When I moved across the Waveney from Suffolk to Norfolk a couple of years ago I did an unusual thing for me: I started to keep a birdlist. Most birders love a good list, but for some reason that’s never been my way. But I started to list for all species of birds seen (and heard) in and around our place, and last weekend I hit 99.
This was a pair of grey wagtails passing through. I was drawn to them by the clear, sweet call, and my eye was filled by a brief moment of yellow. Grey wagtail indeed – these birds are a wondrous clear yellow below, and they don’t deserve a monochrome name. The yellow-tummed wagtail, that’d be much better.
They hung around for a few days before moving on, so there’s no arguing about the identification: leaving me ready to raise my bat in triumph when I gather in just one more bird. There have been some whoopees along the way, including a flight of five cranes and an adult male hen harrier. But I fear bird 100 will be something I should have recorded months back – a common gull, say, or a redpoll – but just overlooked. Never mind — perhaps it will be an osprey, which is probably top of the wish-list.
It’s just a bit of fun, this list, but it has a serious meaning: and that is biodiversity. Just think of it: 99 species of bird – each evolved over countless ages for its own special purposes, each unique, each one as separate from all the others as we humans are separate from blue whales and rats and orang-utans – have all found something useful, even important in our small patch of Norfolk marsh.