Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Birds of Britain

Wednesday, August 22, 2007
Biggleswade sounds like something or someone from Harry Potter. "All right Ms. Biggleswade? Wot's the rumpus?"

I freely admit I did not have sufficient time for birding while in Britain attending the British Birdwatching Fair. And I'm so upset about this that I'm verging on calling it the British Birdwatching UnFair... ok, not really.

Even so, I managed to squeeze in a few moments here and there gawking at our feathered mates living across the pond. The weather did not make it any easier--it was great weather for ducks. Still, it serves me right for cramming a 10-day trip into five days.

On the final morning in England, my pal Nicholas Hammond took me birding in the fields behind his home in Sandy, Bedfordshire, also known as Sandy Beds. We walked along the Ivel River, hands covering our binocs from the mist and drizzle. And the birds put on a good show.
Lapwing. Photo by Chris Gomersall.

I finally got to see my favorite European bird, the lapwing, and we enjoyed good looks at kingfisher, great crested grebe, mute swan, sedge warbler, dunnock, European robin, green woodpecker, carrion crow, rook, European goldfinch, chaffinch, wren, and song thrush. Don't you love it how the names of English/European birds are just one word? As if there is no other wren than their wren, no other kingfisher, blackbird, and so on.

We saw other species I am sure, but I was just blissing out--not taking field notes.

The Ivel River flows along the garden edge of Nick and Yvonne Hammond's home in Bedfordshire.

These young mallards did not seem to mind the rain.

I'm hoping this shot of a great crested grebe will make the cover of National Geographic magazine.

In five minutes of watching this elderberry bush/tree we saw blackcap, sedge warbler, European goldfinch, chaffinch, dunnock, and blackbird eating the berries.

The one day in London on the front end of the trip got me close to a couple of common city species. These I encountered in the pair of parks that are in the middle of my old neighborhood there, Bloomsbury in the West End of London. I lived there, on Bedford Place, as a university student in 1982–83 and still count that year as one of the best of my life. I've been back a few times and always get a special tingle when I walk through Russell Square Park with its blackbirds and wood pigeons and blue tits (more on this later).

Feeding rock pigeons in Russell Square Park.

Pigeons and statues just seem to go together. Well, I guess only the pigeons ACTUALLY go....

Rooks catching some heat from the chimneys of a village home hear Stamford.

A juvenile blackbird, looking like an American robin dipped in oil, hustles for earthworms in central London.

Rock pigeon in its native haunts.

Wood pigeons are huge and show bright white patches on both sides of the neck.

Sorry for the dearth of exciting bird images to adorn this post. I elected to leave the 300mm lens at home due to its weight and the certain knowledge that comes from knowing when to say when. I knew I was not going to be able to take many bid pix on this trip--between the weather and the schedule there was little opportunity. So I got my buzz in other ways: visiting with old friends, making new ones, and just soaking up the vibe from the one place in the world where bird watchers are more numerous than anywhere else.


On August 23, 2007 at 1:42 PM Rondeau Ric said...

We drove for hours to see a wood pigeon and you find one wandering around. Oh well.

Got to love those blue tits.

On August 23, 2007 at 1:55 PM Trixie said...

Could your friends have a more picturesque backyard? Lovely.

On August 23, 2007 at 6:18 PM Julie Zickefoose said...

As we bake in the upper 90's, it's delightful to see birds trying to conserve heat in rainy ol' England. Keep these images coming, dear.

On August 23, 2007 at 7:14 PM Anonymous said...

What a delightful post. I can't believe you apologized for anything about it. The shots are great and make us here in the sweltering heat really jealous.

On August 25, 2007 at 11:29 AM Beth said...

Just returned from a UK holiday myself in the Redhill/Crawley area. Got to see lovely wagtails while at a family wedding...running along the garden with the bunnies...ahhhh England!

This might not be the place to ask, but can anyone advise me on birding activities for very new beginners in my area?

Beth (Toronto, Canada)

On August 26, 2007 at 5:47 PM Casey said...

Not particularly related to this specific posting, but I couldn't find another way to reach you -- just wanted to say that I love your blog, Bill! I am a photographer, novice birder and a doc student living in northern Ohio. I used to live in your neck of the woods, actually (I'm an OU alum), and I love seeing all of the pictures of your birding adventures. I am also extremely jealous of your bird observation tower. *sigh*

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