Ornithology – for Londoners

When I moved to Somerset, a couple of years ago, I’d often sit in the garden and watch birds fly down on to the lawn, or circle the pear tree. It dawned on me that growing up in London had deprived me of a real connection to nature. Though we spent our childhood summers in Somerset, mum making vain attempts to introduce us to nature, we weren’t interested. We were excited by Roces roller-skates, playing knock-down-ginger and throwing wet toilet-paper bombs out of the highest windows in the house – aiming for passers-by.

So perhaps it wasn’t London that deprived me – it just wasn’t what my peers were interested in. We did go blackberry picking, late summer, down an alley at the end of the road. But supplies were scant and usually coated in dog piss.

Anyway. I noticed, when discussing nature – particularly trees and birds – with Rich, that his knowledge was vast compared to mine. He grew up on a farm in Somerset so he was clearly going to be a little ahead of me but when he started testing how much I knew (or didn’t) – he was quite surprised.

And so I decided to teach myself a bit about birds. We went to a car boot sale and I picked up this book:

birds of britain

Every so often I flick the pages, admiring the illustrations and trying to fix the images in my head for the next time I spot a bird that isn’t a pigeon.

To some people (namely countryside dwellers) these will be oh-so familiar. But to all the other people who spent their childhoods eating sweets and skating around city streets – here’s a short education in British birds…

Merlin. This is the smallest British bird of prey:




Brambling. They tend to hover over bramble bushes. Only joking. They like beach woodland and farmland near woods (and sometimes gardens in winter):


Black-necked Grebe. They like to eat insects, crustaceans and small fish:

black-necked grebe

Green woodpecker:

green woodpecker



Coal tit:

coal tit

And, best for last – the GOLDEN EAGLE…. ooooh!

golden eagle

The illustrations are mostly from the 18th century so apols if some of these birds are now extinct.

We did some bird-watching in India and I picked out eagles, crows (obvs – they’re distinctly horrific), bats (not birds, I know, but someone less bird-wise than I might have mistaken them for a black bird – or something – so just clarifying that I do know the difference). Also swallows, and possibly some finches. But as my ornithology skills now supersede Rich’s – he couldn’t confirm this. Because he didn’t know.

Hope you’ve learned something from this short lesson on British birds.

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