Sunday, 23 October 2016

Birding the Troughs

For most of this year I have felt almost no desire to go birding. I am neither surprised nor dismayed by this, it's just how I am. It has happened before.

My most enduring birding 'trough' lasted from the early 1990s to around 2004, some ten years or more. Nevertheless, during this hiatus I managed to find a Thrush Nightingale at Dungeness, a Black Kite on Scilly, and to co-find a Radde's Warbler at St. Margaret's Bay in Kent. The irony is not lost on me! However, these brief instances of birdy endeavour and consequent 'success' were respectively precipitated by a father-and-young-son stay at DBO, a holiday, and a day out with an old friend. But as soon as each was over, the optics were back in mothballs. At the time I was living in Rickmansworth, Herts, and my enthusiasm for local birding was basically nil.

I'm pretty sure my return to the fray in 2004 was prompted by our move to Devon a year or so earlier, and becoming aware that I was now living right on top of an underexploited patch with immense potential. The subsequent ten years saw that potential realised in spades. Seaton, the Axe Estuary and Beer Head are very much more on the birding map these days, and I'm happy to have played at least a small part in this. Still, that chapter is now closed. What next then?

In the last two or three years I have mostly struggled to get the juices flowing. The Cogden patch is undoubtedly good, and has gamely coaxed and cajoled, but with limited success thus far. Perhaps I have tried too hard to make it work. So, I've decided to stop pushing it and to simply let nature take its course. By that I mean just go with the flow, just pursue whatever does motivate me right now. And see where it leads.

During the last week I spent a couple of days working in Seaton. A cursory glance at the estuary revealed a decent crowd of gulls in front of the Tower Hide. Gulls still motivate me a bit. On Tuesday I ventured to the hide and picked out an adult and 1st-winter Med Gull, on Thursday a single 1st-winter. I am conscious that at this time of year the big gulls could easily be hiding a Yellow-legged or even a Casp. I am also conscious that a hide-full of birders could easily be overlooking either...

9 comments:

  1. You're current frame of mind echoes pretty much how mine currently is. I'm 69 now and for the the last ten years have stopped chasing wildlife targets, have simply gone with the mood or frame of mind. I simply enjoy being out and about around my patch and simply seeing what pops up in front of me rather than going looking for it. Just me, the two dogs and wandering round enjoying being a simple countryman out in the countryside, do you need any more?

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    1. Seems a healthy approach, Derek. And I should imagine that a couple of dogs requiring daily exercise make it that much easier to keep a routine going. You used the phrase 'stopped chasing... ' and I wonder if it is indicative of a common trait in our younger selves, the seeming need to 'chase' things. Letting go of that attitude to a degree has done me good I think.

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    2. Yep, stopping chasing things, or worrying about what some other bloke is seeing that you're not, takes a lot of tension out of being out and about. For quite a few years I was always at loggerheads with members of the Kent Wildfowlers that legally shot the saltings in front of my patch The Swale NNR and it stressed me out and spoilt my visits. For the past few years I've come to accept what they do and they likewise don't see me as the enemy and we sit on the seawall and have chats about countryside matters and we all get on and life is calm and relaxed.

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    3. A calm and relaxed life, Derek. Can't ask for much better than that...

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  2. Well, at least you felt the urge to tap out a few words on your blog! It has been much missed.
    I completely understand the peaks and troughs of interest in the various hobbies/pastimes/passions - call them what you will – I have had over the years. Sometimes it is as if you feel you have an obligation to go out and walk the patch, when, in fact, it is entirely up to you what you do. At least my urges to twitch have diluted dramatically over the past couple of years. I just haven't had the energy or inclination these days to drive for three and a half hours to go and queue up to see a Siberian Accentor, for example, no matter well the bird was showing during its stay. Too much like hard work. And also far too stressful.
    It appears to be a mood that is enveloping other birders I know such as Jonathan Lethbridge. It is hard to keep the enthusiasm sustained over the years. Also I wouldn't be surprised if Steve goes through a similar hiatus after his long stint on the shingle at Dungeness during these past few weeks.

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    1. Thanks for commenting, Neil. I am always a little in awe of folks who manage to maintain a consistent level of enthusiasm seemingly forever. Personally I am glad that others appear to be as capricious as me, at least on occasion!
      For me, regular twitching went out the window many years ago. I can remember turning up at one particular very rare bird, seeing it superbly, and feeling nothing; not a hint of a buzz. Since then I have twitched very rarely indeed. That said, when I was all fired up for patch birding I would 'twitch' anything local at the drop of a hat. Even now I can think of one or two birds that might easily persuade me to drive quite a long way to see them! Not from a hide though. Never from a hide...

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  3. Yes Gav, Oriental Pratincole. I think we'd both seen enough twitched birds by then. It was my 300th UK species, but the effort involved getting even that number had worn out my enthusiasm.
    I'm worse though. I don't even twitch a bird 300 yards away if doing something else.

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    1. Yep, that was the watershed moment, Ric. Nice bird, wrong time.

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  4. But we have twitching history Gav. Ok, not quite the same as having two different Wall Creepers or an Houbara Bustard on the list but we've done ok.

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