Birds, birding and wildlife is my main passion in life, I get so much enjoyment and pleasure from it day in day out. One could say it's what makes me tick. But during a particularly dull dog walk this morning when my head was away with the fairies, I realised that as a more experienced birder it's just not quite the same, there's a certain excitement that's now lacking.
When I started birding and was just getting into birds, everything was new. I didn't have Harry Potter or revision books next to my bed as I was growing up, but bird books. I knew the Collins Bird Guide off by heart page by page plate by plate, and I read it over and over and over again. As a result all the species and the different plumages in there that I'd never seen before, however common, had an almost mythical status in my head. And whatever the species was, when I first clapped eyes on it in real life after studying it on paper for so so long, it was so captivating and felt like I was actually living the dream and had achieved a massive goal in life. Yes, at the age of 30 I do still see 'new' birds now and then, rare birds turn up that I've never seen before, but they are few and far between as twitching isn't really my thing. And now days when I do twitch something, the bird is so intensely photographed, blogged and tweeted that I kind of feel like I've seen it before I've actually seen it! My main reason for twitching these days is if I think the bird I'm going to see will be educational for me, and will ultimately help me become a better birder.
|My usual bed time reading|
Anyway, back to starting out and the amazing feeling of learning your way through your early years as a birder, this is what's encouraged me to do some 'turning back the clock' blog posts and relive some of the elation I felt as a teen.
|A photo from the archives of Dad and I at Branscombe in 1989.|
I'm lucky enough to have a birder for a Dad, in fact he's what got me into birding in the first place, and much to my delight when I was growing up we went out pretty much every Saturday. Mind you, I think Dad was just as pleased about this as I was - I was the perfect excuse for him to go birding all the time! I used to keep something of a diary in my early birding days, and these are going to help me construct these 'Looking Back' posts...
|My birding diarys from the early 00's|
|A random page from one of them. Full details of the days birding on the right hand pages, highlights in green felt tip on the left pages, with major highlights/rarities starred in red!|
And first up is not so much a day, but a very memorable hour which I can recall so clearly despite it being over 15 years ago!
Dawlish Warren ~ Saturday 14th October 2000
Dad, myself and our very good birding friend Jean Millen (aka 'my birding Mum') were spending this mid October day at Dawlish Warren. We had spent the morning on the Warren and looking around the Bite, but hadn't seen much special. After our lunch we walked along the sea wall towards Langstone Rock, which is where all the magic happened.
Even from a distance we could see the (back then regular) Common Scoter flock very close in just off the rock, there were about 50 in all, of both sexes, but as we got closer I thought I glimpsed a white stripe down the wing of one of the birds that were resting. We all looked closer, it was slightly bigger, over all a different shape with a completely different face pattern to the female Common Scoters, just two small white dots on a darker brown face. It then flapped - I was looking at my first ever Velvet Scoter! This was just the start of it. We had already seen a couple of Red-throated Divers, but a close summer plumaged bird was a delight to see, although this was completely eclipsed moments later. On the flat calm sea a dark green-gloss head appeared, with a beautifully patterned white necklace and a striking blood red eye, I was looking at a summer plumaged Great Northern Diver! I'd seen many winter Great Northern Divers before, but to see one in this plumage was immense, and not something I thought I'd see without going to northern Scotland or further! Also whilst looking at the sea we noticed an all dark seabird with pointy wings, and it kept coming closer and closer - it was a dark-phased adult Arctic Skua - the closest view I'd ever had of one. It sat on the sea, flew west, but soon returned back east before landing on the sea again.
We were just folding up the telescopes and began walking away when a few alarming Herring Gulls made us look up - Osprey! It circled really low over our heads a couple of times, before disappearing off west towards Dawlish Town. I'd only seen a handful of these in the past so it really was the icing on the cake. What an incredible hour!
Reliving this hour of birding ecstasy has made me realise one thing hasn't changed with me and my birding. Whether I was 15, or 30 (today), I get the most pleasure from seeing a bird I wasn't expecting. I don't just mean the rares (though they are always nice obviously!), but even just scarce birds, or unseasonal ones. My biggest buzz has always, and I think will always come from the surprise-factor of the unexpected.
Anyway, hope you enjoyed that. Tough if you didn't because there will be more!