Friday, 26 February 2016
Britain's great bird spectacles
Britain might not have anything like the longest bird list in the world – in the last couple of weeks, in fact, we've finally had the 600th species added to it, Yelkouan Shearwater, seen off Devon a few years back – but that's not to say it doesn't have its own unique attractions.
So, if it doesn't compare with the likes of Peru or Ecuador, with 1,500-plus species each, it makes up for it in a number of ways.
Accessibility, for one. Even our rarer species can be seen without having to trek into the back of beyond for days on end, and many of our greatest avian spectacles take place right under our noses (or just beyond the tips of our noses, I suppose).
Seabird 'cities' are just one of those spectacles. Some do require boat trips, but others – South Stack, Anglesey; Rathlin Island, Northern Ireland; or Bempton Cliffs, Yorkshire – can be viewed without having to leave dry land, and we do have internationally significant populations of a number of seabirds, not least the magnificent Gannet (pictured above). Seeing a Gannet dive for fish is always a thrill, but to be right in the midst of one of their noisy, smelly breeding colonies is just as exhilarating, an all-round sensory overload that will keep you coming back for more.
Which is all a convoluted way of telling you that I have this book, A Sky Full Of Birds, in which seabird cities feature prominently, out on April 7th. You'll be seeing a lot more of it in the next few weeks, so I apologise in advance to those of you put off by such barefaced commercialism. But hey, look on the bright side. There'll be bird photos, and bird facts, and if any one of these posts encourage you to get out and see some birds, then so much the better.