Friday, 19 April 2013

The early bird doesn't catch the worm

I have a problem, and it is called work. Work starts far too early. There is a second problem though, which is that migrant birds are very very lazy. They only get up at about the same time as I have to leave. Take this morning as an example - I had my alarm set for 5.15am, and was out of the house about 20 minutes later. Did any Wheatears and Redstarts have their alarms set that early? They most certainly did not. I trudged around the Flats for the best part of two hours and saw nothing. Not a sausage. I think a Fieldfare was the best bird, and I may have spent some time photographing a Mallard - it was that interesting out there. At around 7.30 I turned for home, secure in the knowledge I had completely and utterly wasted my time; time that could profitably have been spent in bed sleeping.

Just before I left I met Barry - the Barry that usually goes round with Harry and Larry (Stuart). I told him it was dead, wished him luck, and pottered off. Some five minutes later he texted me with news of six Wheatears on one of the logs. Huh? I dithered. Should I stay or should I go? I went. I mean went over there, i.e. I stayed. By the time I got there Nick had appeared, having enjoyed a long and pleasant night in bed, including having been asleep for much of the time I had been trudging round wondering what I was doing. The Wheatear count was now EIGHT. FFS. I had a quick look, found five of them, and then really did go home. Meanwhile Nick refound the male Redstart five minutes after arriving on the patch, and a little later had his now annual flyover Rock Pipit. What exactly am I doing wrong?

The answer is easy. Working. Or rather, working too early. I've known this for a long time, but many migrants tend to arrive after dawn rather than at or before dawn. Whilst dawn might be good for a wader or two, or a real patch mega (Osprey was very early morning for instance), it's simply too early for many of our commoner migrants. The same thing happened yesterday with Tree Pipit, and last year with our first Wheatears - I had concluded the patch was dead and gone to work in a huff, and only a short while later some poachers turned up and scored four exactly where I had been looking. Infuriating I can tell you. But what choice do I have? My job starts when it starts. The school run is when the school run is. Either I go out before those two events, or I don't go at all. So I go. Sometimes I get lucky, most of the time I bomb out.

This Fox was out early doors, but mostly stuff was asleep.
Tomorrow however is the weekend, and the weather is looking lovely. If I don't get a Red Kite over I'll be amazed, as I intend to spend the whole day on the Flats playing with Wheatears with half an eye on the sky. The Wheatears so far this year have been very uncooperative (particularly in their arrival time). I managed to get a little closer today, but still not close enough. Part of the problem is that there are too many of them, and I never thought I'd say that. If there's just one, I'm much more likely to be able to stalk it successfully, but whenever there is a group, one inevitably goes when I'm a long way out still, causing the rest to follow suit. The answer is that I need a bigger lens. Or perhaps one of those superzooms....

More Blue Tit action from my window

1 comment:

  1. I have thinking much the same thing recently. Out of habit/necessity I generally get up early to check the patch, but often it's quiet. When I take a break/return later in the afternoon or mid-morning, suddenly there's stuff about.
    This might be because I'm more relaxed or less tired and paying more attention, or because the sun has warmed up the ground/vegetation, making insects more active and thus the birds become more noticeable? Whatever the reason, I've learned that it's good to vary the times you visit the patch if you can!