Yesterday Melissa Harrison posted her ten favourite British birds on Twitter, which rapidly evolved to a fifteen, then to a twenty. Inspired by this I thought I’d have a go too.
So this wasn’t actually fun. I ended up with about forty birds on the list, then whittled it down from there. The initial long-list looked like this:
So that was a start, and I had good reasons behind all those choices. For some reason Jackdaw got scratched off, then put back. And Curlew briefly appeared twice. All par for the course. But then I started trying to bring it down to twenty, and got to this point:
Twenty. Easy. Except suddenly there was a huge waxwing-shaped hole in my list and I had to decide which to remove. I figured with three corvids on there it probably should be one of them, and I picked Rook. I’m regretting that choice as I write these words. I love Rooks. Why did I eliminate Rook? What is wrong with me?
But it’s too late now. So the final list, in no particular order, is:
Blackbird – because summer evenings wouldn’t be the same without its song
Dipper – because for such a comical-looking bird, it is hard-as-nails, taking on conditions that would kill us and raising its young there without batting an eyelid
Long-tailed Tit – I’ve probably said this before, but a group once landed on a fatcake feeder while I was hanging it up. I’ve been besotted ever since.
Bullfinch – again this is sound-based. That plaintive call is heartbreaking and speaks of loss in a way poets never could.
Starling – life would be less interesting without them
Treecreeper – keep climbing
Great-crested Grebe – I’ve become too close to one pair over the past four years not to include them
Jackdaw – a recent bird of the week star, all character and intelligence
Magpie – yes, they can be destructive. But they are smart and endlessly entertaining in their interactions
Red Kite – The most glorious sight when the sun hits them, perfection
Eider Duck – looks graceful and elegant, sounds like Frankie Howerd, what’s not to love?
Curlew – They evoke certain British landscapes like nothing else
Gannet – majestic, elegant, extraordinary
Puffin – I always like them, but after close encounters on Lunga I was utterly charmed
Swift – they are Spring and Summer
Pied Wagtail – the urban winter roosts earn them the spot
Robin – charming and friendly when they want to be, vicious little sods when they don’t
Siskin – one bird sounds like a hundred, so a tree with twenty sounds like a million (the maths doesn’t really hold up there)
Yellowhammer – I grew up spending day trips on the North York Moors, so this is the sound of my childhood
Waxwing – quite simply the most beautiful bird I’ve ever seen
So there you go. Twenty birds. Plus about another twenty that didn’t deserve to be cut. I could do the list of birds I hate. Bearded Tits. I’ve seen them but never really seen them. They just bound overhead, an orange squeaky blur, taunting me. I hate them. Just Bearded Tits in every spot on the list. It’s my issue really, not theirs. But for now, I hate them.
And I’ve just realised I forgot the Wheatear…
If you don’t know of Melissa by the way, she is a wonderful writer and it’s well worth checking out her work.