WHAT'S YOUR FAVOURITE?

We're just about at the end of the Award season in the worlds of the arts. We've had the OSCARS, TONYs, BAFTAs, BRITs and the GRAMMY award ceremonies, where the great and the good of stage, screen and music slap each other on the back and occasionally across the face too. It's all been a lot of fun but also a bit fake as losers put on their best “I'm seething that I lost but the cameras are on me” toothy grins while applauding the winners. It's not necessarily about who's art is the best, but whose support team ran the best campaign to push them forward. But the presentations are usually pretty to the eye or ear, that's what we should concentrate on. And who wore the daftest dress at the event.

This kind of “who's best” question is, of course, both impossible to answer and completely irrelevant. How can you pit one film or song against another and say which is better? It's totally a personal choice. The same with things like CRUFTS dog show. One dog might be bigger, cleaner, straighter than another, but does that make it 'better'?

It's all very childish, literally. Small kids love order and rank. “Who would win in a fight between a Sparrow and a Chaffinch?” they ask. I know, it's ridiculous but I've been asked that very question at the Old Moor Welcome Desk. I think the Sparrow takes it on attitude. And with his bow and arrow.

Another classic 'ranking' question is, “What's your favourite bird?” Again, it's a futile question with more wrong answers than right ones, but for me it's an easy pick. I am aware though that my favourite might not be many other people's top choice.

My selection is definitely not the most awe-inspiring bird on the reserve. That would probably be PEREGRINE FALCONS. They take a lot of beating in the impressiveness stakes with their sheer impressive power as they dive on their prey. Sometimes they literally don't know what's hit them.

My choice isn't the loudest bird either. The volume that small songbirds like WREN or CETTI'S WARBLERS can manage is staggering, especially if they're close by when they start shouting at you. Some people would call them ear-splittingly competitive. I tend to go for 'gobby'.

As for prettiness I'd have to choose either a GOLDFINCH or BULLFINCH. Both are easily seen and bursting with colour. If either of them were a rare migrant then people would be travelling to our Tree Sparrow Farm from several counties away to add a tick to their yearlists. You can't mistake either bird for anything else.

I'd probably give the award for 'Bird Most Likely to Make People Smile' to the KINGFISHER. Back in November I wrote one of these articles all about the King's Fisher and my thoughts on them haven't changed. It's always a good day when you see the flash of electric blue.

But my favourite bird out of all of those that visit Old Moor or call it their home – indeed my favourite of any species I've seen around the world – has to be the humble TUFTED DUCK. It's simplistic monochrome markings make it look like an aquatic belted Galloway but don't be deceived into thinking that it's totally placid and inoffensive like the cattle of the same name. The little tuft on the rear of its head hints at its “don't mess with me” attitude. It's a little punk duck.

I love the fact that it appears completely insignificant as it gently floats around a lake like a plastic radio-controlled toy. Nothing to see here, move along, I'm just a dull duck. Then without warning it flips upwards and rolls into the water, as if it were strapped to the rim of some invisible wheel. Up, roll, under, all in one too-simple-to-be-true fluid movement.

The best bit is if you can watch them from above, perhaps from a bridge, if they tumble into clear water. Then you'll see them swimming like little frantic penguins under the water, leaving a tiny trail of air bubbles to trace their progress as their little feet pump frenetically to keep them at the desired depth. Gorgeous, mesmerising and totally at odds with the air of composure they give off on the surface.

So that's my overall top bird, the lowly Tufty. That and all the other birds mentioned and many more are currently to be seen at Old Moor. There's a bigger list on the accompanying photos. What's your favourite?

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