Saturday, 23 June 2012

A walk in an English park

I was in the UK last week to visit family, friends and to have a visa processed. it wasn't really a time for birding. 

Indeed there has never been a time for me to bird in the UK. I started this hobby late (though very intensively) and confess I have only birded with any knowledge twice in my life in my home country.  My element is a 120 degree arc pivoting on Varna, Bulgaria from south west round to directly east of there. It stretches  from Tripoli, Libya to Baku, Azerbaijan and many places in between such as Riyadh and Tirana. I also have a fair grounding in west Africa from Senegal to Namibia. 

But in the UK - virtually nothing.

On my first day in the UK, seeing tame goldfinch and greenfinch in my brother's sub urban London garden while staring out the kitchen was a joy. The next day, I made a mental note to put my sighting on ebird of canada geese seen through the window of my great western train journey to Worcester. Without this input its not on my formal life list.

After all the visits, on the last two mornings, before my onward journey to Bulgaria, I did manage to snatch a couple of walks round Cofton Park on the Worcestershire-Birmingham border.


I didn't really know what to do. Its difficult to explain but when you bird a new area it takes time to get the feel of the place, to get the feel of the birds' habits and where and how to look. 

As I entered the park, a robin was very obliging but my first thought was that bluethroat has got a redbreast!  I am so used to seeing bluethroat (in winter), I marvelled at the similarity.Some of the habits seem the same but robin appears in trees whereas I can't remember a bluethroat ever going up more than 30 cm into one. 

Of course I have seen many robin before, particularly wintering in coastal Libya, summering in Albanian hills etc  but the British ones seem so tame and allow prolonged viewing.

side on view of the same robin

Bulgarian villages hum with the sound of nightingale which has a reputation for its attractive song. However the more I listen to blackbird, the more I think its sound is at least a match. England (and I presume the rest of the UK) is very lucky to hear this wonderful melody. 

male blackbird

Bulgarian blackbird is a shy creature of woods. I rarely see it in gardens and it scares so easily. Don't believe the Collins guide that says this bird is tame. It is plain wrong.The British ones are, the ones in my arc certainly are not.  

juvenile blackbird

I had more photo opportunities on blackbird in two hours in an English park than two years elsewhere.

wood pigeon

I don't return to the UK often so I can see changes that have taken place over years accelerated. Though I don't have numbers to back me up, except a Daily Mail article I just found on the web and I don't believe that source for much! but wood pigeon appears far more numerous than in my youth or indeed over the past few years. I presume its because people don't shoot and eat it very much any more. Cheap chicken prices have many advantages.

more wood pigeon

Another obvious feature of the park was the abundance of corvids. They were varied and plentiful.


There were lots of common crow and magpie but it took me sometime to realise that some of the dark corvids were rook and especially jackdaw. Since when did jackdaw become so common?


My art of birding in the UK needs practice. I was not nearly as good tracking the small birds as I was with the large ones unless like the robin they offered themselves in front of me.

I did work out there were at least three kinds of tit in the park.


There were blue tit, great tit and long tailed tit. All of these are well known to me. Indeed I see them in my adopted village in Bulgaria regularly. Not sure which tit is in the picture above. I took the camera first before attempting an ID. 

My biggest failing on my short walk out was my inability to track down any warblers.  They must be there but my eye and particularly my ears weren't up to the job. Maybe next time.


  1. White cheek-patches should give you a clue Rob, warblers have now gone very quiet songwise and i do'nt think the weather has helped any! Looking forward to postings from your 'proper' patch.

    Laurie -

  2. Laurie, I haven't announced this but you have flushed me out. I am in Bulgaria until early July then I am taking a month out birding in the east - Japan, New Zealand, Tonga, Samoa and Vanuatu. Is that exotic enough for you!

    Incidentally when I get back to Saudi there is a good chance I am being posted to Abha in the mountains where the birding will be distinctly African in feel. Rob

    1. Enjoy your holiday Rob. I'm currently in Florida where the bird lifeis amazing.

  3. 'Posted' - that sounds 'hush-hush', i plan on visiting Bulgaria next year and am looking forward to it. The Far East trip sounds good, i'll keep you 'posted' if anything turns up in Kiddy!

    Laurie -