Sunday 16 February 2020

The very definition of niche

One of the things I have to do at work is report upwards. I am sure many of you have to do the same in thing in your line of your work. To anyone who has never been burdened with such things, well done - you are not missing out. Telling people more important than you what is going on below their line of sight is a constant in my office, but it is also formalised into a weekly management update. A written update. In a miniscule amount of paper real-estate I have to try and condense the preceding five days into a modest soundbite that on the one hand lets people know that I and other minions are all beavering away as hard as we possibly can and achieving great things etc, and then on the other tells them all the things we messed up but without sounding too alarming. It is a delicate balancing act.

Although my job is almost entirely based around numbers, having a good command of written English is very handy and it is rare that I struggle to bash out the required bullet points. Until recently that is. On Thursday last week I simply could not work out the word I wanted and ended up mangling it. I sat there for what seemed like ages completely unable to dredge it up, and only this morning - at home in bed, looking out at Storm Dennis - did it come to me that the word I had wanted was the adjective 'competing'. Or possibly 'conflicting'. I think I went with the noun 'clash' and therefore had to form my sentence entirely differently. Now this may seem like semantics, all three words are basically the same in the context of priorities and missed deadlines, but I still think that competing would have been far better, it has none of the harshness of 'clash'. 

Yesterday there was another example, I couldn't get my brain to work properly and just sat there flapping. Proper open-mouthed floundering. A day later I can't even remember what that one was, which does at least spare you a paragraph. I take these as clear signs that my brain is disintegrating and that I need to do something about it.

That something is of course this, a little attempt at writing something. I read a lot, but perhaps it is writing that nourishes the brain, or whatever part of the brain controls and stores voekabyoulurry. To be clear this isn't me blogging again. No. I've actually been quite happy doing other things and not given this place too much thought. However here I am, so I may as well fill you in on a few gaps. Those other things, barring of course what led to the above, have mostly been connected with birds and birding. Real, proper, actual no gulls birding. My telescope has not seen as much use for years, I had forgotten quite what a difference it makes to getting stellar views of things. I used it the other day on this gaudy little number.

I know what you are thinking. Yuck. Disgusting, garish, ostentatious filth. I quite agree. Looking at it filling my scope in a canyon in Spain last weekend I felt genuine waves of nausea overcoming me and had to start taking photographs of it instead when it came down the cliff towards me. This was not helped by being completely and utterly alone at the time. No jostling, no crowd surges, no idiots, nobody shouting I was too close as the bird came ever nearer. I simply didn't know what to do.

I am of course being silly. Spending time watching this Wallcreeper was one of the greatest birding experiences of my entire life. What. A. Bird. It's hard to believe that they even exist, they are the very definition of niche. To be fair I was due one, I have dipped them repeatedly all over the place. France, Spain, Switzerland and Bulgaria have all seen me return empty-handed, with two of these trips having been specifically organised to see Wallcreeper. I think I had been trying too hard. This particular bird had not been on the cards at all, all I had done was book a very cheap flight to Madrid at some point last year on the basis that it had to be better than the UK in February (somebody called Ciara ensured that was indeed the case) and had then forgotten all about it. It was only about a few weeks before I left that I was looking up where I might go and what I might see, and chanced upon a site that was hosting a pair of Bonelli's Eagles. Excellent, a Western Palearctic tick no less, and only an hour from Madrid. Firming up my plans with a week to go I noticed that this same site had a wintering Wallcreeper and that it had been seen several times in 2020 already. My track record ensured I didn't get too excited, but with the bird then being seen the day before I left I started to dare to dream.

After two hours of wandering up and down the gorge with no large birds of prey or small creepy grey things to show for it I decided to chalk up another dip and go and do something else. As I turned on my heel and strode back towards the car cursing all things montane, a small shape flew across the canyon and landed on an inverted rock face right in front of me. Twenty seconds later it would have crossed behind me and I would not have seen it. And of course a little later on as I was continuing to watch the Wallcreeper, what should fly over my head? I'll give you clue.

Rhymes with Wellies and Beagle.