I met my friend Carolyn for lunch at her home on the Wirral on Tuesday. The weather had been dreadful all morning, but the sun suddenly came out, so we decided to take her very reluctant dog for a walk.
Plumbers, a joiner and an electrician are wreaking havoc in what was once our bathroom and will, in ‘a good week and a half at least’ (plumber's promise), be our superb new bathroom. Radio 2 and power tools have been on at full blast. The house has been filled with alarming banging. I have been exiled to the dining room. So, on Tuesday, for a bit of peace and quiet, I left for Dad's much earlier than usual, and paid my first ever visit to the RSPB reserve at Burton Marshes.
As I entered the new visitor centre, I was surprised to see my friend Carolyn's teenage son greeting visitors. He explained that he was on work experience. I embarrassed him something rotten by insisting I take our photo and text it to his mum.
To test him, I then asked Carolyn's son to tell me what birds we could see in the scrape about 100 metres away. He pointed out shelduck, black-tailed godwits, lapwings, little egrets, and a few other species, then delighted me with my first ever sighting of an avocet. It was feeding in the shallows with sideways sweeps of its upturned beak. Continue reading Two new life-list entries (in black and white)
Nothing much happening on the natural history front. A mixture of very wet weather and a guest staying with us over the New Year period meant that I haven't managed to get out much.
I did, however, manage my 24th consecutive Christmas Eve ascent of Moel Famau in North Wales. As I stood drinking tea with my friend Carolyn and her family at the top, we were treated to a spectacular view of a merlin semi-circling the summit before dipping behind a wall. Carolyn's oldest seemed far more impressed that a bird had the same name as one of her favourite TV characters than by the bird itself.
The midwinter storms have brought plenty of gulls inland to Hebden Bridge. If the weather here is a relief for the gulls, I can't imagine what it must be like on the coast.
To Carolyn's for a quick walk around 'her' field. The cow parsley is out in force at the moment. It looks magnificent.
Last weekend, I finally took the trouble to look up the name of the plant with the characteristic leaves and brown stem which grows in abundance in the field behind the house (and in our lawn!). To my surprise, it turned out to be sorrel. So I searched some out in Carolyn's field and got her to try a couple of leaves. Bitter, but surprisingly refreshing. Apparently, farm-workers used to chew on sorrel leaves to slake their thirst when working in the fields.
Then down to Burton Marshes for 20 minutes nature waiting. I hadn't been down there for years, and couldn't believe my luck: reed warblers, sedge warblers, and grasshopper warblers—three new species for me. I must have seen them there before as a child, but warblers are buggers to identify. Now, thanks to my digital camera and iPhone British birds app (which even plays the birds' songs for you—a great way to identify warblers), I was able to work out which little brown jobs were which. The grasshopper warbler's call was amazing: I kept wondering what the loud, grasshopper-like noise was, and then the penny dropped!
Good things come to those who wait 20 minutes.