An introverted, unusual boy, isolated by his obsessions and a loner at school, Chris Packham only felt at ease in the fields and woods around his suburban home. But when he stole a young Kestrel from its nest, he was about to embark on a friendship that would teach him what it meant to love, and that would change him forever.
Chris brings to life his childhood in the Seventies in this rich, lyrical and emotionally exposing memoir, now available in paperback. From his bedroom bursting with fox skulls, birds' eggs and jam jars filled with bugs and beetles to his feral adventures, Chris's story is the search for freedom, meaning and acceptance in a world that didn't understand him. more
The Two-barred Crossbill found on Bank Holiday Monday among its Common cousins at Haddon Hill, in south-western Somerset close to the Devon border, has the distinction of having arrived in historically the least productive month of the year for this species. If accepted, this will be only the third of its kind to have been located in April, the normal peak being in July and August (though another was reported this year in North Yorkshire on 3 April). The bird was typically capricious, sometimes going missing for hours, other times showing well for photographs.
Breeding across a wide swathe of northern Fennoscandia and Siberia, Two-barred Crossbill is an irruptive species, appearing less than annually in Britain and Ireland. The last (and largest) significant invasion was in 2013, when there were 35 records over the year, almost all in late summer. The American form leucoptera, known as White-winged Crossbill, is a potential split. more
It's been another interesting week in birding as migrants continue to trickle in, with some healthy falls of common migrants occurring in the south and west and a scattered arrival of forerunning overshoots, which are hopefully just a hint at what may be to come as spring migration shifts gear with the approach of May.
Bread and Cheese Cove on St Martin's, Isles of Scilly, continued to host the fine adult male Common Rock Thrush found on Sunday 10th over the first part of the week, although it could not be found during searches on 16th and 17th and has presumably sought its bread and butter elsewhere. The controversial Kent bird of 1983 aside, by the 10th day of the bird's stopover, it had just pipped the previous long-stay record for the species and earned renewed prestige for the oft-forgotten island. Other long-staying, but remote, major rarities included the Pied-billed Grebe on Loch Feorlin, Argyll, and the American Coot on North Uist, both still in place on 17th, and the drake American Black Duck still at Strontian, Highland to 18th.
The species having regained the status of metaphorical pearl in recent years, with many claims resolving as misidentifications and the few genuine birds being erratic and/or remote, the speedy identification and news of a first-winter American Herring Gull in the pig fields around Great Livermere, Suffolk, pricked many ears on the evening of 15th. Unsurprisingly, it was a first for the county so the area received an exhaustive grilling over subsequent evenings, drawing a massive blank save for a brief reappearance on the evening of 16th. Erratic to say the least, hopefully it will return to allow Suffolk birders and the new generation of British listers a chance to add this challenging species to their lists. Perhaps equally frustrating was late news of a meenaOriental Turtle Dove at Crigglestone, West Yorks, on 11th March which will have been gutting for local birders.
News across the region has been fairly slow this week but included a Black-winged Kite in Sweden at Orust, Västra Götaland, on 12th; a Bar-tailed Lark at Cape Greco, Cyprus, on 13th and a Black Bush Robin at Mutla'a Ranch, Kuwait, on 14th. Hungary's first Bonaparte's Gull was found at Hortobágy on 14th and another Swedish Black-winged Kite was at Skurup, Skåne, on 17th, when the adult Black-browed Albatross was back on Heligoland, Germany.
On the debit side came confirmation that the Spanish Rarities Committee has now deleted the record of Fork-tailed Flycatcher from Huelva on 19 October 2002. As the sole record of this species away from the Americas, Fork-tailed Flycatcher is therefore also removed from the Western Palearctic list. The move follows a similar recent rejection by the same committee of the WP's only Louisiana Waterthrush record, from Tenerife, Canary Islands, in November 1991 (Dutch Birding 39: 92–94 and 94–96).