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Rippingale nature columnist and Bill Oddie ask if you’re a twitcher or a birder





I tried in vain to locate my copy of Bill Oddie’s Little Black Bird Book which was originally published in 1982, writes Rippingale nature columnist Ian Misselbrook.

It was probably the first book to successfully combine humour and ornithology. I wanted to refer to Bill’s to tongue in cheek categories of bird watchers, mainly because I am fed up with us all being lumped together as Twitchers! From memory birdwatchers were either casual birdwatchers, birders - more serious about their hobby, ornithologists – the scientific birders, twitchers (rarity listers) or finally; dudes. I hope that I don’t fall into the latter category who often have all the gear but no idea!

These days there are far more categories, and I would certainly add “patch workers” which could apply to all types of wildlife; not just birds. Most of us fall into several categories but patch working; finding wildlife in a favoured local territory can be a least as rewarding as twitching and if your chosen patch is near to home, far less expensive.

European geese. Photo: Ian Misselbrook
European geese. Photo: Ian Misselbrook
Brambling. Photo: Ian Misselbrook
Brambling. Photo: Ian Misselbrook

Some naturalist’s patches are tiny, but if you try to identify every form of life to be found in a small urban garden you might be overwhelmed by the challenge. During lockdown this challenge became a reality for many.

I have several local haunts that might qualify as my patches but my starting point is always my garden. In January I watched two wintering blackcaps (members of the warbler family) in my garden. I excitedly sent a message to my wife at work who replied, “That’s great. Perhaps they will stay and nest” She was disappointed when I replied that this was unlikely as they were both males.

A little further afield, three European White-fronted Geese joined the resident Greylag and Canada Geese in a field surrounding a small pond only a few miles from Stamford. These wild birds had probably flown all the way from Russia and were far more wary than their feral cousins. The only way that I could get a good view of them and a few photographs was to crawl through a thick hedge and lie on my stomach. These days I find getting down easier than getting back up, but I managed to accomplish my mission.

Roe deer. Photo: Ian Misselbrook
Roe deer. Photo: Ian Misselbrook
Roe deer. Photo: Ian Misselbrook
Roe deer. Photo: Ian Misselbrook
Ian Misselbrook
Ian Misselbrook

A walk down our local fen from my home always produces something of interest. A group of four roe deer; our truly native deer got my pulse racing as they are far less common around here than the hordes of fallow deer and muntjac. On the same ramble I came across some notable flocks of finches, buntings and skylarks. In one mixed flock I counted 36 yellowhammers and at least six each of reed buntings and bramblings. The brambling is the equivalent of our familiar chaffinch and largely replaces it as a breeding species in northern Europe. Some winter in our region in varying numbers.



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