Bird Watching (UK) - - Reader Special -

Bird Watch­ing

Over the years, Bill has seen some spec­tac­u­lar mi­gra­tion sights from this van­tage point, in­clud­ing Ospreys, Pied Fly­catch­ers and Red-backed Shrikes

Wood War­blers and Red-backed Shrikes. We’d been ob­serv­ing a pair of Mis­tle Thrushes around the base of the hedgerow run­ning down to High­gate Ponds on the east­ern edge of the Heath, when Alan, now peer­ing in­tently through a pair of Ul­travid 8x32 HD Plus, said: “I think that might be some­thing in­ter­est­ing. It’s not un­like a Black­bird, but has a white bib…” The sight gave ev­ery­one a warm glow, in spite of the day’s chill breeze – which had just got even colder. The wind was not all that was get­ting up – Hamp­stead’s hu­man res­i­dents were also be­gin­ning to take over the Heath for the day. Jog­gers pounded the paths and dog-walk­ers de­scended from all sides as their ca­nine charges sniffed what re­mained of the pre­vi­ous night’s smells. As a fair num­ber of them were head­ing for the top of our hill, a Kestrel passed over the group, head­ing north above the tree-lined edges of High­gate Ponds. We fol­lowed its lead. “It’s an oc­cu­pa­tional haz­ard of bird­ing some­where like this,” Bill said, to the bright sound­track of an un­seen Black­cap, num­bers of which have in­creased on the Heath in re­cent years. “It just takes one dog to see off the birds, or stop them from show­ing them­selves – and with pro­fes­sional dog walk­ers these days, you have hun­dreds! Some­times, we’ll have a lit­tle com­pe­ti­tion to see who can spot the walker with the most dogs. I think the record cur­rently stands at about 25.” To find some peace, we left the beaten track and made our way to the edge of one of Hamp­stead’s fa­mous bathing ponds. In spite of the weather, a few hardy souls had taken the plunge, armed with noth­ing more than stan­dard swim­suits and swim­ming caps. Cosy be­neath lay­ers of fat and feath­ers, a Mal­lard and a Man­darin looked on. It doesn’t do to hang around for too long in the bushes near scant­ily clad bathers with binoc­u­lars The pass­ing crowds don’t no­tice the amaz­ing an­tics of this wood­land ac­ro­bat Com­pe­ti­tion win­ners Alan and James bird­watch­ing with Bill Oddie on Hamp­stead Heath. A male Great Spot­ted Wood­pcecker takes the bait


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