Saturday, 25 January 2020

The Saturday List #249 - My ten favourite birds that you will see in Mill Hill

I'm not a birdwatcher, but I have a keen fascination with the birds that I see on my travels around Mill Hill and especially in my garden. When I was a child, my mother would feed the birds in the garden. She'd leave bread out and we'd see sparrows, starlings, blackbirds and if we were lucky thrushes. I was never too keen on the starlings, as they seemed a tad ugly and rather greedy, lacking the grace of the blackbirds and the charm of the sparrows. Sadly this all stopped one day when she saw a rat tucking into the scraps. We currently have a Robin that sits on the window sill and displays a great interest. My mother had an aversion to blue tits, that would peck the op off the milk and drink the cream in winter.

In the summer, the next door neighbour had a swifts nest under their gutters. I loved these birds with their amazing aerobatics and high speed manoeuvres. My Dad once told me that an Ace fighter pilot once told him that he used to study these birds and the birds of prey, to devise tactics to attack the Luftwaffe.

At some point in the 1970's the magpies moved in and we saw a massive decline in the number of songbirds in Mill Hill. I have always found Magpies fascinating, but my mother believed them to be the devil incarnate and used to insist we always said "Good morning Mr Magpie, hows your wife" to ward them off. A friend of mine, Spud Hudson, kept a pet crow. It would nick shiny trinkets from the neighbours and exchange them for scraps. Sadly his neighbours moggy extracted revenge.
When I was about nine, I made friends with a crow. I'd bring it out scraps of meat that it would eat from my hand. It would then do various tricks to entertain me, I realised that crows are probably the most intelligent animal on the planet. Again my mother caught me and was horrified.

A more recent visitor, one that I always feel a great admiration for, even though it has cost me hundreds of pounds, is the heron that decimates my pond.

 This is the most magnificent bird that you will see in Mill Hill. As it takes off, it is truly majestic. All of these have been spotted in the garden over the years.

1. Blackbirds.
2. Thrushes
3. Sparrows
4. Robins
5. Crows
6. Swifts
7. Magpies
8. Crows
9. Blue Tits
10. Herons

For some reason, I've never felt much affinity with pigeons and seagulls, which seem to be the majority of local avian life. I do rather like spotting the green parakeets that populate Arrendene, although as an invasive species I know they are not universally appreciated.

As regular readers will know, I regularly walk the Totteridge Valley via Hammers Lane and the Ridgeway. I strongly recommend this. There are many amazing birds you will see, but look out for geese, swans and ducks, on the ponds, Red Kites and other birds. If you want to learn more about the subject from someone who actually knows what they are talking about, I highly recommend Samuel Levy's amazing website. He has great footage of avian life in the Totteridge valley. Follow him on Twitter. Here is one of his videos from the Totteridge valley

Another local worth a look is Don Lyven, who is rather keen on sparrows.

Our local wildlife is a treasure to be enjoyed. That is why it is important to protect the green belt. It is not empty, it is teeming with life. Concrete car parks and power stations are not.

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