GOB 91 – Birding Doldrums
This article first appeared in Birdwatching Magazine June 2017
Picture this, everyone around you is just getting into their shorts and sandals, beaming with bonhomie and generally frolicking in the sunshine and you stare out at the blue skies with a miserable face.
Spring is over and it’s not yet autumn and the rest of the world celebrates while you slump into the shallows of despond.
What’s wrong with you? Get out there and enjoy the verdant foliage and lush woodlands… except, of course, the mass of leaves hides most birds from view… nothing much new is turning up on your patch and the twitching media are hushed except for news of cetaceans, Odonata or Lepidoptera… if you wanted to know about the latter you would be a bugger not a birder your internal dialogue concludes as you sigh inwardly.
Even when you do go out to stretch your legs, or the dog’s, everything is confusion. Mega tick waders first glimpsed turn out to be young redshank… weird warblers and funny finches turn out to be newly fledged old hats. Apart from the faithful blackbirds and raucous Cetti’s warblers most of the birds cannot even be bothered to serenade you as they stay up to all hours grabbing grubs to stuff the mouths of their over demanding youngsters.
When you do get back the will to bird it is nipped in the bud by a spouse or relative expecting you to chuck another prawn on the Bar-B or gather a tribe of gosling-like children and fiddle about in rock pools or exhaust your bank manager’s patience to afford a visit to some madhouse of a mega park where you are expected to enjoy being endangered by fast moving Ferris wheels or lunch hurling switchbacks.
Even the pub is off limits as the garden is filled with nestlings and the lounge bar with musically challenged fledglings who think volume is the whole point of music. Your mates are not available for sneaky outings as they too are required to be grandparents, parents or willing participants in the living hell that is a family holiday in Blackpool, Benidorm or Bournemouth.
Cars that should be parked in the shade of Titchwell or Leighton Moss are nose to tail on the M forty something or the A-road to ferry ports.
Courage mon brave, all is not lost! If you can sneak away from Southport sands or Terra Mitica’s grasp there are birds to be had. Just away from the sands are mudflats and inland are marshes, on the fringes of Benidorm are Black Wheatears and Hoopoes.
If dad looks after the kids you can sneak off for an hour or two of tranquillity, if mum takes the reins maybe you can slip off to a cool hide and test your ID skills out on all those fluffy balls of wader chickery or just enjoy the breeze and baby birds.
Late on a summer evening when the air is cooling over the marshes and the still pools are alive with insect hatches you can watch the wonder that is the Swift as it ploughs through the air sucking up the invertebrate soup with the majesty of the most birdy of birds. If you are in the right place you can soar with the hobbies as they take out drifting dragonflies or chase hapless sand martins. There are still quiet lakes where Spotted Flycatchers ply the sky with their constant looping from their perch into the midges and back to their perch again. The luckiest of us may find a quiet Scottish moor and listen to the clapping wings of a Short-eared Owl’s display or perhaps an East Anglian pine forest clearing to see Goshawks soar, Woodcock rode or Woodlark sing. Stay late on the lowland heath and watch dusk broken by the white flashes of a nightjar’s wing or lay awake in the small hours by a scrubby hillside where nightingales still sing.
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