Saturday, 13 September 2014

Day 5 Sightings

Day 5

The Day of the Hyphenated Double-Barreled Names

While we were in England in June, we treated ourselves to two nights at the lovely "Twitchers Retreat" - a cosy little B&B in north-west Norfolk, specialising in catering for birders. So they have a beautiful bird-friendly garden with abundant bird-feeders and even an occupied barn-owl nest-box, which offered us sightings of lots of bird species we might not otherwise have seen, such as woodpeckers, jays, and the beautiful barn owls themselves. 

During our stay there, we spent a morning at Titchwell Marsh RSPB reserve on the north coast of Norfolk, and saw plenty of wetland birds, including some adorable little juvenile avocets - like furry little balls on stilt-like legs!

I've tried to put together a list of all the birds we saw during our 4 weeks in England - it's definitely short a few waders (I can't remember exactly which ones we saw and which we didn't!) and maybe a few others I've forgotten, but I'm actually surprised by just how long the list is - I always considered the bird diversity in the UK to be quite poor compared to here! Maybe I just didn't take the time to look before...

1. Avocet
2. Spoonbill
3. Lapwing
4. Oystercatcher
5. Mallard
6. Coot
7. Moorhen
8. Shelduck
9. Goosander
10. Mute Swan
11. Cormorant
12. Egyptian Goose
13. Greylag goose
14. Canada Goose
15. Mute Swan
16. Great Crested Grebe
17. Grey Heron
18. Black-headed Gull
19. Common Tern
20. Kingfisher
21. Pied Wagtail
22. Jay
23. Magpie
24. Jackdaw
25. Starling
26. Reed bunting
27. Wren
28. Greenfinch
29. Chaffinch
30. Dunnock
31. House sparrow
32. Robin
33. Blackbird
34. Goldfinch
35. Bluetit
36. Great tit
37. Song thrush
38. Great spotted woodpecker
39. Barn owl
40. Woodpigeon
41. Collared Dove
42. Rock Dove
43. Pheasant
44. Red-legged Partridge

One thing that stands out for me, though, when I compare this list to our Namibian bird list, is the length of the names. Most of the British birds have simple, one-word names. But not the Namibian ones, oh no. Here, we like double-barreled, hyphenated, tongue-twisting names! The more descriptive, the better!

As an example, here are our sightings from Day 5 (20th July), all seen on our farm, Vreugde:

62.       Yellow-bellied Eromomela

63.       Chestnut-vented Tit-babbler

64.       Violet-eared Waxbill

65.       Southern Grey-headed Sparrow

66.       Swallow-tailed Bee-eater

This apparently lengthy naming is a result of the sheer diversity of bird species and sub-species across the vast and diverse African continent. Short names are simply not sufficient to describe this diversity. And in keeping with a standard international nomenclature (naming system), this means that related, but distinct, (sub-)species all have to be given related but distinct names, with the differences indicated using appropriately descriptive prefixes. The lesser bird diversity in the UK simply doesn't require such complicated and descriptive naming!

More soon!


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