by Keith and Fran Slade, November 2009
It all started when we attended an evening class on Ornithology in 1976 and I never realised what a fascinating hobby it would become. It began by identifying the birds by reference to photo's taken by the tutor and then discussing the individual bird’s habitat and lifestyle.
It soon became obvious that birds were in a particular location primarily for the food they were feeding on and the breeding habitat. We were taken on various field trips to identify birds in their environment and began to realise that spotting them was a bit more difficult than seeing photos displayed in a classroom. However with some practice and a great deal of help it seemed that there was always at least one major feature on every species that gave it away. This ranged from colour on the body, colour of leg or bill, how they flew or sang. This was all summed up as the ‘jiz’ of a bird.
We joined the Bristol Ornithological club which had over 700 members and later I was on the committee and became Treasurer.
We have always kept records of the birds we have identified and to date we have seen 308 different species in the field in the UK. We are not ‘twitchers’ as we prefer just to go at our own pace and see the birds for ourselves. Twitchers incidentally are those birders who, having heard there is a rare bird in a particular location, will travel, sometimes a great distance, to tick that bird on their list.
We moved to Whitstone 3 years ago and we have been pleasantly surprised at the number of different species seen in and from our garden in Paradise Park. To date we have seen 32 species, some of which are quite regular visitors. There is a good flock of Siskins that visit our nut and seed feeders on a daily basis together with the regular Greenfinch, Chaffinch and Tit families. The occasional visitor is the Great Spotted Wood-pecker and to our absolute delight on 9 June last year we had a Red Kite fly low over the garden being chased by a crow. It is great fun to see a young bird sitting on our patio waiting for his mother to feed him or to see all the different species feeding alongside each other. It is like having our own aviary outside the window.
We enjoy visiting the local cliffs together with the Marshes and Maer Lake at Bude where once again a good range of birds can be seen. Birds such as Golden Plover, Water Rail, Little Egret and Grasshopper Warbler to name some of the more unusual species
This is a short summary of one of our hobbies which we hope may encourage you to take up and get the enjoyment we have experienced.