Being a bird watcher

Thu, 27/08/2009 - 14:58
Submitted by sarah baxter

Recently I joined the RSPB ( It came over me all of a sudden: one minute I’m washing up in my city kitchen, the odd cheerful chirrup floating through the back door; the next I’m at my computer, inputting credit card details and contemplating which birdfeeder to buy.

Problem is, I’m a very bad birdwatcher (much like the title of a very good book by Simon Barnes – have a read). I LOVE birds – their feathered heads, high-pitched tittle-tattle and hedgerow flitting light up the landscape. But I can positively identify about five of them. At most.
I was hoping that simply being a member of the RSPB would be enough – that I’d learn the names and songs by osmosis just by fingering the quarterly magazine. That, perhaps unsurprisingly, hasn’t happened.
Then my boyfriend bought me a bird book, a really handy little pocket-sized guide – perfect for taking on long country walks. However, on my last long country walk I was carrying my world on my back – tent, stove, clean pair of pants – and no matter how ‘pocket-sized’ the book was, I wasn’t willing to shoulder an extra gram. So that walk – along the Devonshire coast – was punctuated with the songs and swoops of birds I still didn’t know. The boyfriend would see a flit of feather and look at me expectantly, “Come on RSPBer – what was that?” But I’d simply look quizzical, shrug and offer “sparrow?” every time.
But you know what? It doesn’t matter. Take away the names of every species across the globe – call them all ‘birds’ without distinction – and they’d still be great. From the gulls (I know those ones!) that announced we were by the seaside, to the nippy brown blobs hiding in the gorse, to the bird-of-prey-type thermal-riders we saw hovering off the clifftops – big, small, rare, common as muck – I sing to you all.

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