Urban Birder David Lindo shares his passion for bird spotting
PUBLISHED: 09:02 20 October 2018 | UPDATED: 09:26 20 October 2018
Urban birder David Lindo shares his tips on how to spot migrating birds this Autumn
“Norfolk was like a Mecca to me when I was a teenager. We would drive up overnight to Cley and sleep in the car until dawn. I saw species of birds I had never seen before; ones that were far easier to spot in Norfolk than anywhere else in the country.”
David Lindo aka Urban Birder’s love of the Norfolk landscape and memories of the variety of birds he spotted as a 16-year-old boy will stay with him, he says, for the rest of his life.
It is therefore apt that the man is on a whistle stop tour of the county which fuelled his passion for birdlife. A visit to Pensthorpe Natural Park followed by a talk at Norwich Science Festival to inspire people of all ages to develop an appreciation of birdlife in their gardens.
David’s book ‘How to be an Urban Birder’ include tips on using binoculars, where to go and how to identify birds from the Countryfile and Springwatch presenter, who was recently named the seventh most influential person in wildlife by BBC Wildlife Magazine.
Growing up in London, David spent his childhood observing birds from his bedroom window and later exploring their urban habitats; building sites, derelict land and parks.
“I tell people to try to see your urban environment as how a bird would: The buildings are cliffs and any green areas are an oasis for nesting, resting and feeding.”
During the Autumn, David explains it is the ideal time of year to see the residues of the summer migration with house martins and chiffchaffs flying overhead.
It is also the season when winter birds including the pink footed geese and wild swans arrive in droves and feed on grain and stubble in the fields.
A more familiar species – the blackbird– as well as the woodcock also arrive on mass from the continent for the winter and make landfall here.
“It is one of the best times of year because birds aren’t in such a rush when they are migrating. Birds do not just migrate north to south - they also migrate south to north. They can turn up anywhere at anytime.”
Migration is assisted by weather conditions such as a strong tail wind but when conditions are a lot stormier then flocks of migrating birds can get held up in the UK.
The smaller birds tend to migrate at night because it is cooler and there is less chance of being eaten by larger predators. They feed in the first few hours of the morning catching insects and berries – to fatten up for their journey.
David admits that there is still a lot to learn about bird migration although the use of satellite technology in tracking birds has provided valuable insight.
“We know that birds have an internal register when lets them know that the days are shortening – it is instinctive – even if they are kept in cages then they start hopping around ready to fly off at this time of year.”
Over the years, David has built up a breadth of knowledge which he shares in his book but still prefers to be known as a birder and distinguishes himself from the sometimes unfairly mocked twitchers.
“Twitchers are rarity hunters – it is mainly a male pursuit and very competitive Twitchers get very excited if they find a bird in the UK from America or Asia and they want it on their list at all costs. However sometimes birders twitch and twitchers sometimes bird”
But whether you are a twitcher or birder his motto is simple: look up!
A few urban birding tips to get you started:
• See your urban environment as how a bird would: The buildings are cliffs and any green areas are an oasis for nesting, resting and feeding.
• Don’t stress about learning the names and songs of all the birds you encounter, just enjoy them.
• You don’t have to wear green anoraks; you can look cool and fashionable
• Find a local patch to regularly visit.
• Don’t go out expecting to see anything. That way you’ll never be disappointed but most likely be surprised.
• Certain birds, like black redstarts, love building sites
• To spot birds of prey like peregrines and buzzards, get up as high as possible on a clear day (between 10am and 2pm) and look to the north or north-east, where they’re most likely to migrate in from Scandinavia.
How to feed birds
• Feed birds a mixed menu of peanuts (non salty), seed and some mealworms
• Make sure you use a bird feeding unit which they can peck at to avoid a bird choking on a whole peanut
• Use a ground feeding tray as well as high feeder and remember to pick up the tray at night to avoid rats
• Leave out fresh water all the time
• Start leaving food out in Autumn so the younger birds know where to go in winter
How to be an Urban Birder is from 7.30pm to 9.30pm on Friday 19th October 2018 and costs £12 per person for Pensthorpe members and £15 per person for non-members. Spaces are limited and booking is essential. To book tickets please visit pensthorpe.com.
The Urban Birder will be appearing at the Norwich Science Festival in the Forum from 1:30pm – 2:30pm on Saturday 20th October.
Pensthorpe Natural Park is open 6th September – 31st December, 10am – 5pm
Entry prices: Adults £11.95, Seniors £10.95, Children £10.95, Under 3’s free.