Last week was one of those difficult weeks that stretched out interminably as far as you could see without any hope of coming to an end. Which surprised me at the time, because it was only two days long before Girl and I headed up to the north-west to see family.
We dropped in at Rutland on the way, though bird news I've read later suggested that doing it on the way back would have been more phalaropic. We quickly notched up a good if predictable list in the hour and a bit we had: the feeders had yellowhammers and tree spugs underneath them, the hedgerows various warblers and the res all the summer ducks you could count and the only real numbers of terns I've seen all year. There's just been one tern past the flat this spring. We also had two little owls, one on a roadside just outside the reserve and one passing through the carpark, which aren't birds I see as regularly as I should.
The ospreys were as good as you'd expect for the £5.50 each entry fee, the view from the hide being, with a scope, excellent. They put on a great performance scrapping over the remains of a fish, feeding their young, dive bombing some egyptian geese and flying big lazy circuits of the bay, more than paying for themselves.
|So much grey.|
I've heard people say it's a bit funny to pay for a 100% guaranteed view of a bird that could just as well be nailed-down, tied to a long piece of string or sitting in a big aviary, and then tick it as a wild bird when you could go see a "proper" one. It's as if, in cases like this, there's some inversely proportional link between how organised and formal the situation and the validity of the sighting or tick. Well, yes, I would get more enjoyment from stumbling across my own osprey, and no, it's not entirely the same as seeing an unknown pair at some remote Scottish loch. But those sneery people can go and do one, whatever that actually means, as those potential experiences don't in any real way diminish how god damn awesome these ospreys actually were the other day. And then they can go do another one because I never find anything good like ospreys when I'm out so have to go and pay to see stuff like this. It sucks to be bad at this birding thing.
The next day we spent most of over the border in north Wales, which was lovely but a failure in most regards. We dipped almost everything we went looking for: no grouse, no flycatchers, no redstarts and no wood warblers. As I said, it sucks to be bad. Well, that, or they just weren't there - I'm not sure which of those things was the case on Friday. They might both have been true. Still, we found a couple of pairs of whinchats and wheatears singing up on the hills which were nice enough and every river we checked had dippers buzzing up and down like strange inland auks. One had a family of mandarins, which was a surprise.
The short short walk we planned along footpaths through a large patch of mixed woodland didn't go too well. It took hours, due firstly to dozens of fallen trees necessitating long and difficult detours and scrambles for which we weren't remotely prepared or equipped, and then a section where the path had been totally removed by landslips. There was no sign of recent passage along what remained of the track and with some of the fallen trees having new growth up through them I don't think anyone had been through this side of winter. While it's nice to know that such undisturbed places still exist in a relatively densely populated bit of the country, it's a right bugger if you actually want to go somewhere and then find that your path stops abruptly at a hedge and a garden fence. Without much of a choice - turning back and redoing all the detours and then a much longer walk wasn't really an option - we pushed through a narrow patch and emerged on someone's patio in full view of their conservatory, crossing the garden and walking the very, very long drive like we knew what we were doing. Up on the lane beyond, the public footpath sign clearly visible on streetview was nowhere to be seen. Hmm.
|Isn't this a nice path?|
|Yes, it's very pleasant.|
And on top of all that the woods only gave three chiffchaffs, half a dozen willow warblers and a blackcap. Poo.