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ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Columbia

Green Sandpiper's 2020 (Part 3) (1 Viewer)

Freedom!! The lockdown had lifted, sort of. The consistent fall in infection rate in Scotland meant that by the start of July, we now had more freedom to go further afield, albeit with the usual caveats about not being stupid. Caveats which not everyone adhered to, sadly. Now was the time to rescue what we could of the birding year. Working full time and having family duties (mostly as a glorified taxi driver) meant that my limited opportunities to get out had to be planned carefully. I abandoned my plan for a big day out in Aberdeenshire (leaving aside the travelling, I was wary of their infection rate) and decided to stick to a few tried-and-tested sites. Visits for specific birds, visits based on what folk on the internet said they'd seen that day. Not my ideal birding, as I'm more of an 'immerse yourself in the experience' kind of birder.

Easing of lockdown saw me managing three days out in a row. Firstly, the East coast saw Kittiwake at Dunbar harbour (if you can't get kittiwake there, give up) plus gannet and linnet a few miles along the coast at Torness power station. I'm not a huge fan of nuclear power.... but the guys at EDF go out their way to make the locality as wildlife friendly as possible. Even the cops with guns are friendly to birders, once they realise you're staring at the reactor building with honest intentions. All credit to them. My mini- tour ended with common tern and a surprise guillemot at Musselburgh. Five year ticks, but more a sense of joy at being released. The guillemot was a complete bonus bird. ,

A trip north to the Sma' Glen in Perthshire saw me tick off wheatear and ring ouzel. More importantly, a wander along the glen, watching red kites soar, was good for the soul. Which is more than could be said for the third day. This is where it went slightly awry. Having abandoned my plan for the seabird city at Fowlsheugh I remembered that there's a smaller, seabird village, at Seaton Cliffs in Arbroath- not quite as far up the coast, and close to a prime osprey spot. My sense of direction, memory, and the car sat nav all failed me, but eventually made it. Was able to tick off razorbill and rock dove (I generally think that if a feral pigeon is nesting on a sea cliff in the North Sea, its a rock dove.) My trip to bag an osprey went majorly wrong when I realised I had gotten my SWT reserves mixed up... Ah well, all was good, infections had fallen to near zero, and murmurings about a potential second, more serious wave were easily ignored in a triumph of hope over expectation.

Days out picking up ticks were interspersed with calmer days where the joy was to just be outdoors. I always thought that I appreciated nature, it was only now that I realised how much. The purity in spirit suggested by this was balanced with random tick- hunts, hooded crow at Succoth in Argyll for example, was a lot of miles for 15 minutes of birdwatching. I'm not a twitcher, so even at the time big trips for a single, specific tick were troubling to my inner code. Some might say I take things too seriously.

The flipside of this was the ludicrously easy and unexpected red throated diver at Musselburgh. Its not often you get a diver 20 feet away from a public footpath plagued with joggers, cyclists, and prams. I'm not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, so I gladly accepted the tick. Wader migration season, though, was disappointing, with multiple dips on birds which seemed only to appear during the hour before and after I visited somewhere. At least this was fairly consistent with other years.

Meanwhile, the infection rate had been slowly climbing, totally unconnected to the re- opening of pubs and the return of schoolchildren to over- crowded schools. New, localised restrictions began impacting on our lives- quirks of geography meant that I couldn't travel the 8 miles or so to Hogganfield Loch in Glasgow, but could travel 40 miles South towards the border as long as I stayed in South Lanarkshire. Everywhere visited seemed busier, as if people were sub- consciously aware that things were changing for the worse, and were making the most of their freedom while they can. And so we find ourselves, as 2020 closes, back under restrictions almost as tight as we started. No unnecessary travel. Stay close to home. Birding plans on hold, as January will be spent birding within a fairly small radius of my home. The vaccines being rolled out are but slow progress, but offer hope of a better 2021. 2020's lesson, though, has been not to make too many plans. Hope, rather than expect.

I survived 2020 without either me or my loved ones falling ill. I learned a lot about my ability to adapt and get on with things. I learned a lot about other people, not always in a positive way. I learned overall to appreciate what I have, as all it needs is a cough for that to be taken away.

Here's to 2021.


(yes, I know I said there's be 4 parts, but the third part formed a more natural ending, I think.)
ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Columbia
ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Colombia
ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Colombia

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