I got some good news this week…
No, I haven’t been approached by Hollywood asking for the rights to the story of my 2014 bird challenge… I guess they’ll wait until the year is out before sending the blank cheque and the offer of an executive producer role – They might not like the grisly plot twist I’ve got planned for New Year’s Eve.
In the week, I had an interview for a Trainee Ranger job at the Surrey Wildlife Trust and, after bumbling my way through explaining the key features of a chalk grassland habitat, how I’d check if a herd of Belted Galloway cows were feeling chipper or not, getting changed in a car park and then chopping down a fifteen-year old birch tree, they offered me a place on the programme.
To say I’m chuffed is an understatement. To say I’m really chuffed is about right.
For the next year, I will be honing my cattle whispering skills, learning how to tell the difference between stoat and weasel poo and trying really hard not to remove all my limbs with the sharp end of a chainsaw… Sounds amazing, doesn’t it?
This past week or so has also been a bit better than recent weeks for spotting new birds for my list. Before a trip to the Hampshire coast, September’s new additions stood at one (Boo!), however a visit to Keyhaven Marshes saw three more species added (Yay!)
I had been camping in the New Forest, partly for my birthday, but also to hone my animal husbandry skills on the wild ponies that roam the woodland (I was sure it would help me in my upcoming career change – as long as I didn’t get kicked in the neck and die, of course) and my Bird Stalking App had suggested that Keyhaven Marshes might be an interesting place to visit.
There had been a reported Richard’s Pipit in the area and a few other species I had yet to see this year, so I guessed it was worth a slight detour on the homeward journey to go and have a look.
Like a lot of the highlighted sightings of interest, I had never heard of a Richard’s Pipit, so was unsure what it would look like or where it was likely to be spending its holiday at the coast. Because it popped up on the app, I assumed it was fairly uncommon in the UK, so thought I would be able to turn up, use the expected gaggle of bird-watchers pointing their binoculars in the direction of the Pipit, and then find it myself. It is a tactic that has been fairly reliable on a good few occasions so far this year.
Alas, there wasn’t a gaggle, so I had to look around for myself.
My cause wasn’t helped by the fact that my binoculars had started acting like they had been out the previous night and hit the Jägerbombs hard, by showing things double-vision style. I don’t really know much about binoculars, so twiddled the eyepieces a bit. This didn’t work and I was out of ideas.
After a bit of Googling, it turns out that the lenses might be collimated… or de-collimated… or out of collimation. Whichever the correct term was, they were wonkily visioned, so if the Richard’s Pipit was more than thirty feet away, I would be unable to see it clearly or at all (or, I suppose, see two of them).
Suffice to say I never found it (or them).
I did, however, manage to see three new birds for the 2014 list: a Spotted Redshank, a Grey Plover and a Little Stint.
Some helpful chap had rather excitedly told me where I could see the latter – just as I was wandering past him… The great thing about bird-watchers in general is that they are super-keen to share what they have seen with the wider world. I thanked him and another obliging chap let me use his telescope to get a good view of three juvenile Little Stints (This saved me from trying to use my binoculars crossed-eyed). The bird-watching community should be used to teach young children how to share. Ah, group hug!
My total for the year now stands at one-hundred and eighty-one and the full list can be found here.
In other news…
My idea for a bird-watching dictionary is slowly starting to take shape. The Twitchionary, as I have now christened it, is being regularly added to – Take the following as cases in point: -
Throughout the year, I have been trying to pick up some of the specialist language used by bird-spotters so that I might be able to, one day, have an ornithological conversation without recourse to having to guess what the hell is going on (Although, this sort of thing happens in the ‘real’ world too, so it might actually just be an issue with me!) I am now au fait – amongst other things – with “dipping out” (a lot!), “little brown jobs”, have seen a potentially “plastic hoodie” and have done a bit of small-scale “twitching” for an “LTS” and a “BWS”, so am slowly learning the language of Birding.
That said, there always seem to be new words and phrases that pop-up to cause me some bewilderment – This week I encountered someone mentioning “getting on a bird” in a field report. Take this as an example…
“A Wryneck flew out of the thicket by the footpath. Unfortunately, it flew low away from the group… with only a few of us managing to get on it as it flew.”
When I first read it, I thought that it was amazing that the bird in question managed to get away with at least three fully grown men straddling it. Obviously, its meaning isn’t literal, as it is used to refer to seeing rather than mounting.
A similar phrase is to “connect with a bird”, which sounds equally harsh…
“As I rounded the corner, I managed to connect with a Melodious Warbler as it darted into the undergrowth”
That seemed unnecessarily violent… I hope the Warbler ventured out and punched back – Hard!
I’m obviously only making light of these words and phrases because (1) I’m childish and (2) envious that I can’t speak the lingo (I am well aware that jealousy is unbecoming).
Once I’ve learned how to order a baguette and work out how to ask directions to the Town Hall and I might be ready for my GCSE exam…