February 21, 2006

Coming of age?

I keep saying to Katie that I am a rubbish birder. Basically because I have birded with some damn fine birders and also because I have no confidence. But today, I realised I'm not as bad as I think I am.

A Hen Harrier had been reported not far away and just over the border but despite best efforts and checking suitable habitat, we couldn't find it. Three or four Red Kites enlivened proceedings and a Yellowhammer tried to sing- it was a bit half-hearted but with snow lashing almost horizontally, I wouldn't be in the mood for singing either.

Only other birds were a covey of Red-legged Partridges, 14 Skylarks, 87 Golden Plover and a partial albino Blackbird eating ivy berries. Best sight however was a herd of eight Fallow Deer at close range. There's something almost primaeval and melancholy about deer, their nervous demeanour makes me think of the age when wildwood covered half the country, how we've raped the countryside for centuries and how this mindless destruction continues. I'm depressing myself now so I'll shut up.

After lunch, I dragged Katie kicking and screaming to Woodwalton Fen. ''We won't see anything in this weather,'' she said.

No, we saw nothing apart from Marsh Harrier, a superb ringtail Hen Harrier, Woodcock, Siskin, Marsh Tit, hundreds of winter thrushes, a Sparrowhawk and a Great-spotted Woodpecker excavating a nest hole.

Great stuff. And for locating the Hen Harrier, Katie has agreed that I can have a birding proficiency badge, although she very nearly didn't see it because I am rubbish at giving directions-

Me: ''Ringtail! In front of the barn! Going right!''

Katie: ''Which f*cking barn? There are four of them!''

She bought me a roadmap for my birthday. But what good is that if I don't know where I am?

Today's marks:

Birding: B+
Directions: D-

Species added today:
108. Woodcock
109. Hen Harrier

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