Simple Pleasures

Today kicks off what birders often refer to as the magic month of May. It’s so named because it’s one of the best times for finding and seeing birds that are passing through. I had a junior parkrun to oversee and a work social walk to attend so whilst I would love to have seen something rare, I was more focused on appreciating simpler things. These included:

  • a Wheatear flitting round the path edge as I set out the route for the parkrun in Anchorsholme Park. It’s easy to forget they’ve wintered in Africa. And that’s even before you get into leapfrog migration, with the later birds in the spring being larger because their journey is longer as they breed further north and winter further south.
  • My first Lesser Whitethroats delivering their bubbling songs from hedgerow by the Lancaster Canal at Myerscough Quarry. It’s a species that has never been present in huge numbers anywhere I’ve lived and the melody therefore always stops me in my tracks.
  • I now know that the gull deterrent owl at the landfill site can move its head like a real owl. I’ve no idea if this is intended to make it more lifelike. The only reason I know it at all is because a young Herring Gull made several persistent attempts to rearrange its’ face. Some deterrent.
  • A large brood of Canada goslings being escorted by mum and dad across Marton Mere as Jane and I walked round there this evening. They may be a bit of a pain when they are older but they are cute at the outset.

I read this month’s Birdwatch tonight. In it David Campbell has an opinion piece called ‘Loosening Up Birding’. The essence of this is that birders are often negative and jaded because they aren’t always finding the rare birds they seek. He goes on to argue that ‘when rarity becomes currency, it’s not cool to get excited about anything vaguely common’. He says we should keep the joy simple.

Sound advice, and as you can see I’ve been applying it as best I could today. But I do find it ironic that people working in bird news are berating ordinary birders for this. Not untypically this edition of the magazine includes a piece on mega rare birds, in this case anything seen in the last 30 years isn’t included. There’s also a feature by the same author, Dominic Mitchell, about the opportunities to find rare birds for Europe by going to the extremities of The Azores.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been to The Azores birding twice; it’s a fantastic place for all nature lovers and I would recommend it. I guess what I’m saying though it that the popular birding outlets push the importance of rarity to the extent that people develop unrealistic expectations, and then increasingly call birders out for not appreciating the more mundane charms of bird and nature generally. Can you really have it both ways?

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