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Green Sandpiper's 2020 (Part 2) (1 Viewer)

LOCKDOWN!!

Stay indoors unless absolutely necessary. Only go outside for an hour's exercise a day, and stay within a mile of home. Don't meet up with your friends. Don't mingle.

Overall, don't die.

Lockdown brought out the best and worst in a lot of people. The initial fright and seriousness of it all gradually gave way as people got used to it all. The canny among us found ways to keep to the rules, without being restricted by them. We re- learned our local patches, we dug out old notebooks to check when we could expect to see our spring friends return from Africa, we learned (quickly) that footpaths were crammed full of people (defeating the purpose of it all) and that going across fields is 'true' birding anyway. We re- discovered the nooks and crannies of our patch, and learned new things about them every day.

I'm lucky in that my local area is well served with warblers each year. The River Clyde gives us mallard, goosander, breeding Greylag Geese, and breeding mute swans. If you're lucky (and early enough in the morning) you've a decent chance of kingfisher. We are well- served with raptors, with nuthatch and GSW breeding prolifically. All within an hour's walk of my house. The hour restriction began to be a tad too restrictive, and I found it was possible- and much safer- to avoid the areas of greatest congestion and set out further afield. My old village is 40 minutes walk away, and I managed that- across country- without meeting another soul. I walked- again cross- country- to the RSPB reserve at Baron's Haugh, discovering to my horror just how busy Strathclyde Park was. I'm a solitary birder, mostly, and am well known for liking my own company. A 5 hour walk around the fields was heaven to me.

Anyway, the nitty- gritty. My patch- walking in April got me GSW in multiple places, including climbing up the brickwork of a railway bridge. The warblers arrived as expected, and were duly ticked. The wall of noise which the massed choirs of willow warblers makes is an absolute joy. It genuinely defeats me how people can walk through the woods and not stop in wonder. Blackcap and chiffchaff were in abundance, eventually. Had to work slightly harder than expected for the blackcap, but made it all the more rewarding. Amidst the continuous news of death and despair, we were surrounded by LIFE. The greening of the trees, the noise of birdsong. EVen my 3am song thrush was welcome this year. My garden got watched more this year than previously. I learned the habits of rivers, both the CLyde and its tributary, the Rotten Calder. I got breeding dipper, found great tits nesting in a hole in a railway viaduct, and discovered a 100 year old railway cart from an abandoned mine. Grasshopper Warbler was a challenge, which I met by sitting on my backside and watching a bramble patch. Lady luck shone and I got sedge warbler in a 2-for-1 deal. As the weather warmed, I discovered insect life as never before. I learned about hoverflies, and got a few photos as well. I tracked bees and butterflies, both of which were far less numerous than desired.

This was heaven. And hell. Lockdown- and sticking to the rules- meant I missed out on big days out such as to Fowlsheugh (a glorious seabird city) and to Musselburgh. I missed out on long hillwalking days and moorland wanders. Mentally. I wrote off the ticks that I would have definitely, absolutely gotten. Cos I never dip out....

Worse, though, was watching other birders flaunt the rules that I was sticking to. The rules designed to keep people healthy were cast away, seeing people's year lists showing ticks from all over the country just made me resentful. Having a clear conscience is one thing, is it better than a piss- poor year list? Sorry, too philosophical.

The brightest light during this period was 'accidentally' meeting my birding mate Bill (yeah, a birder called Bill) on my local wanders. We became adept at holding conversations from 10 feet away, and while we genuinely never planned to meet up, we did manage to have some wonderful birding moments. Bill is my Big Day Oot' birding partner, and we realised that 'small mornings' during a pandemic were equally enjoyable.

Daily scrutiny of the news and the 'R- number' became a must- do. By July, rumours were abounding that lockdown would end, and hoping against hope, I allowed myself to plan what I'd do and where I'd go. Then came the day, lockdown ended. My father in law's car was borrowed in advance. Now was the time to salvage what was left of the year.
 

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