Monday, 9 February 2015

In praise of the normal

I have never particularly considered myself to be a 'twitcher'. In fact I can say I have only twitched twice in my life. One successfully and one unsuccessfully. My first attempt was to find a pair of Snow Geese in a field of beans near Snitterfield. I was not exactly sure which field the geese were in and spent over an hour unsuccessfully trying to locate them.

My second attempt came in 2005 and I ventured a long way (for me) from home to Hillmorton near Rugby to view some Short Eared Owls. Arriving just before dusk we negotiated the housing estate to find a patch of rough grassland. We paced about the field for awhile and then just as the light started to fail and we were returning to the car three of the owls appeared and gave us a wonderful display.

So what ended my twitching, well apart from dislike of travel, which is a large part of the pass time, I realised I get just as much enjoyment of the common birds as the rarities. Of course I have great joy and excitement at the sight of Barn Owl, Red Kite or Water Rail but I am more than content to sit and watch Blue Tits and Great Tits.

It was these innocuous that a settled down to watch yesterday. It was a glorious morning and my patch was alive with the sound of song. I completed my main circuit again catching sight of the elusive Teal and entered the bit of land that I manage.

This time I had remembered to bring some bird seed with me and I laid out the mix of seed, mealworms and suet pellets on to my simple feeding station. Even as I emptied the bag I could here a Robin approaching and he took to a perch above my left shoulder and watched me with interest. I retreated a few paces and took a seat.

Almost as soon as I was settled the Robin was darting in to quickly dig out the dried mealworms. Next a pair of Great Tits appeared both now resplendent in bright yellow chest and shiny black stripe. As the Great Tits returned to separate perches four timid Blue Tits appeared. Very much bottom of the pecking order they had to dart in when the other birds were absent. The Robin was top dog and bullied both of the Tits in to giving way, whilst the Great Tit asserted itself over the Blues.

I spent a good 20 minutes watching these three species interacting with each other with just as much interest as when I watched the Short Eared Owls. The owls were magnificent birds and a worthy tick to my British species list but in some respects it would mean so much more to have seen them on my patch.

Patch watching is as much about the place, the space and the wildlife as it is about the ticking. Its important especially when you do as much data collection and analysis as me not to lose sight of the behaviour and intrinsic beauty of the wildlife. Take time to appreciate the mundane.

For more information on my patch - the Saxon Mill follow this link.