I began birdwatching and egg collecting at the start of the 1950s in Britain when I was 7 years old. Egg collecting came to an abrupt halt in 1954 when the British government made this pastime illegal but I continued to maintain my “life list” […]
Author of "She Wore A Yellow Dress"
During the 1950s and 1960s, as a young birder in the north of England, I frankly ignored the rather common, drab and inconspicuous-looking birds known as house sparrows and tree sparrows that I encountered around the farm. The two species look very similar except that […]
Growing up in Yorkshire, I called them waterhens (now often known as moorhens) and read that they were members of the rail family. After all, they were the size and shape of a chicken, they “clucked”, and laid eggs like a hen (i.e. many eggs […]
Meet the Eurasian common cuckoo bird and the North American brown-headed cowbird, both brood parasites. As a boy many years ago in northern England, I pursued a little brown bird called a hedge sparrow, flicking its tail and shuffling through dense bramble undergrowth and […]
Eurasian/common teal bird (male) The first Eurasian teal bird I ever saw was a flock flying south over the sea at Spurn Point, Yorkshire, in England, presumably on their way to wintering grounds around the Mediterranean or closer. The identification of this small duck […]
Dotterel, a small plover, and a word in Britain used to describe a person easily deceived, stupid or gullible; why?
As a small wader and member of the plover family of birds, the dotterel is known for its friendly, sweet and trusting behavior towards humans. As a result, it is easily caught, was hunted for sport, eaten by royalty as a delicacy during English Tudor […]
The European goldfinch, a native of Europe, North Africa and western and central Asia, was such an attractive bird that hundreds of thousands were taken from the wild to become cage birds in Britain less than 100 year ago. This led to the British government […]
Which bird is called A Woosell (ouzel) Cocke by William Shakespeare in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, or as a colly (calling) bird on the Fourth Day of Christmas, or announced in a farewell song published in 1926, or was rumored to die if it ate pomegranates. Today, it is the national bird of Sweden, has as its cousin, the American Robin, and 24 of them feature in a nursery rhyme.
I first identified the blackbird in my early years when it was one of the top three commonest species in Britain, along with the starling and the house sparrow. At the time, an estimated 6 million pairs were supposed to be resident in the country […]
Which British bird is supposed to have influenced the opening notes of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, and is the name given to Alabama’s state bird?
Growing up in Britain on a farm during the 1950s, I was always fascinated by the sight and sound of the yellowhammer that belongs to the bunting family and is 6.5 inches (16.5 cm) in length. The males would sing from the tops of hedges […]
Which British bird was killed and imprisoned in cages due to its habit of attacking the blossom of commercial fruit trees?
There was a small mixed orchard of apple and pear trees a few yards away from my farm during the 1950s and close to a farm laborer’s cottage that stood derelict. The occupier had not been seen since World War 11. When I wandered down […]
The current global pandemic reminds me of my birdwatching experience at Spurn Point Bird Observatory in Yorkshire, England during October 1962. I stayed there for several days while there was no communication with the outside world. On the day I left the Observatory, I discovered […]
Which species of large Atlantic gull is sometimes nicknamed the “minister” or “coffin-bearer”, presumably because of the color of its plumage?
I never saw great black-backed gulls around the farm during the 1950s, and at the time, only a few wintered around York. They are the largest gull in the world, measuring 30 inches (75cm) in length. By comparison, an adult golden eagle ranges in size […]