My favourite birds

A game every birder likes to play is naming their favourite birds. Here are mine. My intention was to name my top five, but whittling them down that far proved too difficult.

 Hobby

This summer-visiting small falcon is surely the most breathtakingly elegant flier in the whole bird world. It twists, turns and tumbles with the utmost ease as it catches dragonflies on the wing. I defy anyone not to find it thrilling.

Swallow

Another bird with a beautiful flight, fluid and graceful. One of birding’s great pleasures is seeing the year’s first Swallow flicking through the air, with its lovely blue back and long tail streamers. The archetypal harbinger of Spring.

Wheatear

Another migrant visitor to Britain. It’s always a delight to find a newly arrived Wheatear on a headland, with its lovely grey mantle and conspicuous white rump. They fly ahead for only a short distance before landing again, always giving you another look. Among the earliest Spring arrivals.

Tree Sparrow

Not an easy bird to find in southern England now, this charming relative of the House Sparrow has declined dramatically in recent times. I can no longer find one in Hampshire, but I know a couple of sites in Kent. The trouble is, they’re so reluctant to let you look at them, flying away as soon as they know you’re onto them and seldom returning until you’ve given up and gone. ‘Little so-and-so’s’ – that’s my name for them.

Spotted Flycatcher

With its muted plumage, the Spotted Flycatcher may not be an obvious choice for a list like this, but its subtlety has a charm of its own. When I was a child, almost every orchard seemed to contain one. Now they’re much harder to find. Their insect-catching sally from a low branch is distinctive. One of the last summer visitors to arrive.

Dipper

A lifetime of holidaying on Exmoor has made me love this delightful bird. Find a fast-running stream going through woodland, look for a prominent rock standing out above the rushing water, and there’s a fair chance you’ll see a Dipper, bobbing up and down like a giant Wren. Always a treat to see.

Swift

In some ways the most magical of all birds. Their arrival in early May brings the feeling that summer really has arrived, and their departure only three months later is a sad moment. A river keeper on the Itchen told me that if there is reincarnation, he’d like to come back as a Swift. Easy to empathise with that.

 

Hampshire churches 12 – All Saints, Fawley

The parish church of All Saints, Fawley, is handsome, and prettily nestled among ancient yews, despite being close to Fawley’s giant oil refinery. Inside, the church is surprisingly large and rather bare.

Built in about 1170, it is on the site of an earlier 10C church, according to an information sheet in the church. No booklet was available.

The original dedication was to St Nicholas, the patron saint of seafarers. It was the last church they would see as they left Southampton Water.

The graveyard, too, is large, with an extension below the church to the east.

This church is included in both Betjeman’s 1958 Collins Guide and Simon Jenkins’s England’s Thousand Best Churches. It is described at some length (by David Lloyd) in the Hampshire volume of Pevsner.

Wide shot (final crop)

All Saints, Fawley 1, 13.Mar.17

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Path (new crop)

Poppies for Jill

These poppies were growing from the shingle at Dungeness. The photograph was taken in July 2005, and I post it now in memory of my dear wife Jill, who died on 28 October 2016. Poppies were her favourite flower and Dungeness was one of her favourite places.

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