A bird race is a competition for the ‘Otters’ to see or hear as many species of bird as possible. All birds must be seen or heard by a young person and validated by an impartial leader. As we didn’t have any of those, Cam and Joost stepped in to lead the two teams!
Cam’s team strode off purposefully through mature woodland towards Lady Blantyre’s rock, the heathland above, open lawns and moorland of the golf course and back along Cross Gates Lane.
Joost’s team dawdled around Coppice Pond, noting lots of water birds on the pond, including a surprisingly colourful Moorhen (green legs; yellow and red beak; plus black, brown and white plumage).
Moorhen with chicks
We also saw Coot, Canada Goose, Mallard, Mute Swan, and a stumpy, round Tufted Duck diving under the surface, plus open woodland birds like the Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff around the edges. Those two birds look very similar, but have very different calls.
Willow Warbler (photo Andreas Trepte, www.photo-natur.net)
Joost’s team then set off towards the golf course, looking for thrushes and blackbirds hunting worms and snails on the grass, tiny, noisy, wrens around the dry-stone walls and nut hatches and treecreepers scampering over old oak trees.
Treecreepers always creep up a tree
Nuthatches scurry down the tree (photo Stephen Lilley)
We grabbed a few bonus points with a kestrel and buzzard soaring high over the top meadows (it’s always worthwhile having binoculars to bring those distant birds into clearer view). Finally, a tip-off from Cam helped Joost’s team see a Pied flycatcher – not at all a common sight.
Pied Flycatcher (photo Stephen Lilley)
As an extra treat, we then heard a Wood Warbler, which sounds like a coin spinning on a table! And then a more common Goldcrest - a tiny olive bird which, when agitated, reveals a spectacular orange mohican!
We all struggled back to base, over time and eager to know the result. Somehow Joost’s team had managed to tip the balance in their favour (Les and Chris were helping too!!) with a very respectable 36 species as shown below: