I’m becoming a real birder, me.
It all began a couple of months back when Linda and I were indulging ourselves with some Oolong Top Fancy in the garden. I couldn’t help noticing her skin already had goose-bumps when a chilly breeze arrived and began vibrating the perigynous tubes of her Fuchsia. She slipped indoors for our wooly hats.
She was ages looking for those hats – I’d forgotten to tell her I’d sellotaped them to the walls of the oven. Very occasionally an idea comes to me which – if only people listened – would improve lives: Sellotaped to the walls of the oven those hats will keep the heat where it belongs and reduce the number of times it switches itself On …wastefully illuminating the ‘On’ light.
Back in the garden, as I waited, the first pangs of loneliness wracked my frame. A Winnet fluttered down from the Fuchsia and onto Linda’s end of the plank of wood we laughably call our Garden Seat. It hopped around a bit, cocking its head to admire its reflection in the eight coats of High-Gloss Yacht Varnish – then it looked up at me and winked. That did it for me…
So we nipped over to Jura yesterday to do some Twitching, as we birders call it. Regular readers of this blog – and I’m proud to see that there is one - will remember that we’ve only just returned from a few days on Jura …but the ruinous expense of a second visit to the wildest, remotest part of that island was immediately rewarded by the sighting of a pair of Fire Crested Merganzas – they are extremely rare …they may not even be listed in your bird book. I certainly couldn’t find them in mine.
For the next two hours we saw nothing at all – or nothing to speak of: a pair of Upland Moa; a Red Moustached Fruit Dove; …a crowd of Great Auk wandered by at one stage, followed by a Dodo – just one …which didn’t bode well for the Dodo. But we stuck with it and our patience paid off at last when we spotted, first of all a Robin …then a Thrush.
My Optimax 1000 birding-glasses have Zirconium-Coated lenses. You’ve got to have the right gear – I know they’re several thousand pounds more than most people are prepared to spend but I don’t see them as a luxury; to me they’re an essential bit of kit and I never now take them off, preferring them around-the-house to my glasses. They’ve transformed my driving, too – I now anticipate traffic-problems several counties ahead …and I’m first to spot parking-spaces – but they’re long gone by the time I get there. That’s caused more than a bit of road rage, that has – people get shirty when they arrive back from an afternoon’s shopping and find you just pulling-up, claiming to have spotted that space first. But a bit of advice: there’s absolutely no point in your going a-twitching and simply taking with you the cardboard tube from a roll of Aluminium foil with a magnifying glass stuck in each end. No point at all – you’d be wasting your time …and I speak from experience.
A booklet, thoughtfully included in the box by the manufacturers of my Optimax 1000′s, has turned me into an expert birder virtually overnight. It is a four-page pamphlet entitled The Bird Watchers Bible - a grand claim which appears to be born-out by it’s having apparently been translated from the Hebrew.
Next up we saw a White Eared Wheat Chaffer and I thought to myself ‘That’s funny – what’s he doing here in the middle of June? He shouldn’t be here …not yet.’ A quick check through my Binoculars revealed the true circumstance, however, and I could see immediately that what I’d taken to be a Wheat Chaffer was in fact a long-handled rake carelessly left out in someones garden. I confidently crossed ‘Wheat Chaffer’ off my list of sightings – but it was a pity because Wheat Chaffers aren’t thought to come this far West …indeed, the one I thought I saw hadn’t.
But where one door closed another opened – sitting on the handle of that rake I noticed a pair of Choughs – an absolute treat because you won’t often see two together. We’ve all seen one on its own - of course we have …if only because the top-shelf magazine happened to fall open at that page …but how many of us can put our hand on our heart and say we’ve seen two together? I can!
Once I’d got the Object-lens Calibration harmonised with my extended Field-of-View Scopes I scanned the horizon and had frequently to catch my breath! – we tallied: Four Spotted Coots; a Skeet; Three Croon Warblers; a Black and White Minstrel; and just when I was beginning to get dizzy with only ‘exotic’ sightings, along came a good old Sparrow – though I could see from the stains on his plumage that he’d been blown off-course from the Kumtag Desert where he’d been eating Goji berries. That, or he’d just come from a market in West Kensington. If they have markets in West Kensington? Perhaps it was a souk.
Exhausted but happy, Linda and I got up to leave and only then did I that discover that I’d been lying on a Silver Bearded Plover!
I love birds, me!
Chicken for dinner!
Can’t wait to try that oven…
Justin is responsible for Phoenix from the Ashes …and very soon, another lightweight read.