Monday, January 19, 2009

Why DO we do it?!

When birders go for a blog round their local patch, what are they hoping for? Of course we are all different, and it may be that some are simply trying to get out of the house for while. But I think it's safe to assume that all of the following are on their wish list:

1 To be assured that all the species that ought to be there ARE there

This might seem like a very pedestrian objective, but 90% of birding chat is about what's missing, or what is present but in much reduced numbers.

2 To locate the less common ones that, for example, occasionally winter, or occur on passage

This involves a kind of Ray Mears Bushcraft, in other words, going to the right place at the right time because you are predicting that such and such a species OUGHT to turn up there sooner or later. I have been trying this winter for Waxwing and Great Grey Shrike, and still live in hopes. Today, I even had Rough-legged Buzzard and Short-eared Owl at the back of my mind.

3 To enjoy anything that counts as "avian spectacular"

We all enjoy large flocks of birds, the sky filled with a skein of geese or thousands of Golden Plover or the wheeling of Starlings going to roost. Under this heading too are what you might call dramatic encounters, such as the sight of a corvid mobbing a large raptor, or a Sparrowhawk pouncing on unsuspecting prey.

4 To find something REALLY rare and exciting

This, as you can appreciate, doesn't happen very often, and then only to the very best and most persistent birders. If you are ever lucky enough to come upon a rarity, make sure that someone else sees it. Otherwise two things will happen:- [1] others may not believe you; [2] you will eventually begin to think that you imagined the whole thing.

Go on, ask me how I got on on my blog round my local fen this afternoon. Go on, please! I satisfied 1, 2 and 3.

1 "Ordinary" birds were there - Mistlethrush, Reed Bunting, Yellowhammer, Linnets, Fieldfares, various gull and corvid species, and so on.

2 I managed to find FIVE Stonechats, a personal best for Haddenham fen. I also came across a feeding party of 10 Bewick Swans, which, though to be expected in the fens in winter, are very uncommon in my parish.

3 Spectacle there was a-plenty today after a long period when the fen has been very quiet. Apart from the hundreds of Fieldfares, I clocked up a flock of 2000 Golden Plover, and later a flock of 4000, though it's possible that the initial two thousand had joined up with another two thousand. Similarly, I lost count of Lapwings after 2000. Even corvids were making a contribution, with a feeding flock of a hundred Jackdaws, though what they were feeding on I cannot tell you.

As to 4, I guess the only rarity on Haddenham fen today was me:- I have been staying in the house lately because of the bitter cold weather and the delicate state of my bronchial tubes. But I returned home a very happy bunny.

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