Tuesday 18 May 2021

Week off

Reed Warbler, Wicken Fen

I've just returned to work after a week off. The plan was to relentlessly twitch an incredible run of rarities the likes of which have never graced these shores. Instead what happened is that other than a Calandra Lark on Fair Isle nothing I "needed" turned up. The rarities that did turn up promptly buggered off again, in some instances before I even found out about them, although obviously as none of them were Calandra Larks I was fairly sanguine about that. It also rained quite a lot and as a consequence I had a far more relaxed week than I anticipated.

But I did see some birds. I've sat at home for a very long time now, despite the weather I was keen to go further afield. I visited Essex, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire and Bedfordshire, as well as a fair amount of birding here in Wanstead on the days where I needed to be at home (more school-related COVID fun and games).

Reed Bunting, Fen Drayton

The biggest news I have is that I have now seen a Blackbird in Cambridgeshire. Although I lived in Cambridge for the first twenty or so years of my life and surely saw many Blackbirds there was no record of this. My eBird list for Cambridgeshire is basically the product of a few trips between 2008 and 2012, largely twitching rarities in the fens like Black-winged Pratincole and Pallid Harrier. This glaring omission is now rectified along with quite a few others although none quite as basic. More importantly it provided the kick up the backside I needed to actually get in the car and go somewhere, and that truly is the value of having targets however daft they appear to be. The result is two days of non-stop birding around some of my old haunts, driving through villages which prompted repeated flashbacks about who it was that I had known as a child that had lived there, where had my Mum taught, which of their friends had lived where and things like that. Swavesey, Oakington, Over, Histon, Cottenham, Burwell, Witchford, March, Harston, Foxton, Great Shelford, Stapleford.... I knew all of these places, knew the village ponds, the colour of the bricks, where the bend in the road was. And now where a good spot for Grey Wagtail is, where I'm likely to hear Bittern, where might be good for winter Swans. A lot of these places are less than an hour away - I have not moved very far during my lifetime it appears yet it seems a world away. 

Stonechat, Cottenham

I won't bore you with a list of what I saw where, although the Woodchat Shrike in Rochford was an absolute beauty and I wish I could have spent more time watching it. It is now very much back to the daily grind - so the odd foray onto the patch, a bit of nocmig, a bit of skywatching. Familiarity. Ease. No pressure. This is 2021. This is the new normal.

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