Sunday, 6 September 2009

The cutting edge of birding

1415hrs, Sunday. Command Centre, Wanstead


Operator: Hello?
Agent Monkey: [heavy breathing] I need help. I'm at Alexandra Palace [cough, pant] I'm lost. I've been here half an hour, walked round loads, can't find any birders. [wheeze] There's nobody with bins at all! I've asked loads of people, nobody knows where the filter beds are. [cough cough]
O: OK, Switching to satellite view. Coming
AM: [wheeze]
O: The filter beds are in the extreme south-east of the park. Where are you now? Describe your location.
AM: [cough] I'm at the Boating Lake, near a cafe [pant pant]
O: OK, I have the Boating Lake. Can you see the sun?
AM: [pant] God I'm knackered....[wheeze] its cloudy [cough]
O: Can you see the Antenna?
AM: Yes, it's behind me. [wheeze, splutter] Hang on, I can see a road. [pant] " 'scuse me mate, what road is this?" OK, I'm on Alexandra Park Road [pant pant]
O: OK. Can you see a carpark?
AM: [wheeze] No. Aaargh, I'm totally knackered.
(off-call, Jamie: "Dad, there's one over there")
O: Walk towards the carpark and the main buildings.
AM: OK, walking there now. [wheeze, pant pant] I can see a [cough] rose-garden.
O: Does it have a round fountain in the middle?
AM: Affirmative. Roger that. [wheeze]
O: OK, I have your location. Look to your left, you'll see a road.
AM: [wheeze, cough] I think I'm dying, aaaarghhhh!
O: Hang in there Monkey. You're going to be OK, you're going to be OK.
AM: [wheeze, splutter]
O: OK, cross the road, what can you see?
AM: A pitch [cough] and [wheeze] putt [cough] course.
O: OK, there are trees beyond that. Do you see trees?
AM: Y - [cough, splutter] - es.
O: OK, go towards the trees.
AM: OK, I'm going down the hill.[wheeze]
O: Can you see a green ride through the trees?
AM: No, I'm surrounded by trees now, I can't see a thing. Aaarghhhhhh!
O: Stay with me Monkey. I'll talk you through this. Everything's going to be fine. Through the other side of the trees should be another road.
AM: [cough] I can see an "H" painted [pant pant] on the ground, about 100m ahead [wheeze, pant]
O: OK, I have it. Stand on the "H" and face the Palace.
AM: [pant, wheeze] OK, [splutter] I'm [cough cough] on the "H", I can see a cricket pitch.
O: Turn 90 degrees clockwise, to your right, you should see a long stretch of grass.
AM: [wheeze]
O: Walk over the grass, keeping the houses and back gardens on your right.
AM: [pant] OK. [cough] Doing that now. [cough, wheeze]
O: Ahead of you should be some trees or bushes. What can you see?
AM: I think I see water! [pant pant, cough] Through the trees! [wheeze], water....
O: Right. That is the reservoir and filter beds. Carry straight on. Do you know what you're looking for?
AM: [pant pant, cough cough] Oh God, aaarghh. [splutter, wheeze]
O: Your target is a large swift with a white belly and white throat patch. Let me know when you have it.
AM: OK [wheeze], I'll let [cough] you [wheeze] know. Aaargh etc.

So there you go, birding these days is easy. All it takes is a nation-wide bird-rarity information service with hundreds of dedicated subscribers all phoning in news, a car, a sat-nav, a mobile phone network, on-demand satellite imagery of the twitch location, a dedicated command centre in Wanstead, and an understanding operator, also in Wanstead. Or you could do the tiniest modicum of research before you leave home ;-)

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