Monday, 2 October 2017

Top 5 Favourite Birds!

Hello everybody! Well, Springwatch is underway on the telly and the live cams are up, which prompts me to finally do another post on this blog(well, they WERE up when I made this...not anymore as I'm posting). This post is my official top 5 list of my favourite birds! I'll start from five and count down to one - which will be my ultimate favourite bird. Let us begin!


Five - the Red Kite

Ever since I first saw these birds soaring over the roads as I came home from school, I was captivated by them. It took me a while to identify them, but once I did I was very pleased with myself. But now, to my utter delight, I see them soaring over my semi-detached house in Newport Pagnell. I saw them out my bedroom window and, no longer recently (oh, blog-making procrastination...), I was laying on my trampoline with a duvet covering myself in the late Spring/early Summer evening when a ginormous figure starting gliding over my vision. I saw a pointed tail, obvious 'wrists' of the wing and white patches on the undersides of the things taking this creature to the air. A Red Kite, it was, as is obvious by the title of this paragraph - and I couldn't help but gawp at it with an open mouth in true awe. Its size was a feat I had yet to experience any bigger - my bird book The Most Amazing Birds to see in Britain says it all - the male can be 56cm and the female 61cm.

I love these birds and I hope some day I will learn more about them. But for now, I will absorb some facts from my book and input them on this screen for your enjoyment. Firstly, a fact I found a little upsetting but interesting as well - "a whole range of paper and fabric, even soft toys, may catch the Red Kite's attention when it builds its nest. If an item can provide a cosy nest lining for its young, the Red Kite will take it." Which means that, ever so occasionally, some child's christened teddy bear that they left on the windowsill to have a nice view for the night while they slept, would become the nest lining for a bundle of fluffy bird of prey chicks. I'm not sure if that's a comforting thought or a terrifying fear for all stuffed-toy owners across the country.

Along to a slightly more morbid fact, Red Kites have a varied diet. They eat carrion, especially dead sheep, as well as small mammals, rabbits, fledgling rooks and gulls, and occasionally worms and frogs. Nice!

Now that I've told you about this bird, it's onto my next member of my top faves list../

Four - the Tawny Owl

What a bird this is! Ever since witnessing the growth of Grub the owl a few years back on my first time watching Springwatch, I have been utterly taken by the endearance of these owls. Simplified, it means I think their chicks are really, REALLY cute! But it's not just about cuteness. The adult birds are so beautiful, and they have their classic 'kee-wick' and 'oo-ooooo' calls (which gave rise to the 't'wit, too-woo') made by the female and male. They feed on small mammals but they rely on the weather being right for them to hunt for their food. With its mottled brown plumage, this bird is superbly camouflaged against tree trunks or brown leaves.

Here are some facts, gathered from the RSPB website page about them. Let's start with when they are present in our country. These creatures are resident to our country, which means they are present all year round. It is, like a lot of owls, a nocturnal bird, which means it only comes out at night. So you're likely to hear it calling in the darkness if you're in the right spot, but Tawny Owls are more often heard than seen.

I very nearly put the Short-Eared Owl on this spot, but I think the Tawny Owl snatches this spot by a hair's - or should I say a feather's? - breadth, just because of dear old Grub.

Three - the Swallow
There are a few species of Swallow in the world, all fantastic, but the UK's stunning Barn Swallow, hirundo rustica, is by far my favourite and takes the cake for me.

After seeing these birds sitting on a nest on one of the live cameras on Springwatch (and sadly hearing that apparently the nest failed) I decided to place this beautiful bird on my list. And beautiful they are: classic ruby-red throat and forehead, stunning blue back and navy-blue wings and tail-streamers, complimented with a creamy white 'apron' making this bird aesthetically pleasing and very smart-looking. If I were to have a best man at a wedding, this bird would be it.

There is a fantastic scene on Springwatch about mayflies, and there was this single clip of a swallow coming down, snatching the mayfly off the surface and flying up and away while shaking some water off the little creature. I absolutely loved that - and it shined some more light on the already famous birds. Here's a link to the gif on the Springwatch twitter if you are curious:

Swallows are a symbol of Summer. There is a saying; "one Swallow does not make a Summer" which is based on fact - a few Swallows with arrive earlier than others, but when it is more truly Summer they will arrive in their huge amounts.

Two - the Swift
The thought of Swifts becoming my second favourite bird popped into my mind a while ago while waiting in the chip shop with my Mum. They were screaming around the buildings up our high street, coming so low, but flying so swiftly (pun intended) and impressively. You can never see the insects they're catching, but you just know they are's so difficult to express why I love these birds.

They are definitely adapted for life in the air. When a young Swift fledges from the nest, they will not land again for perhaps another three years. They never touch the ground unless by accident and don't perch on wires like their silhouette-lookalikes the Swallows. The only time they land on purpose is when they are nesting, in a swift nest box perhaps. Their legs are short, able to grab onto walls but very ungraceful in any attempt at walking. Even their family name, Apodidae, means 'without feet'!

According to The Most Amazing Birds to be Seen in Britain, Swifts used to be called 'Devil Birds' because of their calls that sound like screaming. Loud they may be sometimes, I love them. It's always a joy to hear them for the first time in the makes me feel like Summer has just begun. Unfortunately, I don't hear Swifts anymore, since Summer is practically over and all of the Swifts have migrated back to Africa - south of the Sahara.


Well, you've been waiting - or reading - for this moment. What is my mega-favourite bird? What bird captivates me so much? Have I ever seen it? Is it a tiny Goldcrest, perhaps, or a classic Blue Tit? Maybe the Scottish Crossbill, the only endemic bird to the UK? Or one of the the incredibly underrated gulls of the UK seaside? Maybe I've gone for a more spectacular choice, like the White-Tailed Eagle, or the Egyptian Goose?

Actually, my favourite bird is none of those, although those are all amazing  birds - and my favourite is certainly spectacular. I'll just cut to the chase already, since you people are undeniably getting a bit bored being teased about my favourite.

One - the Osprey

In my opinion, what could take the #1 spot quicker than the epic Eurasian Osprey? A fish-eating, dark-brown and creamy white bird of prey with a success story moving enough to put those TV dramas to shame.

Ospreys lived once in the UK. But, because they are so spectacular, they were chased down by egg collectors - people trying to steal those precious eggs from their own nests to keep, or even sell - and, as horrible as it sounds, skin collectors too. They were driven to extinction in this country in 1840. To think of a time without this bird is just depressing, but how it clawed back is what makes this bird smash the #1 spot even harder.

In 1954/1956, a pair started to nest in Loch Garten in the Scottish Highlands. Egg collectors were still at it, however, so the RSPB made the nest area more secure, and made viewing only possible via telescope. After all of that, and work still continues to this day, in 2011 the RSPB estimated there were between 250 and 300 nesting pairs in Great Britain. There are also a few times Ospreys have bred in England, but it's mostly in Scotland where these birds like to live.

Ospreys are Summer visitors to the UK. They migrate back to West Africa when the breeding season is over. These birds feed entirely on fish, with incredibly sharp talons and feet covered in 'spicules' which help grip onto slippery, struggling fish. They mostly eat Trout, but Ospreys nesting in Wales will also eat Grey Mullet.

Because these birds are so amazing, they have live cameras that cover their nests. I won't bother linking one, though, because they won't be there now, as far as I know.

Well, that's it. My top 5 favourite birds list. I hope you enjoyed this - a nice meal of a post after being starved of them for ages due to the troubling effects of blog-posting procrastination. Tell me, what is your favourite bird? Anyway, I'll see you later.

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

By The River & Other Nature Experiences!

Hey guys! I have quite a few stories of nature sightings for you, so buckle up!

Firstly is one of the most exciting! Last weekend, I was at my Dad's house. On Sunday, me, my step mum and one of my step brothers went out to walk up to ASDA. My Dad has a really nice river near him, and it goes by down his road. We were walking on a pathway beside it when I noticed a cute little bird standing on a rock in the water. When I saw its colour scheme - grey and yellow with a little bit of white - I was super-happy to see what it was...a grey wagtail, a new species to my list! I saw it on the way back too, happily hopping around with a bobbing tail, probably searching for yummy insect morsels to enjoy!

Now, I only have one more wagtail to find: the yellow one!

My new school is twenty minutes away from me, lying in the Bedford area. We like to take the scenic route; it takes a little longer but it's prettier with a lot less traffic, and calms me down before I get to school. We also see a lot of birds on the way AND there! On the way, we constantly see birds of prey (at least one per trip, probably) either gliding above us or perching in a tree. We can never quite tell what they are, but I think they might be buzzards, and also a few kestrels. Though, I'm not always  right; I once almost mistook a house sparrow for a great tit!

Another thing about Bedford...there's a really cute store called Budgens, and we went there to pick up some bacon after school. When we walked in, we noticed a stand for the Wildlife Trusts, specifically the BCN (Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire) one. We walked over to have a peek, and the first the man standing their said to us was,

"Are you two wildlife enthusiasts?"

Needless to say, we got the guy to explain some stuff about what the Wildlife Trusts do, about their reserves and we even signed up! I've got a "Where to see Wildlife in Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire" book I recieved from him right next to me as I type!

Other sightings include some really cute ducks in some ponds/lakes beside a road in London, and a kindly old  shopworker in Budgens telling us about the time she saw a tawny owl taking off from a garden fence! Wow!