A Bad Birdwatchers Companion: ...or a personal introducion to Britains 50 most obvious birds


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He not only gives helpful identifying features, but enriches them with whimsical observations on their characters and tendencies. It is a delightful text, superbly presented by the author himself. Download PDF booklet. Currently, restrictions on the delivery of files to mobile devices mean our download titles must be downloaded to a desktop computer and then transferred to the mobile device. Download links are also delivered to you via e-mail: see Download Shop — How It Works for more details. Birds in Town and Village.

The Pleasures of the Garden. His latest quirky bird book, with its gloriously uplifting recordings of birdsong, is tailor-made for audio and will help you to identify the 50 British birds he writes so engagingly and enthusiastically about. It is that rarest of manuals, a handbook that makes you want to go out and discover for yourself if all the fascinating things he has told you about robins, blackbirds, yellowhammers and buzzards are really true. Get out there and listen.

This one. Complain about this comment Comment number 3. The single biggest problem with cats is that they exist at far higher densities than natural predators, and their survival and numbers is not dependent on their prey. So it is a very unnatural situation. Normally if a predator's prey starts to decline, then so does its own population and breeding success.

Self-evidently this does not happen with the cat population. I'm not trying to demonise cats. The problem is not so much keeping cats as a pet, but the amount of people that want to keep cats as a pet, and how these cats are allowed to roam wherever they want.

The problem would not be so great if the cat ownership was much lower, or if cats were not allowed to roam. If people say it is cruel to keep cats confined to their property, then it is clearly not a suitable pet. Normally someone buying an animal as a pet has to first consider whether they have the space and facilities to keep it. Yet with cats this is never considered and people take it for granted that their cat can roam and wander wherever it likes. This is not considered acceptable with dogs, horses, or virtually any other animal kept as a pet.

So why is it considered different with cats? Ecologically cats are the only type pet that acts in the natural environment like a fully active predator. Yes dogs can cause disturbance to natural habitat and do take some wildlife. However, generally dogs are not free to roam. Having observed some of what my mother's cats have caught their toll on the local wildlife must be incredible.

As I mentioned in the other blog entry one of my mother's cats caught numerous Water Voles, bats, Common Lizards, and this is not mentioning all the birds, rabbits, squirrels etc it caught. It was catching these Water Voles when they were in serious decline. During the warmer months it was catching at least 10 prey items a day. However the important point is it that it was only one of numerous other cats in this immediate area. Rather than being anti-cat, I agree with Chris Packham that we need to re-consider what is acceptable with cat keeping.

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This is especially important since our agriculture has intensified and the area around our houses, gardens and other green spaces have become important reservoirs for much of this wildlife displaced from the countryside. Just because people have taken for granted owning a cat and letting it roam, does not mean that it should continue like this.

Remember cats are just about the only pets that are allowed to freely roam onto land that the owner has no permission for their cat to be on. So for instance you might have a local nature reserve that might be surrounded by houses with cats. It would not be acceptable that people just let their dogs free to roam around this nature reserve, so why is it thought okay when it's a cat? Complain about this comment Comment number 4. I forgot to add that our cat is a house cat, which not only ensures his safety but also puts less pressure on the wildlife.

Complain about this comment Comment number 5. I agree with you Chris. I love cats and I have always had a pet cat since I was a young girl. My first cat didn't hunt at all he was rather bad at it but my current cat has hunted in the past, much to my frustration. She is a little older now so she just watches the birds rather than seeking them out.

She has also caught mice in the past but as I say not any more. I don't let her out at night and I agree that this can be a responsible way to keep your cat. I used to work for Cats Protection and one of the things we used to advise was to keep your cat in at night but the reason we gave was mainly to prevent road traffic accidents and predation by foxes for your cat, I think the danger they pose to other wildlife is another reason this should be advised and I wish I still worked there to introduce this.

I had no idea of the numbers of birds caught by cats, 55 million is huge!! Some cats are more hunters than others, I love these little predators and the fact that domestication has not done much to suppress this instinct. I do agree, however, that responsible cat ownership is the key to solving this. My own cat shall remain indoors overnight, even in her old age. She regularly runs at the TV wide eyed whenever your birds come on screen! Complain about this comment Comment number 6. Complain about this comment Comment number 7. Cats don't just go for garden birds. My friend living in Birmingham was surprised by an horrendous sound coming from her kitchen one evening.

She rushed in to find her cat trying to drag a seagull headfirst through the catflap. I think any device attached to the cat which warns the birds that they are about is a winner. Complain about this comment Comment number 8. Sorry guys. Although i agree with the sentiment, broadcasting this is giving the anti cat brigade fuel for their fire. Check out press stories regarding the shooting or poisoning of cats, then look at the comments attached.

We all like to think we're animal lovers and responsible but there is a minority that think this kind of story justifies illegal acts of cruelty towards pets. Complain about this comment Comment number 9. When I was young in the Sixties, there used to be at least a hundred birds you could view from my garden in the valleys. Today you would be hard pressed to see There is only one reason for this in my eyes. I love Cats but I miss the birds more Complain about this comment Comment number I have two elderly cats who can no longer catch any birds but as younger cats i used to spray them with water if they brought me a bird as a present and give them a treat for the mice and rats.


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To be honest they brought me mainly mice but it is a cats instinct to catch moving things. Evolution has a lot to answer for! I am more annoyed about the increase in magpies in Liverpool and i am saddened when i hear the alarm call of our birds when their babies are being attacked by these black and white pests. I think a cull of magpies is needed. What do other viewersw think? Hi peeps. Re feature about cats.

Our family occasionally use directions hair dye. Comes in bright purple and red etc.. The stuff old punks and asian women use. You can decide which we are. We use the excess to dye the cat. He brings in less birds when coloured Birds have great colour vision. Rodents don't. Have thought about starting a campaign to 'Paint Your Cat'. I reckon the brighter the better. Don't strangle your cat with bells on collars just dye it. I am more worried about magpies waiting for the fledging blue tits they are more successful than the cats. I have birdboxes in my garden, I also have 3 cats.

My garden is protected by a cat fence fixed to the top of the fence by netting between brackets, at a right angle bending into the garden. It stops cats getting in or out and the birds are protected from larger birds preying on their nestlings. Had all my bluetits fledge successfully this year, but kept the cats indoors while they were fledging.

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WE have had 4 cats over the past 15 years 2 no longer with us , but only 1 cat has ever brought in any animal mouse or bird. That is the youngest one, all the others have never brought anything in. Its such an obvious thing, keeping the cat in at night, yet something I hadnt thought of. Will be doing so now Dont seem to get any variety off birds any more and wasnt even worth taking part in your big bird survey this year.

I have 2 cats, we live next to woodland and have alot of birds, from robins, woodpeackers, jays and pheasants in our garden and i have found our cats bring in mice not birds. The birds actually bully our cats with noisy chatter and dive bombing them! Cats are clever animals, but birds are intelligent too! Everyone and everything can cause harm to the environment - argueably humans are the worst.

And of course there are 'good' cats and 'bad' cats, my black moggy is about 16 and spends most of his time asleep or having cuddles and stays inside. If he does go out it's usually to get a fuss from my neighbour or lie on my ramp in the sun! I can't say he doesn't hunt - but I have never seen him catch anything, he's too slow for even the spiders and can't be bothered to chase the ducks that frequent the garden - even when they come in the house and eat his breakfast!!!

We have a cat that lives in a kennel in the garden. A hedgehog lives under this kennel and keeps popping into the kennel and helping himself to the cat food. We also have some nesting blackbirds in the garden, who also keep hopping into the kennel and helping themselves to the cat food. Whilst all this is going on the cat sits 2ft away, seemingly unperturbed by all the activity! In my garden I have been recently watching a family of blue tits. Soon the blue tit chicks were looking like they were ready to fledge. BUT my neighbour's cat caught one chick and I heard it die. It moaned in agony.

It broke my heart. I'm now against cats. She has a soft spot for Chris but seems less interested when Martin talks! Thanks Crazy Maisy. Just to clarify the point I was making. I'm not suggesting that all cat owners allow their cats to wander wherever at all times of the day. I recognise that there are many responsible cat owners. The difficulty is that there is no compulsion to be a responsible cat owner and I would hazard a guess that the majority of cats are not looked after with this more responsible attitude.

So the challenge is to find a means of moving towards a generally more responsible mode of cat ownership, where people take responsibility for what their cats do, rather than just shrugging their shoulders and saying cats will be cats. The two bell collar did the trick two of our dogs lept in to life when Chris rang it,they flew into the garden in great expectation of coming across a feline visitor,they trudged in quite disappointed.

I have worked with animals and always had cats all my life. So out of my 3 cats one is a predetor so i have a system. I generally keep them in at night,but most of all they sleep a lot so when they are asleep the birds will play! Thats when i feed them. They seem to have cottoned on to this system. It works. I have giant French lop Rabbits Bigger than cats when they are in the garden the birds come down and feed next to them! No cat should wear a collar, I went to work one day, only to return to find the cat had managed to get its front paw through the collar, and was in a very distressed state going round and round in circles.

I have never put a collar on any of my cats since. Also my friend found her cat dead in a tree, it had got its collar hooked on a twig and had hung its self. I am astonished to hear you promoting collars for cats! I am also a bird lover, and feed them in my garden, my cat however has never brought one in, but he does bring in mice, collars on cats is cruel. Changing tack slightly. I inherited a cat a couple of years ago. She lives upstairs in my house, because downstairs is owned by my elderly labrador, and rarely goes outside. I have have blackbirds nesting in my garden and have been fascinated to observe a male blackbird displaying aggressive behaviour towards my cat when she is sitting on an upstairs window sill, just watching.

Not only does the male blackbird issue it's warning call, but it also flies towards the cat attempting to frighten it off My cat freaks out at the bell collar, but I really liked the idea of the tech collars Chris was talking about could we have some details or a link to where we can get these. The bottom line is that cats are wonderful but lots of cat-owners are not! My year-old cat is now entirely a house-cat but in his younger days, when he did go out, I tried to be responsible: I kept him in at night from dusk until after dawn, I fitted him with a collar and a bell, I didn't have a cat flap, so he couldn't come and go as he pleased, but could only go out when I let him I never let him out if I wasn't going to be around to let him in again, either!

Some cat owners would probably consider those restrictions cruel, but he didn't seem to be unhappy about any of it! Sadly a lot of my neighbours don't show the same care for wildlife: their cats are allowed to roam at will, they don't fit belled collars, they leave them out all day while they are at work or leave the cat flap open which is almost as bad. As a result I had to fit one of the RSPB's ultrasonic cat deterrents in my garden to protect the birds. It works, but its effectiveness depends on where you site it and the angle you position it at. I know it works because when the battery dies, the neighbourhood cats start sniffing round again until I replace it.

Cat curfew is the way to go and education is the key. Maybe it would help if they introduced responsible cat ownership to the school curriculum? That way future generations of cat owners are educated about it and at the same time they take the message home to their cat-owning parents! It would be nice to know some details of the bleeping cat collars such as where to get hold of them.

Any chance you can mention this on 'Unsprung"? I know cats have a bad image for hunting but hey.. Ours has a bell that makes quite a loud noise and so far he hasnt caught anything as far as we know. My concern though especially round our way is not the cats but Magpies, they kill more young birds in this area than all the cats put together. I counted 6 hanging around my bluetit box the other morning and another 7 in the copse next door just waiting to grab the young birds as they leave their nests for the first time. How about conducting a survey on the number of birds they kill?

Would it be legal to cull them when they outnumber every other bird in the area? I don't see why we should place the blame entirely on our feline companions. Everyone says that they are killing off our native songbirds. Surely we should look into the destruction of hedges and the paving of our gardens. We used to have a circle of hollybushes and other wild shrubs where all of the local birds would nest. They had picked their nest sites well! I would watch my cat swipe her tail in frustration.

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Once the hedges were cleared my cat began to bring in baby birds. We've had wild cats in this country for millennia. Have we all forgotten the Scottish wildcat. It's more likely that we humans have pushed small birds to the brink rather than a moggy that has been here far longer than us So dont be so quick as to point the blame before we have amassed enough data.

I have a system to keep my cats in and other cats out, a netting fence fixed to the top of my garden fence by aluminium brackets, the fence faces at a right angle into my garden. I also have had 4 successful bluetit nestboxes, all fledged safely. I kept the cats indoors whilst the birds were fledging. The net also protects the nests from large predators like crows and other predator birds. Works a treat. Also keeps me in my neighbours good books as my cats can't get out and use their gardens as a toilet. They fledged and the next day - gone! Not one! I am so sad, the constant chatter from the nests and nestbox; not there anymore, the silence is deafening.

It's awful, after what seemed like weeks they are MIA? I'm not surprised, they were so noisy, the day they fledged I chased off two magpies and two Crows, they were queuing up to get the feathery, ping pong balls of fluffy protein. We have cats that constantly try to chase our chickens, probably ten in a fifty metre radius. As the fresh cat poo dropped casually round the garden proves I didn't.

I got some amazing photo's of the little guys as they left the nests and flew uncontrollably round our garden. One flew and tickled my ear as it flew from the apple tree to the budlia tree fifteen feet. I hope the little fella's are ok, though after watching Springwatch I expect them to be in a tummy of a baby corvid somewhere. Thanks for the show-love it Jake. I am an owner of two cats and as much as I love them will never get over how awful it is when they bring things home. I wonder what the advice is when cats bring home mammals and birds that are alive. Whilst I try shutting them in at night, and fitting bells it doesn't eliminate it happening, and many a time I have managed to 'rescue' birds which I have kept in a shoe box overnight and them released the next day if they seem recovered and at battling for freedom.

I have read though, that the bacteria on cats teeth may kill them even though they looked fitting fit when you release them. Is this true, am I in fact making these birds I think I have rescued suffer longer? I even had a mouse living in my lounge for two days whilst we tried to catch and release it! It certainly seemed fitting fit when we did eventually catch it which is why this took so long!

I know you said that its better for the birds to keep cats in at night. But what about keeping cats in in the day? We endlessly hear about the threat that cats pose to wildlife and it is true that some of them are predators. Just for the record I have had 6 cats over the years and only one of them caught birds and frogs - the frogs were always unharmed by this. Many birds came to the garden as I put out a lot of food for them.

My last cat used to lie on the patio where I had bird feeders on the ground. Parent birds would bring their young down to the ground to feed them and my cat would lie there completely uninterested. I now have a dog and would not trust him with fledglings on the ground so I no longer encourage birds into the garden i.

I no longer put food out for them. There are worse threats to birds and other wildlife than cats - for example just look at our roads to see the carnage! It's rubbish for the RSPB to say that it's inconclusIve that cats do not contribute to the dramatic fall in the number of the bird population. This year alone in my garden a cat has killed a parent Blue Tit thus in turn condemning 7 small nestlings which perished in the nest box.

A nest with 2 Collared Dove chicks was also predated by a cat. Mr Packham, you need to give a more honest and balanced view of cat and in particular dog ownership. You are clearly in a minority of dog owners where you claim to be responsible. Very few dog walkers in my experience control their dogs. This is particularly so where I live in Devon which is over run with dogs. Even in the breeding season I have had countless encounters with dogs running amok in woods, moors and coast paths. When owners are challenged, they just don't understand the impact on wildlife. Other countries are less tolerant of dogs.

In Australia dogs must be leashed for example on beaches as dogs disturb ground nesting birds and can cause the adults to abandon the nest.

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Surely the same issue occurs in the UK where our ground nesting birds are faring very badly. Cats do have an impact on the bird population particularly in urban areas although our cat has never taken a bird - we trained her from an early age - it is possible but dog owners are as culpable but sadly the Springwatch article was purely anti cats. No doubt the piece was put together by the dog owning presenters!!

On the topic of cats i find if our cat stays out for the night he tends to catch rats and mice and the next day he spends a lot of it sleeping and is a lot less active and accurate when trying to catch the birds. I really don't consider my cat a threat to wildlife - as a hunter, she's not very good to say the least! Why did Chris Packham tell the Springwatch viewers not to fit elasticated safety collars.

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It is a rediculous thing to say as elasticated collars are elasticated for a purpose and that is in case a cat gets caught on a twig or similar letting the cat throw the collar as to escape. To tell millions of viewers not to fit these collars and fit ones that arnt elasticated was a stupid thing to say and i hope cat owners will ignor his incorrect poor advice Regards Don. Cats take a range of small mammal species that may be seen to compete against many garden variety birds for food resources. Not only that, but other garden birds are just as destructive. Magpies kill and push out smaller birds and have been known to predate on other birds eggs and starlings will drive-out other birds.

Truth is, the average UK garden only has a small amount of capacity to allow our naive birds to thrive, which is why our garden bird populations are in decline — cats or no cats. Id also like to know wher the bleeper collars canbe obtained and when the battery runs out is it or the whole collar replaced? PS iagree Whith Don Shorrock about chrise's comment also wahat about snap catch collars? My cats are neutered. I don't believe that reduces their wish for hunting.

I have had too many songbirds delivered to my door recently. I will be putting a litter-tray for them at night, and keep them in. I will never put a collar on my cats. That is wrong and potentionally dangerous. I'd rather a sparrowhawk got a meal than an already well-fed cat. Comment from Chris. After all, the cat doesn't eat it. So, keep your cat in at night with a littertray. Domesticated cats would rather be in at night any way!! It is us that believe, or rather want to believe that they should be put out at night..

What planet?? They all hunt!!! Cats are wonderful,but all kill small small wriggly things.


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  6. Get over it. I am so angry with all this cat hating. The suggestion of keeping cats in at night is totally against what is natural for an animal which is crepuscular and could start a whole new debate on animal cruelty. Perhaps Springwatch should consult animal behaviourists before making such ill-thought out comments. This is hardly the same as picking up dog poo Chris. You are making no real change to the dog's life pattern or routine - just keeping them on a lead and picking up their poo. I expected more from you. Surely you understand about crepuscular animals.? At the start of your bulletin last night you stated that the RSPB didn't think cats had much to do with it at all.

    But obviously that doesn't give you a story does it so Springwatch has totally chosen to ignore that statement and continue with its cat hating. Birchdryad - I think you are mad! Cats on the curriculum! Cat curfew? Do you know anything about animals at all!!!! Maybe it's different in England but in Scotland under the recently-introduced "Curriculum for Excellence", primary schools cover subjects such as good citizenship and PSD personal and social development as part of the curriculum.

    There is no reason why responsible pet ownership couldn't be covered under the citizenship work. Further to my assertion that I do know about animals, I should clarify that I am a qualified scientist and a large part of my degree included zoology and related subjects. I take your point about cats being crepuscular but that doesn't mean that they can't be kept in at night: a responsible owner would simply ensure that the cats had enough stimulation indoors in the evening and early morning until the urge to hunt had died down again.

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    CnS 3 I think dog owners should be neutered. An escaped eagle owl flew off with our last chicken, a silky. I say keep all eagle owls locked up. Or maybe all silky chickens. We live in St Albans. I have pleased I have at last found a way to contact you, Chris. I am sorry to say that I have become very anti-cat - although friends cats always choose my lap to sit on - because of the impact they have had on our garden birds. There are about three cats that regularly invade our garden, despite the fact our dog chases them, and we back onto a wild area of land which is a favourite hunting ground for all the neighbouring cats.

    Because I encourage the birds by having lots of feeders and a pond, we do have a lot visit our garden but the numbers have dropped. I had some very friendly blackbirds and thrush but I know that many of these have fallen prey to the cats. Very upsetting to see and especially one wonderful female blackbird that used to call me to feed her mealworms. Why can't we bring in legilslation to make cat owners control their cats? I agree with the comment that cats should be confined to their own homes - that would reduce the number of stray cats and road casualties and give our wildlife a chance.

    I have friends with very content house cats that are restricted to their own gardens. And how can the estimated 60 million or so birds caught by cats EVERY year, not affect the overall population? Let's give our poor birds a break, please? FrancesQu1 Maybe Birchdryad maens that cat owners should keep them indoors with a lot of birds flying around.

    Like that man on Springwatch with the blackbirds. FrancesQu1 the sad thing is that I do agree with some of your points on the other blog: you are right about hedges, for example: the destruction of hedges, paving of driveways and gardens, intensive agriculture including reduced field margins and over-use of pesticides which result in reduced insect numbers lack of nest sites etc all plays a large part - possibly the largest part - in the decline of songbirds.

    A Bad Birdwatchers Companion: ...or a personal introducion to Britains 50 most obvious birds A Bad Birdwatchers Companion: ...or a personal introducion to Britains 50 most obvious birds
    A Bad Birdwatchers Companion: ...or a personal introducion to Britains 50 most obvious birds A Bad Birdwatchers Companion: ...or a personal introducion to Britains 50 most obvious birds
    A Bad Birdwatchers Companion: ...or a personal introducion to Britains 50 most obvious birds A Bad Birdwatchers Companion: ...or a personal introducion to Britains 50 most obvious birds
    A Bad Birdwatchers Companion: ...or a personal introducion to Britains 50 most obvious birds A Bad Birdwatchers Companion: ...or a personal introducion to Britains 50 most obvious birds
    A Bad Birdwatchers Companion: ...or a personal introducion to Britains 50 most obvious birds A Bad Birdwatchers Companion: ...or a personal introducion to Britains 50 most obvious birds
    A Bad Birdwatchers Companion: ...or a personal introducion to Britains 50 most obvious birds A Bad Birdwatchers Companion: ...or a personal introducion to Britains 50 most obvious birds
    A Bad Birdwatchers Companion: ...or a personal introducion to Britains 50 most obvious birds A Bad Birdwatchers Companion: ...or a personal introducion to Britains 50 most obvious birds
    A Bad Birdwatchers Companion: ...or a personal introducion to Britains 50 most obvious birds A Bad Birdwatchers Companion: ...or a personal introducion to Britains 50 most obvious birds
    A Bad Birdwatchers Companion: ...or a personal introducion to Britains 50 most obvious birds

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