Two lifers in one week!

Blawhorn Moss NNR and Flanders Moss NNR

Every sport and activity has its own associated jargon and abbreviations, and birdwatching is certainly no exception. As a newcomer to the birding world this was initially pretty confusing but after hanging around some birdy-types for a while you quickly pick up the lingo. Some commonly used terms I have come across in my short bird watching career are:

  • Twitcher –  a birdwatcher that travels around to see rare birds to add to their life list
  • LBJ – Little Brown Jobs: small brownish birds which you have been unable to identify
  • Bins – binoculars
  • Dude – a novice birder who doesn’t really know that much about birds and is quite happy to see more common birds

And there are many many more!

If you’re cool enough to be down with the birding slang, you’ll know that a lifer refers to when you see a new bird species for the first time. It’s likely that you will always remember these experiences especially when it’s a rare or particularly impressive bird.

As someone who was a bit of a dude not that long ago, I’m still having my fair share of birding firsts and last week I had two lifers in one week!

Whilst completing essential health and safety checks on Blawhorn Moss I saw a sparrow-sized bird with a black head, perched at the top of a small shrubby tree – it was a Reed Bunting and the first I’d ever seen. At Flanders Moss the next day I saw another one and managed to get a couple of photos of the bird perching.

And the excitement didn’t stop there! A few minutes later, after following the sound of a Cuckoo calling we caught a glimpse of it as it flew off into the trees. Although the Cuckoo’s song has been familiar to me from a young age, I had never actually seen one but had always been desperate to – so that was another lifer for me.

I will remember these birding firsts for years to come but I worry that younger generations will miss out on similar experiences, as both of these bird species face extreme challenges.

In autumn, reed buntings move out of wetlands to overwinter on farmland: feeding on seeds in arable fields. As with many other typical farmland birds, reed bunting populations have significantly declined in the UK due to farming practices, and they were previously red-listed as a species of conservation concern. They have now been amber-listed after a period of recovery, partly due to garden feeding stations and successful agri-environment schemes.

Whilst things appear to be improving for reed buntings the story is very different for cuckoos. These migratory birds face habitat loss here in the UK, in their wintering grounds in sub-Saharan Africa and in stopover sites on their migration routes. We have already lost three quarters of our cuckoos in the UK and they have been red-listed since 2009. This previous blog post talks about what the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) are doing to research the decline in cuckoo numbers.

It is very sad to think that future generations might miss out on the excitement and enjoyment of seeing these birds, and others, but I’m hopeful that it is not too late to secure a more positive future for them.

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1 Response to Two lifers in one week!

  1. Ladylanders says:

    Flanders Moss is the only place I’ve been lucky enough to see a cuckoo – then almost immediately i saw a second! Never seen once since but have heard the cuckoo calling lately which was lovely as I had begun to fear I wouldn’t hear one at all this year.

    Liked by 1 person

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