Thursday, 19 September 2013


....wasn't the average pub conversation, most of by mates aren't birders, most couldn't tell a Blue Tit from a Song Thrush so after the usual pub banter, groaning at the Chelsea scoreline, the Northampton clown and ensuing hysteria I was somewhat ambushed by one friend who said "What's your top ten birds that you've seen in the wild or photographed, and why and you can't say great or lovely"?...because apparently I use lovely and great a bit to often...typical Hammer supporter!! In fact so rare is it I'm asked about birds by my mates I had to check they meant the feathered variety....
So I rattled off my list, weirdly my mates were smirking, "that's twenty two you numpty" I was allowed to sleep on it and here's my top ten, in no particular order (except alphabetical) along with the reasons why.

 So firstly, the Goldcrest, many reasons, small, inaudible once you reach a certain age plus the fact they manage to survive our winters is a small miracle in itself, plus their nests are a great piece of engineering

 Then it would have to my favourite bird of prey the Hobby, fast,super-super fast,agile a bird that whilst hunting low and fast for dragonflies will not only knacker you out but you're always amazed that you got one in focus and not vanishing out of the frame....lovely
 Then the Kestrel, it always amazes me their ability to hover for long periods regardless how strong the wind also in recent times I've seen their ability to adapt to new surroundings which might be key to their survival......

 The Little Ringed Plover, small, migrates vast distance to breed here, a genuine,tenacious and clever little wader.
 The Marsh Harrier, it's an odd one, you don't hear of many cases of persecution, in fact on one tiny island they're viewed as a saviour from potatoe eating pheasants, I've had many encounters with this species and each time my heart skips a beat, whether it be a food pass from male to female or as in the photo above hunting a Coot on the scrape at Summer Leys, it's still a winter visitor in this county, sadly.
 The Sanderling, again small, quite shy but has a unique character when running along a shoreline, I also like the very different plumage between winter plumage (as above) and their spring/summer plumage.
 The Short-Eared Owl, the only bird which during the winter will have me standing in freezing/wet/snowy/poor light all day long. Seriously not sure how I haven't suffered from frost bite whilst waiting for a Shorite to start hunting, but a couple of summer time sightings recently, just didn't have to same level of satisfaction, photography wise. I also like the fact that if you have decent fieldcraft it's one owl species that carries on about it's business of hunting whilst others flee, in fact I have had more "close encounters" with this species with one exception......
 The Swallow, fast agile, lovely colours in bright light, with care can be very approachable. Migrates vast distances and can charm the most "birds are boring" type of person Also I like the fact this bird features on many of my non-birding friends list of favourite birds/animals is impressive, very popular bird.

The Turnstone, again I like the fact that they're very approachable species, quite numerous so not hard to find, a bird that often when I'm photographing in "bird rich" locations others walk straight past them, but I always find myself chuckling at their antics or remember very fondly the Turnstone that walked right up to my lens looked inside the hood and walked off or the one on Titchwell beach whilst laying on my stomach walked over my back and carried on as if I wasn't there! Oh I prefer them in summer plumage, but don't mind the winter plumage.
Birds that were just outside the top ten were Barn Owls, Little Owls, Yellowhammer,Lapwing,Red Kite, Buzzard and Skylark.
What's your top ten then? Do you agree with my top ten or is there one that shouldn't be on there? One you think I missed off or are all birds lovely and great.
The Yellowhammer is featured as it came to a toss of a coin between the Turnstone and Yellowhammer between them for the top ten.....


  1. As always these images are perfect.
    I would like to see both The Starling and Long Tailed Tit in my top ten. They are both very sociable. I get hours of entertainment watching them.

    1. Oh bugger I forgot about Starlings and Lotties, totally agree about hours of fun watching them. We used to be able to tell locals from non locals when we lived in London, we would sit at a "pizza chain", at sunset "locals" would place briefcases,newspapers and umbrellas over their heads regardless of weather, non locals would walk around bemused, then the starling roost would come in to settle in for the night covering those unaware in starling pooh, fantastic sight, though the reaction of the GLC was abhorent, hey Mr."I like newts" Livingstone!

  2. I think they're ALL lovely

    Sorry, couldn't resist that.

    Seriously though, I'd be hard pressed to pick an out and out favourite; I think they all have their own charm. I do have a soft spot for Pheasant though; I used to have a fairly tame one when I lived in a cottage, and could call him from a field by the name I gave him, and hand feed him peanuts. One day he got shot. It was a Pheasant shooting estate.

    Great set of pictures Doug; and sorry I've turned the comment into a blog.

    1. That's alright Keith it was a lovely joke :o)
      Did you ever go and see the friendly Grey Heron at a pub near the Grand Union canal, it used to walk up to peoples beer and crisps and nick them, it was really tame, the brave would pet it, it sadly passed away a few years back.
      Don't worry about turning your comment into a blog I enjoy GREAT comments lol

  3. Stunning photos all of them Douglas but special mention must go the Short-eared Owl, Peregrine, Sanderling and Goldcrest shots. However my favourite has got be the Little Ringed Plover seeing off the Mallard :-)

    I think you've managed to pick at least half of my favorites though I would add Smew, Red Kite, Redwing, Whooper Swan and Pintail :-)

    1. That LRP was a plucky so&so the Mallard was chased, a group of Jackdaws and even a fox got chased by it, it was an impressive sight.
      In my list of 22 at the pub I had Redkite,Smew(gorgeous duck),Pintail (again stunning). Though I had Bewick as around here they're a slightly hard species to locate during the winter whilst we seem to get a few regular Whooper, I forgot about Redwing, so hard to narrow down our favourites to just ten.

  4. That's a great top ten list of birds and a lovely set of images Douglas. I really like the Goldcrest image, it's lovely, it's also great to see the levitating Sanderling on your list. Okay!..I'm done with the great and lovely thing now!
    My top ten list took some time to put together, I could have picked so many great (oops!) birds, so this is by no means a definitive list!...You asked for this, are you ready?...
    1. Curlew - it's at the top of the list not for its beauty but because of its haunting call. There's nothing like visiting a marshland reserve or an estuary early on a cold misty winters morning and hearing their ringing calls, puts a tingle down my spine every time!
    2. Grey Heron - The master of patience and stealth, they appear to be so laid back as they stand stock still, for what seems like an age, waiting for their prey to come within range before unleashing that deadly lightning fast strike.
    3. Robin - A bird with two sides to its character, the friendly little bird that appears just a few feet away every time you're working in the garden and the gutsy, fearless little terror that will see off any birds twice its size that dare to enter 'its' garden.
    4. Goldfinch - Just because, apart from their amazingly colourful plumage, I've had a flock of up to seventeen visiting my garden feeders every day, without fail, for over a year now. It's lovely (oops!) to hear their 'twittering' as they sit in the trees seemingly egging each other on to be first to come down to the feeders.
    5. House Sparrow - Again because I'm lucky enough to have a flock of around a dozen that regularly visit my feeders. A bird that has had a hard time over the last few years. I can remember, way back in the dark ages when I was a kid, huge noisy flocks of these everywhere around the village where I grew up.
    6. Swift, Swallow and House Martins (okay that's three!) - What better relaxation is there to be had than to sit beside a lake on a warm summers day and watch these masters of the sky as they swoop overhead hawking for insects?
    7. Kingfisher - A speeding electric blue bullet that flies past barely giving you time to register it's there but occasionally, if you're lucky, will rest for just a precious few moments and enable you to admire it's beauty, and maybe get a photo or two.
    8. Hobby - Another master of the skies, amazing to watch it's aerobatic skills as it expertly hawks for dragonflies.
    9. Bittern - rarely seen, but to hear that deep booming call coming from deep inside a reed bed is a wonderful experience.
    10. ? - Now this has to be for that once in a lifetime mega rare bird that appears right in front of you and poses perfectly in good light and allows you to capture the best photographs that you've ever taken. and when you post those photographs on blogger people comments with words like...that's great or that's really lovely...[;o)

    1. Number 10 is cheating Trevor, my mates put the rule that it had to be a bird I saw or photographed in the wild as I had Kookabura on my original twenty two (I was going to smuggle it onto the list) that I hand fed back to health after being smuggled in illegally to the country...BUT saying that I like the idea of of number 10 as you never know when a new bird to your list will become a favourite.
      I agree about the Curlew and it's call, I think the only other bird with such an evocative call that instantly conjours up specific mental imagery was the Golden Plover. But the Curlew also is one of those birds you can teach the call to a non-birder (along with yellowhammers) and they'll hopefully never forget...
      The House Sparrow was on my list of twenty two birds for exactly the same reasons you stated, I used to feed House Sparrows all the time from my hand in London instead of pigeons.
      Great list of birds to be honest Trevor that I can't really argue with to be fair...bugger I used the "g" word again :o)

    2. You've definitely started something now Douglas, I can't stop thinking about birds to add to the list, I must have a mental list of about a hundred now and they all have good reasons for being there! No Kookabura yet though!...[;o)

    3. It's a bugger for sure even harder when you have to narrow it down to ten.

  5. Sorry Douglas, I forgot this list...
    1 Rosberg
    2 Vettel
    outside shot Webber
    I don't think Ferrari will show well this w/end although Massa has nothing to lose so might surprise!
    Have you seen the latest re Alonso and Macca, now there's a thing!...[;o)

    1. Well I got a conspiracy theory brewing for Sunday. Firstly Kimi hasn't been paid and give the rumours I've heard might not get paid, so you got one angry driver with nothing to loose going to a team who's number 1 is second in the championship, so will Kimi take out Seb to please his new team and cost his old team money??? F1 is a weird world but given the pooh Alonso left Macca in after departing for Renault and the hefty fine Macca got in the ensuing controversy will they forgive and forget? Can't see it myself, according to Luca at Fezza Alonso was consulted all the way about Kimi joining Fezza, but again judging from Alonso I find that hard to believe, I love F1 it's like being back in the playground at school :o)
      1st Seb (unless Kimi and Mark play silly buggers)
      2nd Roseberg
      3rd Webber
      4th Lewis (though 3rd/4th could swap around)
      outside bet looking at the times in second practise Roman G and Jenson Button going to have to watch the red button from 18:00 for some highlights though.

    2. Nice theory Douglas but I don't think Kimi will want to get involved in any sort of politics, I think he'll just sit back and stroke it from now on!

      I think the main culprit at Macca was Ron Dennis, he made a lot of promises to Alonso and then didn't deliver. Now that he's been moved sideways and effectively had all his power removed (in F1 anyway) I don't think Alonso would have any problems, and add in the fact that Macca a desperate to make a good start with the new regs for next year they'll be willing to pay mega bucks to buy him out of Ferrari, Santander pay his salary so there's no problem there and he'll bring them along too. I think it's definitely on the cards, if not next year then maybe in 2015 when Honda arrive! A story that will run, I guess?.... It's all good fun!...[;o)

    3. I reckon Kimi and Ferrari should start spreading the rumour of a first corner shunt just to test Seb's mental strength, there was a driver (can't remember who it was now) that just before the start would catch the eye of the driver in front and look a the tryes as if there was a problem, used to work apparently....who would leave Macca Perez or Button?

    4. Yeh, added to the booing that would sure get him going!
      I think that might have been Stirling Moss, or maybe Jackie Stewart, that used to do that.
      I think Button has a two year contract in the bag, he's also a favourite with Honda, so I reckon Perez would be the one to go...[;o)

    5. I'm going to have to consult my books tonight, I can't seperate Jackie and Stirling, have a sneaky feeling it was Stirling.
      Perez would be my choice to go. If it was to happen.

  6. GREAT post! :) Swallow and hobby are most definitely on my list. I would need to have a think about my others. Maybe at some point I'll do a similar post! Fantastic shots, especially the LRP with the mallard!

    1. Thanks Lou, I recommend doing a list as it throws up a lot of conendrums and you start to remember certain species etc, i think I had six different line ups before the final line up.

  7. Amazing images Doug, and I can fully understand the reasoning behind your Top Ten. I think I'll have to go away and think about it, but you may have prompted me to do my own post on the subject!

    1. Inspiring two people with one post, if I get one of Findlay's Tuesday Quiz questions right then the world will implode :o)

  8. :) very nice shots....