Firstly, owing to recent disputes and bureaucratic wranglings (with myself!) over what I can and can’t add to my 2014 bird list, I have amended my rules.
They are now as follows: –
- Identification of bird must be 100% certain before counting (Small brown bird with little legs is not acceptable)
- Bird must be wild (Pet shop sightings are, therefore, not permissible)
- Bird must be alive (Insert your own Monty Python reference here)
- Bird must be seen (Hearing one is not acceptable)
- Bird must be a pure breed (Hybrids do not count)
I’m sure something else will come up in the future to challenge the fragility of my rules.
Anyway, that’s enough admin!
This weekend I decided to make the most of the balmy weather and take a trip to the seaside.
After the time-consuming dalliances with the dreaded rail replacement services a couple of weeks ago on an epic journey to Staines Reservoir, I chose a coastal town that didn’t have engineering works between me and it. The destination of choice was Littlehampton – which was great because it meant that I would be able to squeeze in a sneaky visit to RSPB Pulborough Brooks on the way.
On my last visit to Pulborough Brooks, I managed to add a whopping TWENTY-SIX birds to my list… It was day two of the challenge, so that explains the hefty number of additions in one go. It is a daily figure that is incredibly unlikely to be matched for the rest of the year – Unless I go to a rainforest… or Birdworld. Obviously, a trip to the latter would score me zero – If I haven’t changed my rules again by then, of course!
Given the paucity of new sightings of late, on this particular visit, I’d be happy with one.
Springtime is a wonderful time of year to watch nature – The World is boisterously waking-up after a lengthy period of darkness, coldness and, in the case of this particular winter, ridiculous wetness. Seemingly overnight, the trees burst into blossom and a verdant glow brings a renewed sense of joy to the previously bleak, brown countryside. Birds burst into life, singing from all available vantage points, in the hope of impressing potential suitors.
Blue Tits flit amongst the shoots of virgin leaves, aerobatically pursuing each other, as if auditioning for the latest Disney fairy-tale; Wrens shiver with sheer effort whilst announcing their presence at a volume seemingly impossible for something so small; and I consider wearing shorts for the first time this year.
The natural world is singing loud and proud, declaring that it has made it through the hardship of another British winter. It is melodically announcing that it is ready to pair up and produce the next generation.
I love this time of year. Everything just seems better, brighter, happier. It even makes me write a little less sarcastically and perhaps a little more poetically.
From a bird-spotting perspective, the springtime also increases my chances of seeing new species… Migrants start arriving from overseas – bringing new types – and our year-round species begin to think about producing mini-versions of themselves. The upshot of all this is that the bird population swells significantly.
However, in spite of all this, after a great couple of hours wandering around the reserve, I found myself wandering back to the visitors’ centre empty notebooked. A superb morning in the sunshine, but no new species.
I saw what I thought was a Blackbird skulking around the undergrowth. I almost walked on, but, for some reason, decided to wave my binoculars in its general direction… It wasn’t a Blackbird – It wasn’t one of Britain’s most common birds… It was, rather unexpectedly, a Water Rail. This was exciting as I’ve only ever seen two of these in the past and both were a considerable distance away. One of these was an interesting leucistic bird – that is, one that has reduced pigmentation – So, you could say, on that occasion, I had actually seen a Whiter Rail.
This Rail was only about ten yards away and merrily going about its business, semi-concealed by a smattering of brambles and probing the mud for lunch with its long red beak.
Water Rails are well-known for squealing like a pig – If I’d have known I’d be seeing one, I would have brought my torch along for a chit-chat.
Next stop: Littlehampton and a probable date with considerable numbers of unidentifiable seagulls and a large portion of chips on the beach…