Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Urban Birder - David Lindo

I finally picked up a copy of David Lindo's book The Urban Birder from the man himself when we met up at the London Wetlands Centre.

It's an excellent little book and an inspiring and easy read that tells David's story from his early days as a young and enthusiastic wildlife observer, keen to learn more and soak up every little bit of information he could find, to where he is today, still following his passion.

His enthusiasm for birds and nature simply bounces off the page and there's laughter and a smile on every one as he relates his early adventures pursuing his hobby and gaining a huge wealth of knowledge. No wonder he knows so much about birds (urban and otherwise) when he's been studying them for years and taking detailed notes along the way.

However, the important message is that you can see birds and wildlife in any situation and even the most unassuming, barren and apparently desolate, urban environments can be just as rich a source as some of the birding hotspots.

You don't need huge amounts of expensive equipment and you don't have to travel miles to see a rarity.  They can and do turn up in urban gardens, parks and open spaces - you just need a little patience and as David is fond of saying to 'look up'.

Take a leaf out of his book - grab your binoculars, get out there, get to know your local patch and you never know what might turn up.

Follow David at @urbanbirder

Sunday, October 09, 2011

London Wetland Centre

Finally, my first visit to the London Wetland Centre and what a treat.  Set on the edge of the urban sprawl of London, beside the Thames, surrounded by tower blocks and with an almost constant sound of traffic and planes on their way in or out of Heathrow, this is a surprising oasis of wildlife.

Main Lake from Dulverton Hide

My first sighting on the short walk from the station to the centre, was a small flock of the infamous ring-necked parakeets flying noisily in the trees around the nearby playing fields.  I know these aren't a rarity in London parks these days but they're still a novelty for us out-of-towners.

After a cup of tea and a quick bite to eat (it was an early start out of Brighton), while wondering to head first, I decided to follow the obvious birders (clue = green jackets and scopes) out to the Peacock Tower which, with three levels, has great views over the whole of the reserve.  Now I thought the lot at Pulborough were a noisy rabble, chatting away exchanging news, views and sightings, but there were treble the number in the hide and even more chat going on!
Wader scrape and peregrine tower (left)

Over on the hospital building (left most building in the photo) were a pair of peregrine.  One quite happily perched on the roof and the larger female, slightly lower down on the darker, windowless level.

Apparently their favourite spot and they're seen there quite often.  It's worth noting that the hides have shelves under the windows, so a shelf clamp for the scope is more useful here than a tripod.

On the lake were plenty of wigeon, teal, shoveler and gadwall and at least nine heron.  Several little grebe and a few tufted duck on the far side of the main lake (always nice to see) and out on the grazing marsh a wheatear popped up every now and then and a pair of stonechat did much the same, once they'd been tracked down.

My favourite bird, a snipe was spotted in the wader scrape - the locals know exactly where to find things, so it was just a matter of keeping eyes and ears open and asking if you're not sure.

OK my photo isn't going to win any awards but I'm new to digiscoping and it was hidden away in the bottom of the reeds.

A few swallow were still flying around over the water.  It's still pretty warm for early October.

Green roof on one of the hides
The centre is surprisingly large and well laid out considering it's location and is more open than Arundel.

There's a lovely sustainable garden with some very creative bug hotels - unfortunately I didn't get a photo of them - you'll have to make do with the WWT video of their 'creature towers'.

The World wetlands area with their pens of exotic birds from around the world, are on the other side of the Visitor's Centre, so separated from the 'wilder' areas.  I didn't make it up the Wildside and reedbeds areas this time, as I met up with David Lindo and then attended his talk in the afternoon.

Having purchased his excellent new book "The Urban Birder" - I headed off back home via the packed, standing room only, Sunday bus service to Clapham Junction and then connected with the train back to Brighton - chuckling away while reading David's book.  Not a bad excursion for a day out