Bird expert of Tufnell Park inspires neighbours to engage with local wildlife

Mavis Pilbeam in her natural habitat. [Pic: Lucy Knight]

When Mavis Pilbeam tells her neighbours that she enjoys birdwatching in Islington, the most common response is, “what for? Pigeons?!”

However, since moving to Tufnell Park 35 years ago, Pilbeam has spotted over 40 different species of bird in her local area. Now, she is encouraging her neighbours to birdwatch too.

Evan Tzanis was inspired by a poster that Pilbeam recently put up on Mercers Road, detailing birds to watch out for in the area. “[Pilbeam] has encouraged me to learn more about the wildlife of our parks and streets,” Tzanis says.

Pilbeam spends her time running bird walks both for her neighbours and for the Thomas Hardy Society. She also edited a book of poetry and artwork called “Birds”, published by the British Museum.

Her first name Mavis means ‘song-thrush’. She says that she “grew up with birdsong” in rural Hampshire, and has taken a keen interest in birdlife ever since.

She acknowledges that many people in London shut off from the sights and sounds of wildlife around them. “It makes me so sad to see people walking around wearing headphones,” said Pilbeam. “Bird watching is as much about listening than it is watching.”

“Everyone’s talking about saving the planet, but do they really know what they’re saving?” she adds.

“Anyone of any age can enjoy birdwatching,” says Pilbeam. “And now, with the internet, you can even find out which birds people have seen in your local area.”