A speeding blur of black and yellow (* see note at end of post)
A flash of colour. The call of a bird as it flies into the safety of a bush. What was it? A bird obviously. But what sort of bird?
I became keen on birds when I was about 6 years old. I lived on a farm in a rural part of Yorkshire and saw plenty of wild birds. The farm had chickens and ducks, and pigs, but they didn’t interest me much. I liked the small colourful birds of the area and even managed to find birds nests, though how I managed to reach up into hedgerows at that age is a mystery to me now.
European Robin (Erithacus rubecula) on a fence post, East Sussex, England
My mother was also keen on birds, spending much time in her kitchen looking out into the garden, so she bought a small book of British birds (I think it was one of the Observers series) that she still has to this day – the book must be at least 50 years old. It wasn’t till I was older that I started using the book to identify species that I didn’t recognise.
Now I have a collection of books covering birds of Africa, Asia (including Australia and India), Europe, the Middle East, and North and South America.
A few bird books from my collection
While I was always keen to see, and where possible to photograph, birds I was never one for documenting what I saw, where I saw them or what the birds were doing. I have friends that keep copious records, their life lists and country lists, and some that do so in contribution to ecology. I do it for me, pure and simple. I bird-watch for the delight and experience of seeing birds in the wild. If I had wanted to spend hours or longer searching for new species in a rainforest I would have chosen ecology as a career.
Tour vehicle on the Trans-Pantanal Highway, Mato Grosso, Brazil
Having said that I do keep lists while I am “on safari” especially when jungle-bashing (I run intermittent trips into the Amazon and Pantanal – refer to my post of 7th June 2017) so that if I am lucky enough to get a saleable photograph I have the information available in respect of where and when. I use the term safari in the original arabic/swahili context – that is, when travelling to European city destinations.
So while I regard myself as a keen birder I would certainly not call myself an ornithologist (amateur or otherwise). Casual, that’s me.
Clockwise: Amazon Kingfisher, Fork-tailed Flycatcher, Golden-chevroned Parakeet, Hyacinth Macaw, Hoatzin, Green Bee-eater.
* The bird was later identified as a Yellow-hooded Blackbird but, although I managed to get a better picture of it the image was blurred by the rocking boat that I was on before I could get a decent shot.