Tuesday, December 8, 2009


Humdrum could mean one of a number of similar things. The dictionary gives meanings of dull, boring, routine, everyday, monotonous, and unexciting. But when it gets to this time of year I think I use it in the meaning of “routine” because in some circumstances, whilst birding might be predictable and everyday, it is never dull, boring or unexciting. There are bird watchers who go out only to see “quality” or ”good” birds, who don’t have a local patch and who rarely go out to bird in a humdrum manner. How strange, but each to his own.

After spending a morning at the gym to emerge into bright skies quickly followed by a dash and splash lunch I was elated by the thought of a few hours birding when the sky suggested the rain would appear as usual later than the BBC predicted. Perish any thoughts that I wouldn’t grab this little window of opportunity even if it the results might be the normal dross rather than the spectacular.

Soon I set off walking from the Nateby road to cross Rawcliffe Moss thinking that I could probably pencil some species in my notebook before I set out to save myself the effort later. But no matter I was out with the bins around my neck, camera in the bag, no one around, just me and the elements. Perfect.

Through Jim’s farm the routine Dunnocks called quietly as a Pied Wagtail walked the same old barn roof again. The unexciting Robins ticked me off for birding here again, whilst just ahead the trackside Reed Buntings wheezed as I got near, then off they went only to re-emerge a few yards up to have another look back at me.

Reed Bunting is one of those species with an unmistakable “jizz”, a little bounce of a flight, the glimpse of outer tail heading into cover, the perch up, then the look. Just show me the outline, who needs the bird?

The story goes that the word “jizz” originated from aircraft recognition practice amongst fighter pilots during World War II. The pilots were given brief glimpses of silhouetted models of enemy and friendly aircraft, and gradually developed the ability to tell friend from foe quickly and reliably. The impression of the aircraft formed became known as "General Impression of Shape and Size", abbreviated to GISS and pronounced "jizz." Unfortunately for the story, the pronunciation is actually different (why not "giss" or "jiss"?), and fighter pilots of the time deny knowledge of the acronym. Indeed, the Oxford English Dictionary finds "jizz" in bird-watching use well before the war.

Lots of Woodpigeons about, 800 in grey and white clouds still behaving like it was a shooting day; maybe they just need to get some practice in, flying between the woods as they have to when the guns appear from the 4x4s. These aren’t the garden Woodpigeons, the ones that clown around on the peanut feeders or stroll unconcerned across the lawn whilst I watch through the conservatory glass. These are the wild ones, the sportsmen’s vermin fit for the butcher’s slab, but don’t the pigeons know it if you try to get too close whilst pointing something from the shoulder that looks suspiciously like a gun.

Three Buzzards played hide and seek with me again by keeping at least a wood away where we could all use our binocular vision to take a good look without coming into contact. Ok you are winning for now Mr Buzzard but one of these days a 400mm lens will have you good and proper.

It was a bit of a raptor session today because the fields held 3 Kestrels alternately hovering, circling or using the farm machinery as convenient look out posts. I was watching two Kestrels hovering fairly close when above and behind them a Peregrine appeared from the north but ignored them to continue heading south over a somewhat distant wood and the Kestrels carried on floating interminably as they do.

It was a bit of a grey day, so grey that I didn’t lift my camera in anger; therefore I’m afraid that although today’s pictures are entirely relevant to my walk, they were taken on other days but mostly in the same locality. You see that’s one advantage of monotonous, unexciting birding, you can still use old pictures to add some immediacy or to make a samey day look a bit more appetising.

I saw a good number of Grey Partridge again today – at least 14 still managing to stay safe. In places the fields don’t look particularly wet, at least from a distance. It’s only when half way across that the sinking, soggy truth reminds me that we just endured about six weeks of rain. On the positive side, I found 9 Snipe in parts I wouldn’t normally reach, then in the drier regions 13 Skylarks remained as unfathomable as ever rising and falling to no particular theme. The diminished Goldfinch flock now numbered only six, the hardy ones that stuck it out while others cleared off to somewhere drier and warmer like we all should.

I did have a stroke of luck in not seeing the repetitive Grey Wagtail today so at least everyone is spared more photos of that. And I had a lovely walk, came home carrying a Rosy Glow, a hearty appetite and a bit of a thirst, can’t be bad.

Talking of dry and warm it looks like we are about to get a High Pressure System but I hope it doesn’t last too long it could get a bit tedious.

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