Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Greenish with envy

After a successful Pacific Swift twitch in Suffolk on Saturday - try saying that when you've had a few - I thought I would take the liberty afforded by Father's Day to look for another good bird closer to home on Sunday. The Greenish Warbler on Portland was always going to be tricky as it was reported as elusive before being trapped at the Obs, and kept an even lower profile after being stroked by the ringers (who wouldn't?).
Linnet, Portland Bill
I didn't see it in the end but there were some friendly faces to catch up with anyway. These included Kevin, the County Recorder (non-birders please note, that's like a Bishop in birding, or a Company Secretary, if you prefer a secular analogy); and Brett, who taught me more about my 7D camera in 2 minutes than I've worked out for myself in two months. Apparently you have to put batteries in. Who knew!
Dunnock, Portland Bill
Also present was a small flock of Mitchells, my near neighbours in Purbeck. The head of the family has a reputation for calmness, reasonableness and boundless patience. But then she's not a birder. Her husband is though, and a respectable member of the Dorset Bird Club politburo to boot. While he can normally be found diligently completing his WeBS counts and Breeding Bird Surveys around Poole Harbour, we occasionally have to stage a kidnapping so he can get away from the thraldom of proper birding and the Sunday leagues to twitch quality birds like Sandhill Crane in Suffolk, or Spanish Sparrow in Hampshire.

Whitethroat, Portland Bill
Apart from birds, the other thing Mitchell Snr and I have in common is that and our sons play for the same under-10s football team, and while mine shows no interest in birding, his has just started listing (BOU 103 already). I've often wondered how I would feel about my own boys getting into birding. On the one hand, it would be great to teach them the ropes and have someone to share the pleasures of the hobby with.
Wood Mouse on the Observatory Wall, Portland
On the other, I might miss the solitude, which is a big part of the attraction. On balance though, it has to be a good thing, and at this fundamental level: when age catches up with me, my pension won't stretch to a pager and I've lost both memory and bladder control, I'm going to need someone to drive me around to see birds.
Dartford Warbler - not on Portland, this one on a recent visit to Morden Bog
Now that both Mitchell Snr and Jnr are birding, I do wonder what will happen in future if a good bird turns up during a game. I, for instance, wouldn't hesitate to slope off unnoticed by normal people, but as fellow bird-nerds they would now both know exactly what I was up to. Then again if the bird is good enough, all three of us might be keen to go. How would we get away? Perhaps if Mitchell Jnr feigns injury me and his dad could act as stretcher bearers? But then what about my son? Could we really leave him behind? Of course not!
Redstart, Morden Bog
So there's only one thing for it: convert him to the dark side too. I've already tested the waters:

Dad: 'So do you think you'll get into birding then?'
Son: 'No. I'm not the birding type.'
Dad: 'And what is 'the birding type' exactly?'
Pregnant pause
Son: 'Patient. And quiet.'

I was secretly impressed: tact, self-deprecation and self-knowledge. Not bad for a 9-year old. Whether he takes to birding or not, it's a comfort to know that for now at least we still have one important thing to unite us: neither of us has Greenish Warbler on our Dorset list.
Redstart, Morden Bog

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