Saturday 30 June 2012

The ultimate in urban birding!

As a good friend of David Lindo, The Urban Birder, I am very familiar with the concept of urban birding, the idea that even in our streets birds can be found. Recent rarities reflect this idea well including the recent Little Swift flying around a car park on the Wirrel, last year there was a White-throated Robin in Hartlepool and an Oriental Turtle Dove in Oxford, both having been found in urban environments. However, today I reckon we've gone one step better than even Mr. Lindo himself. We found a Skylark inside a shopping centre!

The scene of our discovery
Elis and I were concerned naturally about the well-being of this bird, so I contacted the security people to see if they would call the RSPB or RSPCA to help catch and release the bird. I assured these people that this was no sparrow and would not be able to survive under these circumstances.
Natural 'unnatural' surroundings
The security chief asked me if the bird concerned was a pipit that lived over by a well know fast food outlet, a little stunned I said it was a pipit-like bird and confirmed the location.
       "Oh we love her, our little pipit," she crooned, adding, "she's been here for ages."
Shopping Centre Lark - Alauda mallensis
Stunned by this news I listened as the lady explained that it had lived for some time on the planted beds in that area. When I returned to look more closely at the bird I found it eating some burger roll crumbs and a chip, so much for my concerns about it not surviving.
Survivor - Tucking in to burger a fries
As we watched the bird hop around in the bed, we did notice that it seemed rather stressed by the loud comings and goings of the shoppers, but it had nowhere to go.
The bird looked a little distressed at times
I can't decide whether it is better off inside that building with no predators and a constant supply of junk food, or whether it should be caught and released into more natural surroundings. It amazed me how so many people could walk past and not notice this bird, some perhaps just glancing down to see what we were photographing. However, one elderly couple stopped to have a look, eventually advising me that the bird was not a Skylark as I had mistakenly thought, but a baby thrush... oh well.

Shopping centre Skylark unnotied by passing shoppers

How it came to be there in the first place is somewhat of a mystery, my best guess is that it was a migrant that hit one of the huge windows and stunned, somehow found its way inside.
How did it get there in the first place?
Either way it was a real surprise for us and a stout reminder that indeed just about anything can turn up just about anywhere!
Elis snapping the Skylark, passers by mostly didn't turn a hair
If you are interested in the concept of urban birding and would like to find out more, then take a look at David's excellent website and follow his urban birding adventures in our cities and beyond.


  1. Tis true Rick, this bird has been present for a few years now. Every now and then someone makes a comment on NBBR about it.
    But like you say how the hell did it get there in the first place ? !!

    1. Thanks Rob. I thought it strange that I hadn't seen it before, but then I remembered I never go to the place unless under duress and then it's a quick in and out for essential purchases. The whole thing is a bit of a mystery, strange but true.

  2. Alauda mallensis!!! I can't believe it's been suppressed for so long. I still need it!!

    1. Hi Lee. I know I promised to name my next new species after you, but you know how it is... It seems its a long stayer so if you want directions.... LOL