of starting at the bottom – I have so much more work to do!
(Should anyone want to check my progress or have a go themselves, here’s a copy of the British Bird List I found/stole on the internet. Note that it goes up to 591, but it does include some rare birds. Lady Amherst’s Pheasant, for instance, is only found in Bedfordshire, but it is secretive and there are only about three left. And what on earth is a Brown-headed Cowbird? Anyway, it’s the official list if you’re interested.)
*Edit – I think, after playing around with enlargements, the unknown birds may be Greenfinches. But I may be wrong. I’ve never seen a flock of Greenfinches before, but they seem to be the best fit.
Mind you, I’ve been wrong so many times before…