I started birdwatching at 12, leading to a career in the Forestry
Commission where I led on Environment and Recreation. I was a member of
RSPB Council and co-authored the Poyser ‘Birds and Forestry’ with Mark.
Now most of my birdwatching is in a magic valley in the Languedoc
swarming with Nightingale, Turtle Dove, Corn Bunting and Woodlark.

Shifting Baselines

We all know about shifting baselines but what was it really like ? Are our memories simply rose tinted ? Looking through old bird notes I found this account of a walk in perfectly ordinary countryside south of Oxford when I was sixteen.

6 June 1971

It wasn’t a very nice day but a lot of birds were about. I went for a long walk to some gravel workings down by the Thames. In the valley a Cuckoo was cuckooing and a skylark sang from the field next to our garden. In a reedy pond in Radley Park a Grasshopper warbler was reeling and I got a beautiful view of  a Turtle Dove which flew out of a tree. A large number of Swifts flew overhead with House Martins. Also in the park I saw a pair of Bullfinches and a Yellowhammer.

On the other side of Radley, wheat fields were full of Yellow wagtails as well as a small flock of Linnets and Goldfinches but the best bird was a Whitethroat carrying food. At  the gravel pits there were Pied wagtail, another Whitethroat and about 200 Sand Martin and in the woods nearby a Stock Dove and another Turtle Dove.

On the way home there was another Turtle Dove on the wires but the best bird was a Corn bunting which I saw and heard really well. “

Turtle Dove. Photo: Roderick Leslie

Mark’s BBS square blogs are a good comparator for what you’d see today in a random piece of agricultural countryside. No doubt someone has a patch that could rival my 1971 experience but one certainly won’t find it in a random part of arable England.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes:

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>