PRACTICALITIES FOR PARK BIRD­ING

Bird Watching (UK) - - Reader Special -

Tim­ing is key. In gen­eral, the ear­lier you can get there the bet­ter. How­ever, for some birds, such as Buz­zards and Red Kites, you’ll have to stay later and con­tend with the crowds Take a good all-round pair of binoc­u­lars and keep them eas­ily ac­ces­si­ble. Con­di­tions can and will vary, with gloomy light un­der the trees. Hav­ing a wide field of view, with good sharp con­trast, will help you make the most of fleet­ing glimpses of birds as they flit about due to dis­tur­bances from other park users. Com­fort is im­por­tant. You’ll be cov­er­ing plenty of ground so keep­ing weight down is ad­vis­able. If you do take a lot of kit, make sure you have a back­pack that spreads the weight eas­ily. Good, stout, wa­ter­proof shoes or boots are also a must! right, but lit­tle things like this shouldn’t be ig­nored and this kind of project can present some rare op­por­tu­ni­ties to stir up a bit more in­ter­est about what we ac­tu­ally have here.” The Heath has had suc­cesses with pre­vi­ous con­ser­va­tion ar­eas and ini­tia­tives, some of which have led to sight­ings of rare vis­i­tors, in­clud­ing a Pur­ple Heron and a Bit­tern. Our next stop was an area of man­u­fac­tured wilder­ness where a few feed­ers have been in­stalled. A Great Spot­ted Wood­pecker clung to one of these, its scar­let skull cap a bright red dot in the gloom. Things are look­ing rea­son­ably good for these larger wood­peck­ers; sadly, the same can­not be said for their Lesser Spot­ted re­la­tions, which have de­clined lo­cally in the past decade. Bill led on past more ma­jor works, then, with time tick­ing on, turned west. The east­ern parks and Ken­wood House, with its deeper, denser wood­land, would have to be left un­vis­ited. The woods at Ken­wood were badly hit by the great storm of 1987, but have since re­cov­ered well and are a haven for wildlife, and Bill sus­pects they are home to a breed­ing pair of Hob­bies. As we passed down the av­enue of ma­ture lime trees that marked the way back to civil­i­sa­tion, a bronzed orange blur rose into the branches high above us. “Do you know what that was?” Bill grinned, with a know­ing look, and Alan and James trained their Tri­novid HDS into the branches above. “I’m tempted to say Man­darin,” ven­tured Alan, “But I’ve never seen one in a tree be­fore!” “Got it in one!’ grinned Bill, “But you’ve clearly been around the wrong trees, or the wrong ducks. They’re right at home up there.” There was a pair, look­ing down on the obliv­i­ous ur­ban masses. We watched a short while longer, be­fore turn­ing south again. It was now 10.30. The park was filling up and brunch was call­ing. It was time to give the Heath over to the run­ners, dog-walk­ers and ex­cited chil­dren. All val­ued this open green space, but few would stop to no­tice even half of the birds it holds. With any luck, the cur­rent works and fol­low-up will open a few eyes to the every­day won­ders of wildlife in a space like this and will also fo­cus a few more minds on giv­ing it the best pos­si­ble chance for the fu­ture. More in­for­ma­tion about Hamp­stead Heath is here: http://bit. ly/29tr2gv

For more on Hamp­stead Heath Ponds Project, visit: http://bit. ly/2aexqyg

For more in­for­ma­tion on Le­ica binoc­u­lars, visit: uk.le­ica­cam­era.com/ Sport-op­tics/ Le­ica-bird­ing

Bill Oddie’s of­fi­cial web­site can be found at bil­lod­die.com

Male Black­cap

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