Thursday 29 October 2015

Can't change, it's old age.

It has gradually become clear to me this last couple of years that modern bird watching has left me behind. There was a time that I kept up, I swapped my £10 RSPB binoculars for a better pair and then swapped again for some expensive Leica ones. I bought a posh Kowa scope and tripod and then bought a more expensive Opticron one, I was flying - if I couldn't identify every bird that I saw, I'd at least look the part as I staggered round under their weight. I'd been a member of the Kent Ornithological Society (KOS) since around 1959, which was a respectable stat. to quote some fifty years later, and I still go to the KOS AGM's but it's now clear that both the KOS and I have dropped into the old-fashioned category. Few members attend the KOS meetings, even fewer use it's Forum or Latest Sightings facility, it's creaking with old age just as I am.
It seems that the modern and youthful birdwatcher rarely attends meetings any more, it's doubtful that they even physically talk to each other that much, except of course when they herd together on a twitch. No, they tweet, facebook or page each other, technology has left the note book, pencil and us old codgers behind.

For some, even going out looking to find your own rare bird is old-fashioned - much better to sit dozing indoors with a pager on the arm of the chair. The pager beeps, makes you spill your wine, a rare bird is in bushes in your area, the location is given to the nearest bush, this is easy. Check your tick list, no, ain't got that one, grab your gear and off you rush. Join the mass crowd at the site, get seen by all the regulars and therefore acknowledged as one of the "top notch" in-crowd birders - just a matter then of trying to get the best photograph of the bird, even more recognition!
That's probably an unfair description of how most birders go about their bird watching but it's easy to come to that conclusion some times when you read some of their blogs. It's extraordinary the lengths that some of these twitchers will go to in order to get another bird on their list and what a pain in the arse that their behaviour can be while they're doing it.

So yes, bird watching, like life itself, has continued to evolve and this old curmudgeon at 68 has been left behind, unable to evolve with it - no facebook, no twitter, no pager, just my daily patch watching. I've always been an opinionated, anti-social old bastard, can't change now!

Sunday 25 October 2015

Things ain't changed much

I was surprised this morning to see that it's a month since I lasted posted but to be honest, I've struggled to find something new to blog about, bird numbers on the reserve still remain constantly low and inspiration seems to be passing me by.
However an inspiring few hours did occur on Friday evening when my friend and I made our regular trip to London to see Bob Dylan and his excellent band at the Royal Albert Hall for his standard bi-annual visit to the big city on his Never Ending Tour. A five night stay and sold out every night, the old boy still pulls them in. We've seen him so many times since the first time, ironically at the RAH in 1966, and yet this year, aged 74, he was incredibly better than he's been for years - just can't wait for the 2017 visit, it'll be my 70th birthday treat.

So, back to the reserve and this morning, with the clocks going back an hour overnight, I didn't have to pace around indoors waiting for daylight to arrive, I was out there at 06.15 just as dawn broke. It was beautiful and with clear blue skies, the sun eventually rose behind Whitstable and I had the whole place to myself, joy.

Here you can see the girls on top the sea wall with the first rays of the sun beginning to reflect off of them. Poor old Midge in the foreground will be thirteen on Boxing Day, she is still fully active but stiffens up a lot after every walk, it's hard to accept now that we're going into the final few years together. I say we, because for the time with a dog and at 68, I'm starting to find I suffer pretty much in the same way after most of the walks through the wet and the mud out there.

This photo of the "S bend ditch", which is basically a fleet and which meanders it's way for a quarter of a mile to the sea wall, illustrates how empty of wildfowl it is, there was nothing along it's whole length. One of the best counts of ducks that we've had this spell so far is 60-70 Mallard, pretty pathetic really.

However Short-eared Owls are appearing most days down at the Shellness saltings with 2-3 reported almost daily during the late afternoon/early evening. And this morning I had my first Hen Harrier of this winter as an adult ring-tail sped across The Flood in a westerly direction, so a trickle of interest is beginning to appear.
Lastly, it's a real pain that people can't be bothered to take home their litter when using the Sea Wall hide, presumably they assume that we do it for them.