GOB 181 – Moving Targets

This article first appeared on page 19 of Birdwatching Magazine April 2024

We have lived in this house for almost a quarter of a century, and are about to attempt to move… partly to be nearer our scattered family, but also to eliminate stairs from daily life. Our county of choice is a tad further north, but we intend to remain costal, I would miss sea-watching too much.

So, before putting our house on the market, and finding a new home, what is the first thing I did? Obviously, I joined a birdwatching club in the proposed locality. Luckily, that county has a couple of places I’ve loved birding in the past… one a top spot for Nightingales, the other already supporting breeding Spoonbills. It was easy to find the local bird reserves and we have the draw of some of the best UK sites within an hour or so of our destination.

I’m trepidatious of course, not least as I’m downsizing my library – my love of books doesn’t extend to a love of packing them in boxes. But, I’m also excited at the prospect of discovering new patches and a slightly different avifauna. I dare say that, reading around and asking for help it will be easy enough to establish places I will seek out for the birds I want to see every year.

Right now, I know where I can lay my hands on a rock pipit, or cosy up to corn buntings. In a new county I’m going to need help to challenge the 312 on my current county list. Trying will be fun though! Of course, having those opportunities on the doorstep is an absolute must… if there isn’t a birdy place close by, then I ain’t movin!

But birds are not the issue. I realise that, over the last several years I have divided the year up. There are obvious birding seasons… Winter watching for residents and visitors; Spring excitement as summer visitors fly in or fly by; Summer breeders raising confusing chicks and Autumn weather bringing down the passers-by who feed up before the long flight south. The issue is finding places that will satisfied my other nature needs. Apart from gazing at the sea and enjoying the seals while hoping for cetaceans I’ve gotten into a pattern of seeking out non-birds. In Spring, when the birding is quietened down I look for orchids and other flora. In summer, when the leaves hide the breeding birds I’m inclined to see what else flutters by on the wing, whether its odonata or stripy pollinators. Come Autumn I cannot resist the spicy smell of woodland leaf-mould bursting with ripe fungi.

These are all new-found interests for me, ones that challenge me even more than ducks in moult or worn out warblers. I have a network of knowledgeable sources who can point me in the direction to follow for flowers and which habitats might produce a new bee or hoverfly lifer.

I know I’m not alone in become an all-taxa lister. I guess it comes from always loving the wild, through an apprenticeship of naming the parts, starting with all things avian. I still full-on love nature and being girdled by her skirts, but now want to name that bee or list the fungi too. Knowing what you see is an extra, not the be all and end all of nature watching, but an added dimension.

Some of you have turned to capturing those visions with your phone’s eye or a long lens, I just want to see new non-civilizations and boldly name what I’ve never named before. Who will help me when I re-locate?

Rant it out!