Thursday, 16 October 2014

Birds: My Top 10!

"What's your favourite bird?" - it's a question I am frequently asked and truthfully I am not sure I really have an answer; just a few days ago I described the process on twitter as 'like having to choose between your children'...I must say I have found it really rather difficult as I just love all birds! I have however managed it (though I may have changed my mind by tomorrow); you will notice some rather large gaps in terms of taxonomy - there are for example no birds of prey in this list (if one were to feature, it would probably have to be Hen/Montagu's Harrier).
Having done little travelling outside of the UK, it seemed logical to focus on birds that regularly occur in the British Isles and so in no particular order, here we go:

We're off to a colourful start with the enigmatic Kingfisher; beautiful, characterful - what's not to love? It is also one of the commonest birds to feature in the list and thanks to well positioned perches, is becoming increasingly easy to see at nature reserves. My best views have always been in front of my own portable hide however, where I frequently get birds to perch less than 5m from the camera.

Sedge Warbler
I think this is Britain's best "small brown bird": not only do they look great, their song is fantastically varied as a result of their extraordinarily accurate mimicry, and their songflight is superb!

Jack Snipe
Perhaps one of the more unusual choices - I have only seen 4, but each was more brilliant than the last. Their incessant bobbing (which at times seems to entirely negate their otherwise stunningly effective camouflage) is one of the best quirks in British birding. I'm lucky if I see more than 1 each winter, which perhaps adds to the appeal for these delightfully charming birds.

Great White Egret
Probably the rarest bird (in British terms) to feature on the list though becoming increasingly easy to see. On a recent trip to France they were somewhat abundant, so their expansion seems only set to continue. They are always an exciting bird to watch; certainly more so than a sleeping spoonbill and its larger size instantly makes it superior to its 'little' counterpart.

Does this need any explanation? Tame, colourful and during 'invasion' years fairly easy to find (currently the best bird to have occurred in my garden).

I think this is a species that most birders can relate to! Every spring I become genuinely excited at the thought of the first Wheatear of the year. Upright, charismatic and the best arse in Britain, this is probably my favourite summer migrant.

Maybe a surprising choice (or not if you are a regular reader of this blog!) but I absolutely love these birds. Their bill, their colour...they're just great!

Water Rail
Another one of the more unusual choices; there's just something about this secretive bird I really's certainly not its call, which is among the most disturbing sounds in the ornithological world.

Dartford Warbler
Perhaps inevitable this one given my close proximity to some of Britain's best heathland - the Dartford Warbler can be an extremely frustrating bird to see well. Often flitting through the gorse or flying low above the heather; their disproportionally long tail whirring in tow (which is almost certainly my favourite flight of any bird!). I am of course blessed to have this bird closeby; their scratchy song and purple hue make heathlands a far nicer place to be. Thankfully, after a series of cold winters/washout springs, they appear to have had a fantastic year in 2014 with many pairs successfully rearing 3 broods.

And finally, perhaps my favourite bird...maybe. The smallest, speediest, sexiest gem of a bird one could hope to stumble upon. Despite weighing less than the 50p piece in your pocket, this is a bird brimmed to the crown with character, and thanks to our warming climate, it is a species that is becoming much more common. Of course, I am slightly biased: this year I co-ordinated a survey of this species in North-East Hampshire and so spent rather a lot of time in their company watching probably in excess of 50 individuals! Time well spent I think...

And there we have have it, favourite bird species - there are so many species that were very close: Stone Curlew, Nightingale, Black Redstart, Shoveler, Raven, Turtle Dove...the list is endless!
So what would feature in your top 10?

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