Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Life and lifers

Every birder/birdwatcher looks forward to the moment when s/he sees a new bird, a "lifer" as we call it. The longer you spend your time seeing birds, the harder it is to get a lifer, a bird you have never seen before. To give you a perspective, the first 100 aren't difficult, though it still requires a lot of effort. To reach 200 requires a lot more effort. After 250, it starts to get harder, and most people never get much beyond that figure. The stars maybe get somewhere in the 300s, but that means chasing every rarity to hit British shores.
Today I got a lifer: a Red-flanked Bluetail. And all thanks to my anonymous friend, D. I was, as you can imagine, very happy. And then, two things happened to make me even happier. First, as we were driving back towards one of our favourite birding spots, Titchwell (They also make an awesome sausage and onion baguette, and we were hungry), we came upon a field where beet had been lifted, leaving a mass of "tops". And on that field were, who knows?, maybe 8000 Pink-footed Geese, so close we could almost touch them, and so wonderfully noisy, a medley of the most musical notes that any geese can utter. Magic, unforgettable. Not a "lifer", but one of those birding moments that you never forget.
And then, somewhat later at Titchwell, we got into conversation with a lady who was SO excited because she had seen several new species that day, bringing her "life" total up to maybe 50 or 60. Oh my, that was a wonderful moment for her, but also a wonderful moment for me and for D, because we both relived our first days in birding. She has so many lifers still to come. Me, I bumped my total up today by one bird, but hell, that's not what matters. What matters is that every encounter with wildlife is an enrichment, a chance to realise that we are all part of something much bigger and more beautiful than ourselves.

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