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Since two people raised the London question, and two others have responded
to the list, I thought I would do the same.  It may be that some others
would like to have these replies too.

Bob Fisher and Larry Lade have both given some good tips. Part of the issue
is how far afield the birder wants to go, which in turn is dependent on how
much time is available.

1) If you really are restricted by time and transportation to London
proper, and are new to birding England, you can see some common birds --
water birds, a few passerines -- by visiting the large urban parks like
Hyde Park. A better one for woodland birds is Holland Park. But still more
can be seen by making a medium-length trek on the underground to Hampstead
Heath, a very large, partially forested park, crisscrossed by paths where
Londoners walk their dogs. This makes a very pleasant early morning jaunt;
you can get up early and go, walk a bit of the Heath, and then return by
whatever time your family needs you to be back. The entire Heath is much
too large to cover in one trip.

I take the Northern line, being careful to get the train that follows the
branch to Hampstead. Get off at Hampstead, take the elevator up to the
exit, walk up the hill (Heath Street) five minutes to a big intersection at
the top with a tiny pond in the middle. Ahead, on both right and left as
you continue along the same street, are portions of the Heath, which you
can enter at any point and figure out for yourself (although it's a good
idea to go to a bookstore and obtain a map of it first).

A sampling of resident or wintering birds I've seen there: Grey Heron,
Tufted Duck, Kestrel, Woodpigeon, Stock Dove, Moorhen, Coot, Common &
Black-headed Gulls, Rose-ringed Parakeet, Green and Great Spotted
Woodpeckers, Wren, Dunnock, Robin, Carrion Crow, Jay, Magpie, Blackbird,
Song and Mistle Thrushes; Great, Blue, Coal, and Long-tailed Tits;
Treecreeper, Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Greenfinch, Chaffinch, Siskin. It's a
great place to get used to the birds and their vocalizations. Being there
in April or May would of course provide migrant species.

2) Larry's suggestion of the Wetland Center is a great one. Go to the web
site he provided and get the directions there (from downtown London it's a
tube ride plus a short bus ride). In addition to the pond, marsh, and edge
habitat, with a lot of birds, they also have a good bookshop, cafeteria,
and optics store. The birds, of course, depend on the season, but on a June
visit in 2002 I found a nice selection of water birds that included their
breeding Little Ringed Plovers, plus Reed and Sedge Warbler, Whitethroat,
and Reed Bunting. Plan to spend a few hours. You may find other birders
watching from the "hides" as Bob described.

3) Bob's suggestions for getting father afield will of course net you even
more birds if you have the time and the transportation. One additional
great area that's accessible for a day trip is Dorset on the south coast,
but as with Norfolk etc. you need a car and perhaps a guide to get the most
out of it. There are ads in Winging It for guides based near London who are
no doubt good.

4) Books: (a) Since it was published in 1999, the top field guide for
Britain and Europe (in most reviewers' opinion) is Birds of Europe, by
Svenson and Grant, ill. by Mullarney and Zetterstrom, pub. by Princeton.
It is a really fantastic field guide, though slightly large and heavy for a
jacket pocket.(b)  As a supplement or alternative that you can actually
carry in a hip pocket or almost anywhere, get The New Birdwatcher's Pocket
Guide by Peter Hayman and Rob Hume, pub. by Mitchell Beeazley. This is a
very slim book that nonetheless contains a profusion of fine illustrations
(same guy who did the Shorebirds book) and a ton of information. It is not
listed with ABA and probably not available until you get over there and hit
a bookstore (try Foyle's on Charing Cross Road, or the Natural History
Museum bookshop -- or the Wetland Center). (c) Similarly, you may want to
pick up Where to Watch Birds in the London Area, by Dominic Mitchell
(Helm). This is one of a whole series of paperback bird finding guides you
will find in those same bookstores.

Hope all this helps.  I really don't have a ton of experience in England,
but I have tried to make the most of the kind of visit described -- a trip
with other people, sneaking off to go birding as time permits.

Bill Rowe
St. Louis.

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