Tuesday 8 May 2018

Lazy days

Well what a weekend that was! Five Buzzards, three Peregrines, eight Sparrowhawks, a Kestrel and Hobby were the sum of my skywatching, by far the majority of which were on the Bank Holiday Monday. This also coincides with my most horizontal of the three days. I think on Saturday and Sunday I had been pretty busy and not spent much time staring upwards. Come Monday however and all the hard labour behind me, I was free to flop on the lawn and scan the sky. My hoped-for Red Kite did not materialize, but all five of the aforementioned Buzzards glided over in the space of only a few hours. Other birding interest came in the form of a Common Sandpiper on Alex found by James, the twitching of which allowed me to add on a slight detour on the way back to hear our faithfully returning Reed Warbler gurning away. And that was it, and do you know what, I am quite satisfied with that as the totality. I considered driving around to Thursely Common for a tame Cuckoo photography session, but judging from the number of photographs on the internet I expected I would not enjoy the experience and decided against it. I also thought about birding a quality bird reserve on the coast, getting my year fix of Bitterns, Nightingales and Orioles etc, but again it all came down to the number of people I would encounter.


In my garden I encounter very few people. This is how I like it, and so this weekend this is where I spent the vast majority of my time. I am not antisocial, or at least not very antisocial, but lazy days in the garden in fine weather take a lot of beating. The timing was good too – in summer there is little to do, but in late spring and especially after a lengthy period of less than ideal gardening weather after a long winter, three sun-soaked days were gratefully received. Famille L basked. The BBQ saw plenty of action, as did the wine cooler. And the sprinkler, which was called into action not to water the plants but as a diversionary tactic for bored and heat-crazed children.  I was content to sit underneath a potted palm tree and think happy thoughts with a cold drink in my hand.

One of those happy thoughts was about Swifts. On Sunday I had heard my first screaming birds of 2018, and this had prompted me to enact phase two of Chateau L: Project Swift. Phase one had been to install purpose built Swift bricks into the battlements during the installation of the new turret. Phase two involves trying to attract the birds down to use them. Many online resources, including Swift-conservation.org, recommend playing Swift calls at the right time of year to encourage passing birds that may be prospecting to come down and check out the sounds. That being the case I rigged up some speakers and for most of Monday played Swift calls on repeat extremely loudly. There goes the neighbourhood. ANd for most of the day this resulted in a handful of Swifts circling around the neighbourhood, generally concentrating on Chateau L. Time will tell - unfortunately I am not around to play the tape constantly, and this being London one cannot just leave turrets open all day. But I am definitely encouraged and whenever I can over the next few weeks I will play the tape. It might happen quickly, it might take a few years, but no matter what it is very exciting.

In fact it is possibly the most excited I've been about birds for a while. Even though it is prime time, so to speak, the birding urges just are not hugely present at the moment. I don't know why, does there need to be a reason? I do miss birding, those fantastic days out where you are in the field from first light to dusk just drinking it all in. At the moment I just don’t miss it enough to do anything about it, there are other priorities – same old story, too many hobbies and too little time. Plus I read things about birding in the UK from time to time that continue to put me off. I have not phased exactly, but there needs to be a spark, some kind of trigger that sets me off, and this will rekindle the fire so to speak. Maybe a “big day” or similar? The month of May would be the time to do it.


  1. You do know that Swifts are parasitized by this creepy flat fly type louse. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crataerina_pallida

    I once helped out in a swift ringing session. I only went the once. Nasty little louse things!!!! I still cringe at the thought of them.

    Hope you manage to attract swifts.



    1. Yuck. I had read that they were very clean birds. But I guess when you have no legs....

  2. Be great if you manage to attract Swifts. We don't get them here on Skye, completely tragic. Best of luck to you and your newly reconfigured battlements.