KEY SPECIES

Bird Watching (UK) - - Event Norfolk Bird Race -

BLACK RED­START The Black Red­start is one of two species of red­start to be found in the UK, with the other be­ing the sum­mer-vis­it­ing Red­start. For­mally classed as mem­bers of the thrush fam­ily, the pop­u­lar think­ing now is to in­clude red­starts and other chats as Old World fly­catch­ers. Black Red’s, as com­monly coined by bird­ers, have a large dis­tri­bu­tion, rang­ing from the UK across to cen­tral China and south into Morocco. Here, it is a very rare breeder and thus Red-listed, with be­tween 40-100 breed­ing pairs. Their num­bers are swollen to around 400 in­di­vid­u­als dur­ing the win­ter. In Europe, their pop­u­la­tion is ranked at 4.5 mil­lion pairs. There are sev­eral the­o­ries as to why our pop­u­la­tion is so low, though, across the Chan­nel, they are nu­mer­ous. One in­ter­est­ing sup­po­si­tion is that their num­bers are kept low by com­pe­ti­tion with the far more dom­i­nant Robin. On the con­ti­nent, the Robin is very much a shy wood­land dweller, so the Black Red­starts there can thrive in ur­ban ar­eas due to the lack of com­pe­ti­tion. Al­though well known to bird­ers, Black Red­starts are vir­tu­ally un­known to the gen­eral pub­lic. This is prob­a­bly due not only to their rar­ity, but to their propen­sity for nest­ing on derelict land or in busi­ness ar­eas. the flotilla of boats and barges that sur­rounded it. Other avian de­lights in­clude the usual com­mon gulls, Cor­morant, Mal­lard and Feral Pi­geons along the shore­line. Waders and Com­mon Terns can be of­ten lo­cated down­river. I have watched prospect­ing Oys­ter­catch­ers from the shore­line of Green­wich Penin­sula Ecol­ogy Park, a promis­ing small lo­cal na­ture re­serve next to a hous­ing es­tate. The ur­ban bird­ing scene within Lon­don is per­haps the most de­vel­oped in the world, and up­wards of 400 species have been dis­cov­ered within its bound­aries. WH Hud­son would cer­tainly be proud, but also sad­dened at the demise of Lon­don’s other em­blem­atic species, the House Spar­row. There are now just a hand­ful of places in Cen­tral Lon­don where its cheeky chirps can still be heard. Keep ex­plor­ing those hid­den cor­ners, not only to find more spar­rows, but also to dis­cover to­mor­row’s new ur­ban bird­ing hotspots. Black Red­start

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