Mad Hatter

Mad Hatter

A tribute to Al Batt

I knew it was March because the hares were going mad. They were haring across the fields. Three hares chased each other, stopped and thought about it and then chased each other back the other way. I knew it would stop when one decided not to be chaste any more. Their antics were not as pointless as they seemed.

I know about pointless, I’m a birdwatcher. An acquaintance, unable to get his head around the why of birding asked if I took photos of the birds I chased. He was a golfer, I asked him if he took photos of a little white ball going down a hole… now he got it, …birders are mad.

I went into the bird hide. There is room in there for a dozen birders or one person talking loudly. Luckily it was his day off. I looked over the scrape. It’s called a scrape as the birds are scraped together to make ends meet. Today the scraping must have been from the bottom of the barrel as it was very quiet. The wind whistled through the viewing slots and a few teal whistled while they worked up an appetite. A lone curlew was poking his nose in where it did concern him. One egret was hunting fish by himself, he had no egrets.

Sparrows scattered from the willows when a merlin flew through so low it had to hop up each time it encountered a tall weed. Magic! But that’s what you’d expect from Merlin. I went back to the car to join Hawkeye. She likes company when we are birding, …her own. I told her the birding was very quiet so far, she told me to keep it that way.

It was trying to be Spring, but no one had told the Winter breeze still visiting from Siberia. It still kept trying, buds threatened to burst, blossom on a cherry was wondering where the bees were. A solitary bee had set his alarm too early and made a bee-line for the blossom.

Some birds had been queuing all night and got worms. I recall my grandmother used to ask me if I had worms when I squirmed on her lap. Anyone would have squirmed if granny had ever brushed their hair, no wonder my dad was bald. Dad was a policeman and a fisherman. When he was on nightshift he would collect worms from people’s lawns using his flashlight. He kept the worms in a tin, no one knew as he kept it under his hat. Thrushes who queued all night resented my dad getting to the worms first.

Cows wandered the marshes. The fields were scattered with molehills and cow pats. Very occasionally three or four cow pats walked a short way so I could tell they were grey partridge. They knew spring was around the corner as they cuddled in a lovey-dovey covey.

It wasn’t that early but the larks were up. I listened intently to their song, it said summer had started the long journey north.

A buzzard circled high above. Rabbits didn’t notice, the buzzard had his eye on them. Rabbits aren’t that bright, if they were they would stop eating their own droppings and think about a decent breakfast instead, I know I was, so was the buzzard. Some rabbits had bright eyes from watching Watership Down, they scattered to their warren at the shadow of a passing crow. For some reason, I wondered if I would see a white rabbit disappear down a hole, I was birding in wonderland.

I’d love to go birding with Al Batt but no-one has offered to cover the air fare. We birders have deep pockets, but they are full of bird seed and snacks. Mine are full of rye in case there are a couple of dozen hungry blackbirds about.

You probably think I’ve gone All Batty, Y the L not.

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