Yesterday I ventured outside for the first time in a week - this is not a healthy lifestyle. I started early as I knew how busy it would become - even at 8am the Tea Hut was open. I have nothing against the Tea Hut, quite the opposite in fact, however the very fact it remains open attracts people to the area - hundreds on nice days. Is a cup of coffee and a piece of cake worth the price of queues stretching nearly to the road and a concentration of people around the tables and the rubbish bin? I am sure they are being as careful as they can be, and there is a surfeit of signs and tape to guide and separate people, but personally I think it's madness in the current circumstances.
On the way I picked up one of our resident Water Rails. Most of our ponds are iced up so the areas that they can be in are much reduced. The only pond that remains ice free is Perch as it it is much deeper, and this is where the Goosander have been lately. Nothing special there this time, but if this cold weather persists we may be in with a chance. The Grey Wagtail was on the Stables dung heap, and anyone wanting to scoop up all the common Finches need only hang around the paddock on the corner for a while.
By 9am I was on the Flats and feeling more confident about my ability to steer clear of humanity. Wide open spaces. I did a double circuit - Alex to Jubilee and then back again. Nothing special, my first sighting of the Little Owl this year, my first Mistle Thrush, and a record count of over 100 Egyptian Geese. The Med Gull was still present. All in all I covered five miles and felt much better for it.
Maybe my lack of fresh air is why I had a horrible headache last week. I just could not shift it, and along with some stiffness and shortness of breath this was enough to convince me to go and have a rapid COVID test, just in case. This was remarkably efficient and I had the result in about half an hour. Negative. Unfortunately we are now in a situation where there are so many alleged symptoms of this virus that the slightest niggle has us in a psychosomatic quandry. For instance one of the kids has had significant shortness of breath and funny toes. Yes, COVID toes are apparently a thing - the whole situation is crazy, I am sick of it. Although apparently not sick with it. Mind you, what would having had it actually change? Would it cause us to skip around with gay abandon? To let our guard down and behave with impunity? No it would not.
Last week I tried to find out my likely vaccination date. There is a website that gives you an estimate based on your age and various data points about current levels of vaccination deliveries and uptake - best case I was something like #28,000,000 in the queue, with a date of February 2022! Worst case it was around #37,000,000 in July 2022. Life appears not to be getting back to normal any time soon. However since then another vaccine has gained emergency approval, and there is a bit more data about the rollout and the numbers accepting it, so my date has come forward to between July and September 2021. Without wishing to be overly cynical I'll believe it when I see it. There is no limit to our wonderful Government's ability to cock things up, or to put profit ahead of the common good. For instance how long before private practices are offering these vaccines at huge expense, allowing queue jumping for those who can I afford it? Would I get my family done earlier if that was a possibility? It's a horrible question isn't it? It wouldn't be right but of course I would. Who wouldn't? Hopefully it isn't ever an option and supply really comes online and means that the whole country is flooded with more than enough for both of the required doses. And of course that the mutations don't go so far that the vaccines become useless....
I like to end blog posts on a cheery note if I can, so in more news completely unrelated to birding (someone left a comment recently asking me to stick to birds, the temerity!!) I did some cooking yesterday. Coq-au-vin, so not really in our usual vegetarian spirit. If we are all confined indoors for the majority of the time I want to make sure that time is at least enjoyable and this feels like a special treat. We're eating it today, it is a lot better if you cook it in two stages with a day in between. I may yet do a blog post about it as I had the presence of mind to take photos at various stages of the preparation. To whet your appetite, so to speak, here is a photo of part of the chef. If you are a long-time
sufferer reader you will perhaps remember this from days of yore.