Saturday, 28 June 2014

An accidental birdwatcher

This past year I have been busy; very busy. There’s been lots of traveling, lots of training courses and lots of time spent studying or in the office. Trains and training rooms, flipchart paper and computer screens seem to take over my days. My binoculars have bumped around in my bag in the boot of my car or in and out of the office, and are in need to some ‘t.l.c.’; primarily re-alignment work as they are now rebelling against their poor treatment and not quite focusing properly.
There has been little chance to venture out bird watching, certainly not as the primary reason for a trip. I have become an ‘accidental birdwatcher’ where I just bump into birds now and then, when busy doing something else. I did discover a Treecreeper’s nest, in a crevice in an old Scotts Pine on my local patch, and deliberately visited this patch determined to see my first swallows of the year. I stayed late after work one warm April evening to spend a glorious hour listening to Nightingales sing from dense cover, and watching Avocets feeding in reflective pools.
But other memorable, birding highlights of the last 12 months are few and far between.
A Hobby versus Peregrine punch up, over the streets of Winchester when shopping with the family one sunny afternoon last summer and Sand Martins swooping over teams of rowers on Bedford River and nesting in holes and drainage pipes in the concreted banks, seen whilst walking from train station to hotel.  The long-awaited return of the swifts to the skies above my hometown was noted by hearing their unmistakable screams whilst crossing the road to the library. The numerous families of goldfinches that keep emptying my feeders of sunflower hearts this spring are disturbed by my appearance at the back grate as I stumble in from a full day at work.

In June, I turned 22. Now this might not seem much of a milestone to many people. For me however, it marks the point where in career and opportunities terms, I have passed the age where I can use the novelty of ‘it’s so good to see a young person interested in nature’, to my advantage, and instead rank as a low-experienced adult with plenty of competition. It also marks the summer when current projects come to an end, and I have some important choices to make and some doors to tentatively open.
One of these doors is the one back into serious birding.
Birds had become such a part of my life; both work and play, I had started taking them perhaps a little for granted; they were part of the furniture. This does not mean I wasn’t watching birds or enjoying them. My days have been filled with them, and with butterflies, dragonflies, flowers, moths and all kinds of fascinations, that nature has to offer. I just wasn’t always looking for them as often as I could.

Now it is time to get those binoculars fixed, and stretch under-used walking muscles. To retune the eyes and the ears, to spy that movement amongst the pine needles and to pick up that high squeak that reveals the tiny Goldcrest, or spot that tiny soaring dot and the pouring song of the Skylark in sun-glare skies. Time to enjoy the summer migrants before they leave for their winter homes, and to get ready to welcome the delights blown here by autumn storms. 

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