Friday, 17 October 2014


Today I received through the post a copy of Haith's new bird food and accessories catalogue - and very good it is too.

Its warehouse used to be based on Park Street in Cleethorpes where neighbouring residents were understandaby unhappy about the large population of mice it attracted.

A few years ago it moved to purpose-designed new premises at Genesis Way on Europarc business park on the outskirts of Grimsby from where it seems to have gone from strength.

In their catalogue  preface, David and Rachael Haith reveal that reduced prices have sometimes  been possible across the range thanks to strong harvests in countries where its produce is sourced.

They continue: "During our research, we have noticed some of the bird food now on display in garden centres and high street stores has been mixed and packed many months ago and, with the warm summer, has led to less than ideal storage conditions.

"Our seeds and foods, however, are cleaned, mixed and packed on a daily basis, and our dispatched goods are as fresh as possible."


Absent from the front of the Haith's catalogue is any picture of the firm's long-time promoter, Bill Oddie - so has his  14- year partnership with the firm  come  to an end?

When I phoned Haith's, they assured me this was not the case and referred me to their  website for more details:

On the subject of Oddie,  I always enjoyed his wildlife documentaries and was disappointed when the BBC axed him from their Springwatch and Autumnwatch programmes.

I once interviewed him at Haith's but stupidly forgot to ask a crunch question: Is there any species on the British list that has always eluded him?

Here is the interview:

Do you recall how you first  became interested in birds?
Through egg collecting, sadly. I was aged about eight or nine. That's how I first became familiar with birds and their behaviour.

Was there any  incident or sighting of a particular bird that transformed you from being an egg collector to a birdwatcher?
No, it was probably a gradual thing. By collecting eggs, I learned to identify different species, their songs, their callnotes and their choices of  nesting sites. I do recall being particularly pleased at coming across a cuckoo's egg in a dunnock's nest in  a privet hedge ouside our house in Rochdale. Maybe that was a turning point. Another time, while fielding in a cricket match, I was fascinated by the behaviour of a a skylark which obviously had its nest in the outfield. Later, as my enthusiasm increased, my father bought me  a pair of binoculars. From then on, my egg-collecting days were over.
What's your favourite bird?
I'll stick with the swallow. It has a graceful flight, a sweet little face, an attractive plumage, a cheerful song and it builds an intricate nest. It also carries with it the mystery of mgration - I've seen swallows in all sorts of places, skimming over oceans, in deserts and even once over a volcanic island off Iceland where it is a very rare bird.

What other species do you particularly like?
Stonechats and whinchats rate highly. So do wheatears  - though they are birds of  upland pasture and coastal cliffs, they can turn up anywhere on migration,  even in Hampstead Heath near where I live. When they look out on an urban scene, they have a kind of quizzical look as if to say: "All very interesting but what am I doing here? Isn't it time to move on?"

Do you think there are any birds that tend to be underrated?
That's probably true of certain  groups of birds such as waders in winter plumage - what the Americans call "peeps". The same sometimes applies to warblers. Because they are predominantly brown and indistinct,  people sometimes give up on them. But I like them - they're the worth the challenge.

Do you have a favourite habitat for birdwatching?
Reservoirs. After we moved to Birmingham when I was growing up, my birdwatching patch used to be Bartley Reservoir. They may not be the most pleasing of landscapes. but you never know what might turn up at reservoirs - all through the year but especially at migration times.

Are there any species that you are not so keen on - or may even irritate you? How about magpies, for instance?
I'm not anti- any birds. All species  have their own special appeal. In my garden I feed jays and the parakeets which have now become common  Sometimes, they make an awful din and I tell them to shut up - but really I'm only saying it to myself. It's a pleasure to have them - especially the jays within just a foot or so away.

Ring-necked parakeets have become established in breeding colonies in parts of London after escaping from aviaries. Do you have any misgivings  about the spread of non-native species.
As far as I am aware, there is no evidence that parakeets compete with other species or cause crop damage as they are said to do in Asia. Actually, as a species, they are a bit "wet". Despite their aggressive appearance, they are  timid - even woodpigeons frighten them off.

Do you enjoy watching birds overseas?
Yes, but it's a different sort of pleasure. I remember a visit to Kenya and seeing lots of different species. I thought I'd never get the hang of them all, but after a week you more or less work things out - for instance, which are the more common ones.

Finally, did you see any unusual birds on your rail trip up from King's Cross to Grimsby?
Not on this occasion. I do look out for birds through train windows but, apart from the last stretch, this is not the  most interesting of lines. One of the  best routes is the one from Paddington to Penzance. It was  on one trip that I saw lots of little egrets - it made me aware how widespread they were becoming since their arrival only a few years ago.


ON Wednesday, there were 500-plus Brent geese on the field of emerging wheat adjacent to Tetney Marshes - but yesterday and today there was none.

Has the farmer taken decisive action?

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