Friday, 13 July 2007

How to be a Bad Birdwatcher

It has been a while since I've wrote anything about nature, but I was reminded of Simon Barnes excellent book How to be a Bad Birdwatcher when Mrs C and I were chatting about her uncanny knack of spotting birds. I have been a fan of ornithology since a teenager, when I used to wonder down to Crime Lake near Failsworth with my dad's Carl Zeiss 10 X 50 binoculars, that weighed nearly as much as me, to spot Coots, Moorhens and other birds that, whilst common, I loved. On and off, over the years, I have returned to my hobby with varying degrees of enthusiasm; but I have never been a twitcher: I have never felt the desire to run half way across the country to see a rare bird that has arrived at our shores by sheer accident only, in most cases, to be eaten by the local Sparrowhawk. I have always delighted in the bio-diversity of wherever I happen to be at the time, rather than specifically going to look for something; and that is why I am a bad birdwatcher: I don't have to hire a sherpa to carry my array of optical equipment; I take the dog with me; and I point excitedly at things (usually scaring them off in the process). Mrs C. has come to birdwatching late, as much to humour me, I suspect, as to expand her existing interest in wildlife in general; but she has now embraced it with every bit as much enthusiasm as I and, what is more, she is damned well better at it than I am. Only yesterday, walking the dog near to Dovestones Reservoir, whilst I was doing my impression of the great hunter, silently creeping along the path with my binoculars, and seeing nothing, she suddenly stopped, pointed and said, "What's that on the side of that tree" - it was a Great Spotted Woodpecker, not uncommon, but I hadn't seen it. Simon Barnes' book is a book for people who are not impressed by the lore of twitchers but love nature, it is full of excellent tips to improve your enjoyment without having to buy an anorak.

Mrs C and I leave for a week in Keswick tomorrow; We are staying in a lodge on the outskirts of the town right by a river,
so I hope to have plenty of nature notes to share when we return. Just as an aside, it's funny how in Keswick we are in a lodge, but effectively the same building was a chalet, at Pontins as kids, and a pre-fab after the war when people needed cheap housing stock (and in those cases post war pre-fabs are listed buildings with families still living in them).

I have two good books to read, so if it rains all week, as the forecasts suggest it might, you needn't worry about us; click here to see what I've chosen as my holiday reads.


WalksFarWoman said...

I'm an avid birdwatcher but nature can be so cruel. For weeks I've been watching 2 baby gulls on a flat roof a little distance away.

At first they were bundles of fluff, cute as buttons and as the weeks have passed they have grown so big with an incredible wing span. Last week I watched them play with a bit of string, tugging and pulling each other just like toddlers, then, frustrated by the bird traffic overhead, they started to run and jump about the roof gearing for lift off but never quite making it, it was so funny to watch.

Not so funny was the moment one of them fell over the edge - I was heartbroken, it disappeared from my view. For ages the other one hung over the edge just looking forlornly - if a gull can do so.

What a difference a couple of days make, the other one is now up and away and soaring with mum but still making a bit of a hash of the landings!:) I know they're regarded as a nuisance but you couldn't help but get drawn in.

Hope you enjoyed Keswick!

Lisa said...

Becareful out there, there's a vulture on the loose! Someone's "pet" escaped.