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 19 of 95

Photo © Martha de Jong-Lantink 20 Best Birds in Britain 18 Birder's Guide to Travel | March 2017 then spectacularly dived for fish. I appreciate that not everyone has the chance to go to sea, but during the summer months, it is possible to visit the swirling mass of gannets at a breeding colony—an experience not to be missed! #11 • Black Grouse Tetrao tetrix One of my best British birding moments involves this charis- matic species. Walking in the Scottish uplands, we came across a Black Grouse lek with a group of males dancing, ruffling feath - ers, and "bubbling" loudly to a lone female in a tree. We moved to watch the continued display at what we thought was a safe distance when suddenly another male popped up next to us and performed his own private show and dance. The sights and sounds of a Black Grouse lek in full swing is one I won't forget. Black Grouse are highly protected, but there are places in the uplands where you can watch without causing disturbance and experience this amazing display. #12 • Bearded Tit Panurus biarmicus Despite its name, this bird is neither bearded nor a tit! The facial pattern of the male is more of a moustache than a beard. Until recently, this species was considered a member of the parrotbill family but now is thought to be more closely related to larks. To avoid all confusion, it also is known as Bearded Reedling. Bearded Tits live in reedbeds throughout the year with popu - lations currently increasing due to warmer winters and habitat creation. I am lucky here on the Suffolk coast to be surrounded by vast areas of reedbeds. I often hear the distinctive ping call as family parties fly through the reeds. #13 • Northern Lapwing Vanellus vanellus Naming the top shorebird (or "wader" as we Brits call them) was a difficult decision between two plovers: the resident lapwing and the summer-visiting Eurasian Dotterel. But while dotterels are hard to see, lapwings can be found almost anywhere. Large flocks can be impressive with their iridescent green-and-purple plumage shimmering in the sunlight. Their crest and round-winged shape make them instantly recognizable. Lapwings perform dramatic aerobatic courtship displays with twists, turns, and somersaults, accompanied by loud peewit calls and the swishing of wings. That distinctive call also gives rise to its alternative name, "peewit". #14 • Great Skua Stercorarius skua My favorite family of seabirds is the jaegers (or, to us Brits, the skuas). The Great Skua is an aggressive and impressive bird, ha- rassing other seabirds as large as gannets for a free meal. Within the U.K., the Great Skua breeds exclusively in Scotland, with the Shetland Islands north of Scotland being one of the best places to see them. Don't get too close to their nest. If you do, you will prob- ably get a whack on the head, which I can confirm does hurt! The native Shetland term for Great Skua is "bonxie", a name that has been adopted and is now commonly used by many U.K. birders. # 15 # 16 Photo © Ian Redman

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