Today I went "back to my roots", visiting Beddington Farmlands with Beddington "native" Peter Alfrey, where I spent much of my early birding life learning birds. On top of that I also saw some of the very species that turned me into a birder. I remember well being in Richmond Park in London at the tender age of 11 (clearly, a long, long time ago) and seeing my first Great and Blue Tit sharing a tree, and being stunned that my birding friend, Lee Dingain could tell them apart. That was the moment that turned me into a birder who never looked back from there, and those were the birds responsible: Blue Tit and Great Tit, both of which I saw today and brought those landmark memories flooding back.
Other sightings at Beddington today included a superb Long-tailed Tit dangling in front of me and just begging me to photograph it (how could I not under the circumstances!) A number of warblers were also present, including a few Willow Warblers, and a Common Whitethroat.
A Eurasian Hobby scythed through the air at one point overhead. However, one of the flagship birds at Beddington is the Eurasian Tree Sparrow, a bird that is in serious trouble in Britain in general but has a thriving population at Beddington (being one of the two main sites in the UK for the species). This year Peter informed me some 600 young birds were fledged on "the farm" (as Beddington is often affectionately known), and so this appears to have been a bumper one for them, at Beddington at least.
Indeed, the Tree Sparrows, among many other things, are one of the principal reasons that Beddington may one day be made into the largest nature reserve in London, something that Peter is working tirelessly towards, and of course one I wish him all success in. No matter which country you consider there are simply never enough nature reserves, and this one in the heart of an urban area has served to create many a birder in the past, and can continue to bring people into vital contact with nature. In this way, it might create birders of people (or conservationists), as it did for Peter and I. I look back on the years in the 80s when you could go over there in the winter and see regular wintering Short-eared Owls and wish those days were not now long gone. It would be sad for what birds remain there to end up gone too (here endeth my "lecture" !)
If you wish to see more on Beddington, and understand why this would make a fantastic addition to the London urban nature reserve network, then check out Peter's blog here http://peteralfreybirdingnotebook.blogspot.com/