I was out for an early morning walk before work around Papercourt Meadows and, in the distance, I could see a large brown bird being harassed by Crows. It was still fairly dark and the bird was quite far away, but my burgeoning instinctive bird ID skills kicked-in and immediately told me that it was a Common Buzzard. I was so confident that I didn’t even need to get my binoculars out. At the start of the year, I would have struggled to make such a straightforward and confident identification, so I was proud of myself. That doesn’t often happen. Go me!
Buzzards are nice to see, but are seen frequently and therefore nothing to get especially excited about.
I continued across the field – in the general direction of the Buzzard – and observed a handful of Magpies joining the mêlée and the bird started to not look quite as Buzzardy as it initially had. I’ve never seen Magpies pestering a bird of prey before and it wasn’t as big as I thought it was. My less instinctive, more considered, bird ID skills began to kick in and question their rash instinctive counterpart. I decided to get the binoculars out and have a better look…
… It was most definitely not a Buzzard, and, in actual fact, a Short-Eared Owl!
A new sighting for the year, taking my total for the year to one-hundred and eighty-five. It was also the first time I had ever seen one and the first opportunity I had ever had to take really bad photos of one.
I started to wonder how many new birds I had missed this year because I thought they were something else. I banished my instincts to the naughty corner to think about what they had done.
This week’s Fauna Corner is a little different as it involves hand-crafted animalia…
I’ve started helping out at an RSPB junior group and this month we had the chance to make Otters out of clay. My artistic skills are about on a par with the standard of my Short-Eared Owl photography, so I apologised in advance to the art world.
After I had finished my Otter (described as looking like a spatchcock squirrel by one kind-hearted Sister Wendy wannabe – You know who you are!), I complimented one of the group on his creation, when he turned to me and enquired “Where do baby otters come from?”
I replied by stating that they stay in the holt until they are about ten weeks old. They then are coaxed into the water by the parents.
“No, no, no”, he said. “Where do baby otters come from?”
Oh my god, he was asking me about the mammal version of the birds and the bees, wasn’t he? I hadn’t prepared for this… and his parents probably hadn’t prepared for their once-innocent five-year old child coming home from Wildlife Fun Club and telling them that “Some strange man talked to me about steamy otter-on-otter action.”
To buy some crucial thinking time, I asked him to clarify his question and then ummed and erred for a bit (to buy some more time), before mumbling something about ‘mummy’s tummy’ and then speedily removing myself to the furthest corner of the room for a sit down.
I am going to be the world’s worst parent one day, aren’t I?