Friday, May 05, 2006


I only dropped in for 5 minutes as it was such a beautiful evening in the hope of reclaiming some peace and perspective after a typical day at the office. The first Hide I tried had bundles of the former, a handful of pochard, a couple of tufted ducks, a couple of Great-Crested Grebes at the far side of the lake and the same wing-beaten cormorants. I sat for about half an hour hoping to discover a magnificent Osprey or first-time recorded Griffon Vulture but was rudely interrupted by an appropriately-dressed, bespectacled man inquiring as to the whereabouts of "Stilts".

I had mastered stilts by the age of 8, with only a couple of bruises and not one occasion of wrapping them around my sister's head, even though she would smirk in a particularly wobbly way to distract me on purpose. I knew of no other types of stilt so I humbly exposed the fact that " I'm a novice, I'm sorry. I've never even heard of Stilts, let alone know how to spot them". He enlightened me about the rare migrants that had been recorded here recently and we parted ways.

Eventually I made my way back to the car and spotted a lesser-sociable lawyer who I often do Swears for hovering around the car-park. I hailed him with our brotherly greeting " Oi, David! Nearly didn't recognize you without the suit", and promptly whispered conspiratorially, that there were a trio of stilts in the area. Fortunately, before I had time to reveal my ignorance of exactly what they were, he pointed me in the direction of their last-reported whereabouts and we both sped, at a sedate and non-obtrusive pace, down the designated lane.

10 minutes later I had got to know his wife reasonably well, ( she's much more personable than him), discovered that he, too, hadn't a clue what we were looking for ( slightly more of an idea about inheritance tax, perhaps, but even that is open to debate) and had the 3 Black-Winged Stilts in my vision. I was thrilled. They were tiny. They could have been Oyster-Catchers. I would not have known the difference were it not for.......

All these blokes with tripods!

This was A Proper Twitch. Not just an ordinary day down by the pond. They were arriving in flocks. They were invariably clad in full bearded plummage. One of them, who I soon discovered to be one of the local birding legends, thrust his fully-extended scope towards me and invited me to experience its delights. I salivated but managed not to dribble on the apparatus. The view of the 3 arrogant, foreign, little turbolence-migrants was fantastic. We then went on to sight yellow wagtail and a blue-headed wagtail ( which was my sighting even though all I did was ask what that "darker one" was)

And as I left, 2 hours later, as the sun dipped close to the horizon, I called my Dad, keen to tell him about my first-ever twitch.

" 3 of 'em, you say? Black wings, and white under-bellies. Like an avocet but with a straight, long beak. Aye! I saw 'em 3 weeks ago last Wednesday. Flew straight out o' Chowder Ness, fastest bloody things I've ever seen, looked like geese but slighter, hadn't a clue what they were and haven't seen anyone to ask since".

I'd just identified a Bird to My Dad. That is one of the best things I have ever done. I was not qualified, nor would I have been capable, of doing so a few hours earlier. I still couldn't tell you what family it belonged to, other than it's a Wader, not a Raptor and definitely not a Corvid. But I'd seen 'em. Me.

The Cosmopolitan Stilts were rare, but I suspect the sight of a pin-striped bedressed woman in 3" heels toting binoculars ( diddy ones) a camera and spare batteries was unique.


Blogger tom909 said...

Wow what fun!
I've got a freind who gets all over-excited about spotting birds. His idea of a good time is to go and sit in one of those things all day and look out over the mud flats.
I try to imagine the buzz he gets when he sees a bird but I just can't quite get it somehow. I do enjoy my birdtable though and I have been known to stand up to get a better look.

8:27 am  
Blogger digi-birder said...

Three of them?! Might have to have a trip there again soon.

You're really getting into this birding, aren't you?

10:57 am  
Blogger Pete said...

you jammy so and so :) only ever seen Sammy (a Black Winged Stilt who stayed at Titchwell for 12 years!!)

So when are you buying a scope!!

2:05 pm  
Blogger homo escapeons said...

Bird watching birds,
From across the Pond we adore you Brits and your quaint obssession with birding.
Here in the Colony we assume that this activity is so popular due to the fact that every wild creature weighing over 5 pounds was eradicated from your countryside sometime in the late 400s.
This explains the fanatical animal rights movement I know what it is like to have only birds left fluttering about.

2:52 pm  
Blogger Cherrypie said...

Tom - has your friend got a very large telescope? I suspect that is one of the biggest attractions for blokes that aren't interested in very fast cars. It's also a very effective way of escaping the telphone and daily pressures. I'm not a bird nut by any stretch of the imagination. I simply enjoy all types of wildlife and it's free.

8:30 pm  
Blogger Cherrypie said...

Digi-B - I did find my way to an optical website at lunchtime. I think they are out of my range at the moment so I'll just have to keep throwing myself in the path of passing tripod-owners for the time being.

8:32 pm  
Blogger Cherrypie said...

Pete - please see comment to DB above. Any tips on where to find good second-hand ones? Does eBay have a bearded section?

8:34 pm  
Blogger Cherrypie said...

HE - I love the way you look at things. I think you might have a point there. I spent one New Year traipsing around the woods of the Loire Valley looking for wild boar just 'cos I knew they were there somewhere.

I've got a picture of my Grandad moose-hunting when he lived in Canada. It's always been one of my favourites and if I ever make it across your side of the pool, I will be peering out of the plane windows expecting to see grizzlys before we even land. x

8:40 pm  
Blogger Pete said...

you can buy a scope like the opticron IS50 or IS60 or MM2 + lens for under £200, a tripod from the likes pyser or velbon can be had for £40-£60.

of course you can spend upwards of £1000 for a scope and £250 for a tripod.......

you can get some good second hand stuff.

beware of getting something too heavy!!

9:53 pm  
Blogger Cherrypie said...

Bugger! I hadn't thought about having to carry it myself. Maybe if I get something really really heavy and uber-geeky, I'll have plenty of offers of help from obliging birders.

10:16 pm  
Blogger Cocaine Jesus said...

sadly for me i do not have a large telescopic lens or anything large at all and my wifes car is equaly as big as my own so god alone knows what that does for my penis envy. probably puts it back where it very firmly belongs, hidden away!
having read this smashing piece the only question i need answering is...are you now qualified to join the elite set of THE STILTS club?

nice post by the way. warm and amusing.

9:09 am  
Blogger Mark Gamon said...

A fine post. But was it a weekend?

12:08 pm  
Blogger tom909 said...

Mark, your zen comments do my head in - I'm quite bright but I'm not sharp, if you know what I mean. What do you mean, 'was it a weekend?'

1:58 pm  
Blogger Mark Gamon said...

Tom - Cherry Pie knows. And so do you, if you think back far enough.

A clue: it has to do with old cars.

2:27 pm  
Blogger Cherrypie said...

There speaks the words of a truly confident man, CJ. Either you are particularly blessed or your wife is a great confidence-giver.

As for the Club, my aspirations are set far far higher

2:56 pm  
Blogger Cherrypie said...

Mark, I've got a very old banger but I think all this sunshine has gone to my head, 'cos I'm not quite following you either.

Tom, thank goodness it's not just me. Have you worked out what he's on about yet?

3:00 pm  
Blogger Cherrypie said...

That'll teach me to concentrate on my own comments before reading others.

Mark, no, it was not a weekend but fortunately my belts remained firm so my stockings were not required. Thank you for your concern, though

3:08 pm  
Blogger Rrramone said...

So is Candy Floss what you call our Cotton Candy?? :-)

3:09 pm  
Blogger tom909 said...

No Mark, I'll need it spelling out I'm afraid. Are you sure I was around - I'm quite new to this you know.
But in my search for 'old car stuff' I have turned up all your internet dating stories Cherry. Jolly good read - any luck?

3:55 pm  
Blogger digi-birder said...

OK, so as for next Sunday, send me an email to digibirder(AT)hotmail(DOT)com and I'll reply with the details of the meeting place and time.

3:58 pm  
Blogger Mark Gamon said...

Tom - it's all right. Don't trouble yourself over it any more. Twas merely the mention of stockings that sent me a little awry in the head..

4:05 pm  
Blogger Melora said...

Sounds like fun! Have you been into bird watching for long, or does it go along with the new camera?

4:36 pm  
Blogger Cherrypie said...

Rramone - I think it must be the same thing. Spun sugar in flourescent pink sold in big plastic bags at fairs and the seaside. Rots your teeth at twenty paces.

We borrowed one of the machines for a school fair some years ago and all the mums queued up to take it in turns having a go at making it. If we'd charged them, we'd have doubled our profits

12:32 am  
Blogger Cherrypie said...

Oh God, Tom! I wrote all that stuff when I thought nobody would read it. It's what inspired the name for my blog.

I had some great fun. Spent one New Year's Eve in a 5* hotel in France, cost so much, the poor chap had his card refused trying to fill up with petrol a few days later on the way to the airport; went to Rome with another ( Grim Jim, now married to my mate, Dawn); Bruges with Ickle Elliott ( now also married and expecting first child) and had a fantastic day in Dublin with the utterly gorgeous Throbbie. I'm in daily email contact with Dynamo Dean ( who's also getting married at the end of this month) and regularly meet up with Pixie Peter ( it's his birthday today and I should have been in Derby celebrating it with him, and Single-For-A-Reason Sean; a consultant psychiatrist also sent me a dozen red roses but I'm not sure whether he just had a professional interest.

Not one of them was boyfriend potential ( well, Throbbie would be if he wasn't in Belfast and Dean would be if he didn't live with his fiancee) but then I was careful only to meet the safe ones to avoid rejection and disappointment.

Blimey! The length of this comment ought to be a post in itself.

Anyway, still available but very very choosy

12:41 am  
Blogger Cherrypie said...

DB - I'll email you tomorrow. You clever thing for choosing an anonymous email address. Mine is my full name which is pretty stupid. Makes stalking nigh on impossible.

12:42 am  
Blogger Cherrypie said...

Melora, I don't think my camera is powerful enough, nor I sufficiently talented, to be much use when out spotting.

I really just like being out in the countryside and naturally nosey, I like to learn as much about my surroundings as possible. It's also quite safe to wander around a nature reserve but I'd get a bit nervous walking on my own. I got all excited when I discovered hegehog poo on my lawn today. Jack despairs of me.

12:46 am  
Blogger Mise said...

This is such a funny post ... especially the paragraph after the photo ....I'll have to put aside a couple of hours and go through some more of your archives...

I know a couple of birders of them had me counting cattle egrets on the way home from work in the bus (me, not the egrets! :-D). They stop off in Abu Dhabi for a few months on their migratory route!

4:14 am  

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