London's Birding

The following is a true story demonstrating the perils of urban birdwatching.

So far this year I’ve seen 62 different species of birds including a Red Kite, a Redstart and a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker. I’m trying to become a birder. My dad is a birder. When I was a lot younger and less independent, he took my two brothers and I on individual father-son bonding breaks. My elder brother was escorted to the distant Scottish island of Fair Isle to ring puffins (not a euphemism). But I didn’t want to ring puffins. So two years later I was taken on a ‘Soccer City Weekend’ to see Liverpool thrash Coventry 1-0. It was great. But since then, I’ve often wondered if I missed out on something somewhere.

‘Duncton isn’t even a proper word. It’s a place in Sussex that he’d once ‘birded’’

Just to let you know a little bit more about my dad – he’s a typical dad, he makes bad jokes of which we’re all secretly proud. He’s got a multi-coloured beard. He can’t use a mobile phone. Two years ago I received a typically rubbish text - all capital letters, no punctuation, ‘in’ instead of ‘go’, ‘of’ instead of ‘me’, and to cap it all he signed off not with ‘love from dad’ but with ‘love from Duncton’. He’d managed to write the word ‘Duncton’ instead of ‘dad’. Duncton. When I asked him why, he said he was trying to write dad but because of predictive texting it came out as Duncton. And Duncton isn’t even a proper word. It’s a place in Sussex that he’d once ‘birded’. And somehow he’d managed to write Duncton instead of dad. Proving that predictive texting really can make you look like a right aunt.

So from now on, my dad will always be referred to as Duncton.

As I said, this year I’ve seen 62 different species of birds. I think this is pretty good but Duncton has seen over a hundred. Then again, Duncton does live in the country and volunteers at a local bird reserve. I live and work in London. And London is a difficult place to bird...

On a Tuesday morning, three weeks ago, I drove to Kentish Town to pick up a friend called Tim and take him birdwatching. I arrived at 10am and parked on a single yellow line, thinking that I’d nip in, get Tim, come out, and there wouldn’t be a problem. But it turns out Tim, like most of my friends, isn’t all that enthusiastic about my new passion for birdwatching. He wasn’t ‘raring to go’. I went in, he faffed for about twenty minutes, we returned to the car expecting the worst…  Amazingly though, we had escaped the attention of the Parking Wardens! A good start.















Where does this crazy tale of urban birding end up?
Find out in extras