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

Judgemental- a Covid Consequence? (1 Viewer)

Much quieter week this time, which made my weekend so much better. Working from home- the new normal- secured only the usual garden birds. Cheated a little by putting mealworms on the windowledge, which got a magpie close up. Otherwise, quite quiet on the feeders. This, the dull, grey weather, and short hours of daylight added to the gloomy atmosphere. This of course and the worsening pandemic making it difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

On that subject, Mrs Green Sand is a social worker, and classed as front line. She's also incredibly difficult to impress. She got her first dose of the vaccine on Friday, and hasn't stopped bragging about how efficient the process was, how brilliant the staff were, and how hopeful she is. If Mrs Green Sand is impressed, then it must be good. Maybe we should be hopeful after all.

Anyway, back to the matter at hand. Managed to get out both days this weekend, got decent birds, but my days out also got me thinking.

My eldest daughter is a student, and working part time in the Temple of the Golden Arches (McDonald's) in Easterhouse in Glasgow. Being a non- driver, I have to take her and pick her up, its classed as essential travel, but a wee bit outside my council area. There's a local nature reserve reasonably close by, which had a smew this week, but I resisted the temptation to stop off. Rules are rules, why take the chance, etc, but also a fear of losing the moral high ground.

On the way home, though, I deliberately took a longer route which would take me to Drumpellier country park in Coatbridge. Comprising of 2 lochs divided by a road, I knew that the quieter Woodend Loch (the one without the visitor centre and anglers) is occasionally quite good for hidden gems. Great place for disaplying great- crested grebe, for instance. A wander through the mud (I mentioned ages ago the I love mud, and think that having my trousers coated in the stuff is a sign of really being 'in the field') got me to the lochside. Water level very high after the snow and rain. Water partially frozen- slushy more than anything- but did get a few year ticks. Coot, LBB gull and herring gull being the ones I'd expect to get. It was great to be there, mud splashing the top of the boots, completely alone. Even the anglers who usualy poach there (its a SSSI) hadn't bothered turning up. The real bonus, though, were the skeins of pink- footed geese flying over. Unexpected, obviously, pinkies were scheduled in for next autumn at Aberlady Bay, in Green Sands 2021 plan.

Still had a couple of hours to go before curfew, and I opted to head for Baron's Haugh, my 'home' reserve. Its still a local mecca for dog walkers, joggers, plams, etc, but the Little Egret that had stopped off meant that there were a few birders as well. Quite a few. The egret was in the vicinity of the marsh hide- the hide thats officially closed for being too dangerous. Ahem....

Unfortunately, it seemed that a local rarity created immunity from respiratory disease. Or at least, made people less worried about it. The hide was a hive of activity, and I was glad that I had put on a mask, given that social distancing wasn't an option. A local birder noted that the egret and the kingfisher had both been seen to the left of the hide (very roughly East) The presence of both durign the week had attracted not only birders, but also photographers. Much jostling of tripods to get a view, there was overspill outside which- unsurprisingly- spooked the egret. Horrible hide etiquette, and a lack of fieldcraft. I was lucky, though, that the local birder made sure I could get onto the kingfisher by pointing her out to me. Year tick. The famine and feast of birding, with not only the egret but a pair of grey herons being spooked..

The thing that got me thinking, was where the line gets drawn between birders who like taking a photo, and photographers who like birds. Where do people fall on the divide. I like taking photos, but would die inside if I ever found myself grabbing the camera round my neck rather than binoculars. I'm a birder first. I noticed some of the photographers- the ones with the largest penis- extension cameras- didn't have binos with them. An alien concept for me, but the thing is, does that impact on whether they can be considered a real birder or not? Which then leads into who am I, or anyone else, to judge? The piss- poor fieldcraft and hide etiquette are surely more serious problems than being snooty about whether you want to take a photo in general?

Ironically, after leaving the overcrowded hide without the egret, a wander round the path to the Phoenix hide allowed me an unfettered view across the loch. Lo and behold, the egret rose up briefly, before diving back down. Perfect, if distant view. These 2 further year ticks I was quite happy with, before I remembered that the herons were the first I'd seen. Bonus tick, thanks to poor fieldcraft.

Managed to get out yesterday as well. A morning sojourn to CAthkin Marsh Scottish Wildlife Trust reserve was pretty devoid of birds. I had hoped for water rail and reed bunting- in fact, was reasonably confident of them- with a very outside chance of yellowhammer. The parade of cyclists using the reserve appeared to have spooked most of the wee brown (or yellow) jobbies and the main path was lifeless. This reserve never used to be busy, and I found myself starting to resent people using it. Which also got me thinking...

The wooden walkway that had dissected the main marsh had been removed months ago, meaning that only the perimeter path is useable. Also means that the vast majority of the marsh offers only distant views. It makes you work for your birds, does this reserve. Spent a really good half hour watching a kestrel hunting over the adjacent landfill site. As I stood, I heard the unmistakable piggy squeal of a water rail in the reeds behind me. They used to scuttle across the boardwalk quite openly, but alas, I'll need to make do with an audible.

A couple of blue tits and a wren were the sum of the other birds, and I returned to the car both satisfied that I had spent quality time watching the kestrel, and frustrated that I hadn't seen more.

Returning home, I wandered along the Clyde and headed to Fin-Me-Oot. There, fate shone on me and my birding mate Bill wandered up. First time in months we had met up, and it was great to catch up. A reed bunting search near Newton was fruitless, but the craic was brilliant.

A weekend with 8 ticks can't be sneezed at in the circumstances, which got me thinking about where I was birding. Drumpellier, Cathkin Marsh and the Haugh are probably at the outer limit of where I'd go birding at the moment. The rules are there for a reason, obviously, and with people dying in their hundreds there are worse things than not being able to travel 50 miles for a birding trip. So, am I justified in criticising those birders who aren't sticking to the rules? The ones sneaking a wee visit further afield for a twitch, assuming 'it won't hurt.' Similarly, is it ok to criticise photographers for piss- poor fieldcraft, or to criticise the ones who can go birding without binos or a scope. Is it ok to feel resentment that non- birders are using nature reserves for exercise, or am I missing the point that anyone using a reserve will develop an affinity for it- its easier to care about protecting something if you're emotionally invested in it.

Or, is it just that the unique circumstances we're all facing are leading me to make much ado about nothing? Something to mull over during the long, dull days before next weekend.

Stay healthy, stay safe.

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

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