Despite having fuddy-duddy connotations, I was surprised to discover that the pastime we call bird watching isn’t actually that old – or at least the term isn’t. Bird watching is popularly thought of as the sort of thing dweeby old guys do to get away from the Missus. The twitcher’s standard kit of waterproofs and binoculars may also suggest philandering – hands up who thought this post was something to do with beaches, bikinis and Baywatch? But when I was growing up, bird watching was an activity pursued by children – prompted by their I-Spy books.
I can’t claim to have ever gone out with the intention of twitching, but I’m always totally charmed when pretty little birds hop onto my terrace to entertain me for a few moments before they flit back to their scruffily feathered nests. However, I’m afraid these romantic visions of birdlife are rare – and regular visits from enormous crows (which I suspect may actually be rooks), cackling magpies and fat urban pigeons are the norm.
I wasn’t looking out for birds on my trip to San Francisco, but I noticed that California has crows too… In fact Alfred Hitchcock’s film, The Birds, was shot in San Francisco and Bodega Bay, just 50 miles up the coast. For the next remake, may I suggest seagulls, which seem to be in more plentiful supply – especially around the outdoor eating areas of Fisherman’s Wharf – and they are certainly more vicious.
Nevertheless, Californians seem to be quite fond of birds. At one vineyard I visited, they had a small aviary stocked mainly with hens, which I thought was a little unusual as I don’t think eggs are used in the winemaking process?
Anyway, the San Francisco bay area is full of bird watching possibilities, what with the many parks, and open water being never far away. I love the quirky hand painted signs by the marshland walk in Sausalito, illustrating the varieties of local birdlife.
I also spotted one especially beautiful blue bird (see below), which perhaps an expert Dabbler, like Nige, can help me to identify?
If you happen to be in California, do check out the birds.