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Anticipation And The End Product (1 Viewer)

Its not an exaggeration to say that there are probably more days behind me than in front of me. I have no intention of shuffling off the mortal coil any time soon, but as a short, round-ish 48 year old Scottish bloke I'm realistic enough to accept that I'm not likely to make it to 96. And thats ok, its not the years in your life its the life in your years, etc. ITs strange though, that as birders much of our time is spent wishing the time away. By February, we can't wait for Spring and the influx of migrants- we're desperate for the first chiffchaff, then the first house martin, the first swift. Then its autumn migration, beginning in the summer. The quiet days of mid- summer can't pass quickly enough, then we roll onto autumn, and look forward to the start of the new listing year in January.

This crossed my mind as I looked at this year's list and some chats I'd had with Bill, my birding mate and all- round good guy. Waiting for warblers, then hirundines, then before you realise it, you're mid- way through the year almost.

Now I'm not a twitcher, but I do like my year list to be respectable. I also like to visit familiar places, and feel guilty if I haven't been. PArticularly if that place is something special. So I found myself awake at silly o' clock and heading to Cathkin Marsh SWT reserve. A place which, on its day, offers good birds. It has almost a fey character. It suits itself, and doesn't mind if your visit is almost bird- free. That feyness appeals to me- its something myself and my younger daughter share (and which really annoys Mrs Green Sand) Anyway, given the time of year I was hoping for grasshopper warbler and a water rail (sight or sound) Upon arrival, got hit by a wall of noise. Surprise number one was a Linnet singing from the trees bordering the path. A year tick- and while I've had them there before I definitely wasn't expecting it. Further into the reserve and the massed choir of willow warblers were in good voice. Rising above the din, thugh possibly because I was closer, a half dozen grasshopper warblers were reeling frantically. One was good enough to pop up into the branches of a small tree. Year tick 2, and although it was a target, it gave me far better views than I could have hoped.

Willow Warbler wasn't a tick, obviously, but the wall of noise I mentioned gave me pause to stand, quietly and let it wash over me. Small birds flying thousands of miles to reach the back- end of Cambuslang, and I'm there to hear them sing. It gave me a sense of privilege to be there, and to be grateful once again that I'm a birder.

I've said before that birding can be a solo pursuit best shared. I've also explained that I've benefitted greatly from meeting far better birders than me, people who have been generous with their time and expertise. And thus my visit coincided with the SWT carrying out a survey, with CAthkin MArsh's resident font of knowledge and good guy Jim on site. I hadn't seen him in years, and was glad he had survived the recent global plague. Great to chat with him, not least because he told me where a newly- arrived Sedge Warbler could be found. I had assumed it was a bit early, but no, one had arrived and was in song. It showed briefly, and I wandered on with another massive smile on my face.

Made me think- willow warbler song is a thing of undulating beauty. Sedgies sound like a chain smoker on a Karaoke night. Both extremely welcome!!

3 year ticks, a chat with one of birding's good guys, and some quality time spent on a decent site. Not a bad morning, all told.

Bill, as I've mentioned, as having an annus mirabilis. The birding year of all years. He had visited RSPB Loch Lomond, and was waxing lyrical about how impressed he was. His tick list for the day was ridiculously impressive both in terms of quality and quality. I had use of the Father-in-law-mobile, and decided that it was time for me to try somewhere new. Surprised myself by finding it relatively easily. Would my day come close to Bill's?

In terms of birds, no. Nowhere close. It was, though a quality visit. The reserve is impressive in layout and habitat. I was lucky with the weather, I got a decent day list, the highlight being a very obliging tree pipit, and the trip was just really, really enjoyable. Hard to put into words, but I just got a really positive feeling from it. The reserve is comparatively new, and the word on the street (trail?) is that its being managed for birds and birders, not for the general public, so maybe it was that. Who know. Definitely worth a visit again.

Bill had also tipped me off about terns at Ardmore Point, and I decided to stop off, as it was 'near' my road home. Highly creative use of the adjective 'near', the kind of creativity that only birders use.

The tide was far out, but a few waders were visible through my shiny new scope. Also got great views of a seal, and took a photo for Mrs GreenSand to get all jealous over. Cos irritating your spouse is a clever idea.... I did get Sandwich Tern though, so really can't complain. Journey home notable only for the exploding car on the motorway, though to be fair that could be any day on the M8 motorway.

With things going quite well, and having one of my midweek days off planned, I opted to get adventurous. I'm wary of the price of fuel, so would be reluctant to have a big day out at Fowlsheugh for auks. My new shiny scope meant that there were other options- my lucky fulmar at Dunbar made the decision easier. Yellowcraigs/ Fidra in East Lothian is somewhere I'd heard lots about, but only visited once. The scope made it do- able, and with Fidra being an island, it gave me a static point to practice my seawatching with. And I needed the practice......

Usual warblers in the forest, plus eider out on the water. Fulmar doing their stiff- winged flight over the Eastern part of the Island, with guillemot on the western. A patient search, though, got me my hoped-for-but-not-expected bird- puffins. 2nd year tick, only my third ever. Impossible without the scope, but what a massive buzz it gave me. Still elated, I stopped off at Musselburgh scrapes to try out the scope again. The scrapes were quiet (the sea even quieter) but I did get little ringed plover. Tick 3 for the day, best ever views (normally distant, but I have a scope now, you know....) and a fantastic way to top off a great day and month of birding.

I mentioned at the start that you can wish your year away easily. Warbler season, autumn migration, the new listing year. I've made the most of almost all of the days birding that I get (the crap day at Musselburgh excepted) and find a lot of joy in spontaneous, even commando, birding. Despite being 48, and loving birds for 40 years now, birding still excites me in a way that I can't imagine other hobbies or passions ever could. Commando birding is one thing, but having a day planned in advance, especially if its a few days distant, gives you the thrill of anticipation. You look forward to it, you count down the days, you daydream at work and miss important things your boss tells you during meetings.

And you know, its ok to wish those days away because at the end of it, you will be birding.

Stay healthy, stay safe folks.

John
 

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