Birder's Guide

MAR 2017

Birder's Guide is the American Birding Association's newest publication. Each issue focuses on a key subject, providing tips from experienced birders on a wide variety of topics like Travel, Listing & Taxonomy, Gear, and Conservation & Community.

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Page 18 of 95

17 March 2017 | Birder's Guide to Travel watch this impressive sight, and I love this eastern coastline in winter. The long, open, sandy beaches and salt marshes, and the thousands of birds, make it a very special place. It is fantastic to see, on a cold, sunny, winter's morning, huge skeins of geese adorn the skies as they leave their nighttime roost and head to the fields to feed. Norfolk also attracts thou - sands of wintering waders, and it is pos- sible to watch the swirling mass of gray and golden shorebirds while the geese wink wink wink overhead. #8 • Scottish Crossbill Loxia scotica Visiting the Caledonian pine forests of central Scotland should be on all visiting birders' to-do lists. The region's forests, mountain ranges, and open moorlands are not only visually stunning but also home to several of the U.K.'s more diffi - cult and range-restricted species, includ- ing Capercallie (a large grouse), Black Grouse, Golden Eagle, Eurasian Dotterel, and Crested Tit. Why, of all this region's special birds, did I pick something incred - ibly difficult to identify with contentious genetics? Well, until genetic study proves otherwise, the Scottish Crossbill remains the U.K.'s only wholly endemic bird. With a bill slightly larger than a Common Crossbill and slightly smaller than a Parrot Crossbill (both occur in the area), it is a tricky bird to tick with confidence. It is most positively identified by its call. Perhaps not the most exciting bird on my top 20 list, but the small population, re - stricted range, and stunning landscapes which it inhabits make up for its lack of wow factor. #9 • Common Cuckoo Cuculus canorus There are 54 species of Old World cuck- oo, but only the Common Cuckoo has the famous onomatopoeic cuckoo-clock song. For me, it is the sound of spring. In fact, it was once a British tradition to write to the Times newspaper upon hearing the first cuckoo of the year. This bird is not only famous for its song but also for its in- teresting breeding habits. Like the Brown- headed Cowbird, it is a brood parasite, laying its egg in other birds' nests. The chick is then brought up by foster par- ents, which are often much smaller than the chick itself. Sadly, the cuckoo popu - lation is declining in the U.K., and the exact reason is unknown, although recent geotagging of cuckoos by the British Trust for Ornithology has gathered fascinating data of the birds as they travel between the U.K. and African wintering grounds. #10 • Northern Gannet Morus bassanus The Northern Gannet is an endemic bird of the North Atlantic, and 60–70% of the world population breeds in Britain, most- ly on Scottish offshore islands. During my time as a seabird surveyor, I witnessed as many as 2,000 gannets whirling around the vessel, becoming a blur of white, yel - low, and black as they circled the boat and # 13 # 14 Photo © Karen Bullock Photo © Noel Reynolds

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