Saturday, April 12, 2008

A welcome change

Spring creeps in here bringing with it the usual rush of wildfowl, mainly Canada and Snow Geese but also a few ducks especially Pintail of the northern variety.

Having registered for the Bigby this year (Google it if you want to join) the first three months offered a pretty static set of species but now that we can see the garden a bit, the early migrants are popping up boosting my total to 32!, as I write my favourite sparrow, Fox, feeds outside my window.

Winter did not go away quietly, offering a further six inches of snow for our roof to deal with but the owls knew the score, the Snowy Owl below is my last from the St-Clet lanes, typicaly sat out away from the road, the field below it is now a temporary lake, much like many of the fields in the area.

Finally, a little story, the rudiments of which were published in the Nottinghamshire Birdwatchers newsletter.

Forty years at the bins, man and boy

Sometime in the early summer of 1967 a group of snotty nosed English urchins were doing what kids do best, misbehaving. We were roaming our local playing fields, small gangs playing football, picking fights, breaking things, and we came across a small flock of flying birds, hanging on the corner of a wood in the late day sunshine.

For reasons unknown, one of the kids had an old 78 record and was using it as a Frisbee, the sort of dangerous thing kids did in those days. By pure fluke, the flying record neatly severed one of the birds in two, we were all amazed and delighted. The next day several kids returned with their parent’s treasured Elvis records and began trying to repeat the event, resulting in several injuries, either caused by a direct hit from a record, or from the beating delivered by irate parents, in serious mourning for their compromised treasured musical collection.

My fascination was somewhat more intense than most of the other kids, and I kept the bits of the bird for a while, identifying it from the pocket Observers Book of Birds, as a House Martin, my first ever tick! I then started to spend a bit more time looking at the birds in the local wood, and even taking their eggs until the summer holidays ended and school, or at least avoiding it, became my focus.

The next year a pair of House Martins decided to breed on my friend Terry’s house and, although I was very jealous, I could not resist dropping in on Terry with increased frequency and keeping an eye on the nest. I remember that we wrote down how many times the birds visited and what date we first saw a young bird at the entrance. We saw them fly out for the first time and then suddenly found a big gap in our lives when they left.

That spring of 1968 I regard as when I first started birding because, from then on, I had to know what I was looking at. And now, in the spring of 2008, I am celebrating 40 years as a birder.

This short note records that and I will never mention it again, promise!


JORDI said...


Seb said...

Happy 40 years birding anniversary Mark! I wish you 40 more years and many many more lifers!! Nice story. For me, I started briding more seriously when I began to talk to you about your pictures behind your desk at work. :)