Being on the move during the weekend of the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch, in which participants record the birds spotted in their garden at one given point in the day, prompted the exercise of an avian roll-call at each destination. At the station carpark, sparrows twittered, but the only visible wildlife was a quartet of plotting magpies.
In a garden beside a tributary of the Meon, an immigrant white egret took an elegant turn about, attended respectfully by a dumpy woodpigeon and a fat cock pheasant; a heron peered beadily into the stream and crows wheeled overhead. Up on the Downs, pretty goldfinches flashed through scrub and a magnificent red kite soared high above.
Later, non-native green parrots whizzed incongruously through the raw air and bare branches of trees in Greenwich Park; herring gulls swooped and a cormorant performed a vulture impression as it dried its wings on the prow of the water ferry on the Thames. An eclectic list, yes, but all is not as it should be. The proposed cull of magpies and crows will be controversial, but it’s surely worth trying if we want our fields to sing again.