Monday 14 October 2013

Family fun

I'd heard mixed reports about the ease with which a recent Short-toed Lark at Portland Bill could be seen. Some said it was nice and confiding, others found it difficult to catch up with. Attempting to connect with it this weekend was complicated slightly by the need to visit family in Devon with two boisterous sons in tow. Both have inherited their father's low boredom threshold, but not his passion for standing around in the cold waiting for rare birds to appear.
Short-toed Lark. I might have got closer, but a considerate tractor-driver who stopped for us when he realised we were watching the bird eventually had to move along the track which inevitably flushed it.
On the way down on Saturday I resisted the temptation to recourse to bribery, figuring that it would be good for them to learn a bit of patience. A mistake, with hindsight: we missed the lark by five minutes, boredom soon set in (them not me) and I was nagged into giving up after a short vigil.
Green Sandpiper: connoisseur of Devon ditches
On the way back from Devon on Sunday, I was better prepared: the Nintendo DS was fully charged and loaded - with Junior Brain Trainer, I hasten to add, lest I be accused of corrupting my own kids with shoot 'em up games just to buy time for a twitch. As if. This, I have belatedly discovered, will generally give at least an hour of trouble free birding. So I parked them on a picnic blanket, with Kitkats, next to the Lark's favoured track. This seemed to work, as I saw the bird almost straight away about 100 yards from our hastily erected base camp. 
Grey Wagtail: another ditch dweller. Amazing how little water these birds will settle for. My sister had a basement apartment in Brighton with a wholly enclosed 10ft by 10ft courtyard garden surrounded by several storeys of flats on every side, into which leaked an overflow pipe. The first and only bird on her garden list? Grey Wagtail. 
Between all this merriment, whilst in Devon, an unpromising looking culvert at the end of Mum and Dad's road, which held a Dipper and a Kingfisher on my last visit, turned up a Green Sand and a Grey Wag on this occasion. Apparently they get Otters there too so it must be vying with the PC World drain in Poole for the title of best ditch in the South West.
Sons plus cousin Ethan. Happiest when not twitching.
The main attraction in Devon was neither avian nor animal though: baby Jonathan, recently arrived third nephew from my brother's brood, down from Scotland for a few days, is very much a human, and a bonny one at that. I'd never seen him before, so that's at least one tick this October. And surely a brownie point for mentioning almost the entire family in a single post.

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