Animal

Birdwatch at the cricket: wagtails, falcons and gulls – but no ducks


A relaxing – if rather chilly – summer’s day at Somerset’s county cricket ground by the river in Taunton, with plenty of time to read the paper, chat and watch birds.

Pied wagtails – a smart adult with a dusky-coloured youngster – skitter across the short grass of the outfield, while towards the end of the day’s play two young peregrines appear in the skies above. They seem to be testing out their newly feathered wings while eyeing the row of feral pigeons perched along the pavilion roof.

One group of birds you simply cannot ignore are the gulls. As my companion fuels himself with tea and a chocolate bar, a beady-eyed herring gull lands on the nearby guard rail, weighing up his chances of snatching a tasty snack.

Most of the large and noisy flock are herring gulls, which have travelled here from the coast, or from their nests on the buildings of nearby Bridgwater. But a smaller, darker species is also present in the form of a couple of lesser black-backed gulls. These are easily told apart from their familiar cousins by their much darker, slate-grey backs and custard-yellow, rather than pale pink, legs.

When I was a young birder, lesser black-backs were an unusual sight, especially away from the coast. But in the past few decades numbers have risen considerably, and they are now common inland. On this breezy summer’s day, they add a touch of variety to both the birds and the cricket.



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