Four hours from home

By steverenouk (IMG_0664) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
By steverenouk (IMG_0664) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
When your kids leave home it’s a big relief – although I find that leaving home, that was an ‘event’ for me when I went to university, is just a gradual change of emphasis for my daughter and son.  But it still opens up the opportunity to re-live the joys of spending money on your children in new parts of the country as one goes visiting.  So far, my daughter has given me many more chances to investigate unfamiliar birding sites than has my son.

My favourite daughter tends to live about four hours travel away from home: first in the north east (see here, here) then in the northwest (see here) and now in the southwest.  She is bound to end up in eastern Kent or the Pas de Calais eventually.

Recently though I had the chance to reacquaint myself with the Exe Estuary.  It still has brent geese, as it did when I used to visit as a schoolboy, and there are still avocets around Topsham, and you can still see Slavonian grebes from Dawlish Warren.

By Marek Szczepanek (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons
By Marek Szczepanek (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons
We visited the RSPB reserve at Bowling Green Marsh and saw a good variety of waders and waterfowl.  A birdwatcher asked me whether I was Mark Avery, so I checked and then replied in the affirmative, and he said he recognised me from my voice from listening to the interviews that Charlie Moores recorded and the BBC Wildlife podcast I made. I slightly regretted that he didn’t say that he recognised me from the cover of Fighting for Birds but you can’t have everything!

I had been listening too.  The West Country accents in the hide made me feel at home but I also noticed that there seemed to be song thrushes singing everywhere compared with the numbers in the east of the country, or at least in Northants.

But there were things to look at too.  A curlew sandpiper paraded in front of the hide -showing off its longer bill (always a matter of judgement), cleaner undersides (always a matter of judgement), larger size (always difficult to judge in the field) and its white rump (the clincher).  This bird seemed to hold its wings in a way that  displayed its white rump more prominently than the usual – which was very nice of it.  It was as though it were wearing a jacket which didn’t quite fit as well as it should, and now gaped to show its stomach (or in this case rump).  I wonder what made me think of that analogy?

There was a greenshank at Starcross where the pub, the Atmospheric Railway, still commemorates one of Brunel’s less successful innovations. And we saw a red-necked grebe at Dawlish Warren too.

I’ll look forward to future visits which might produce cirl buntings, goshawks or honey buzzards.  Or maybe the southern damselfly?

Jan Baker [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Jan Baker [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
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9 Replies to “Four hours from home”

  1. As part of the huge investment in kid's education I think it should be compulsory that they then go and live somewhere where the birding is superb. I feel I have won the lottery as my son Jeremy has lived in the Netherlands, Oman, Brunei and now Canada. A bigger bonus is he regularly asks me to stay and he is also a birder.

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    1. Derek - you obviously trained him very well. You should offer courses to new parents who are birders.

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  2. Apropos nothing in particular, but it's a cold grey morning and I am putting off getting to grips with the "garden"

    https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=530385540327080&set=vb.154798851253259&type=2&theater

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  3. I went to the new RSPB reserve at Labrador Bay recently, just a little way along the coast - very dramatic cliff top scenery, contrasting with the flat of the estuary - but it was bought (no doubt in your time ?) for Cirl Bunting and there were stacks of them feeding on the stubble kept by RSPB right next to the parking bay off the main road - really great !

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    1. Roderick - yes that was one of the last reserve purchases in 'my' time. We almost went there too - if there were lots of cirls then I wish we had! Lucky you.

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  4. If you're down in June and the weather's nice, I can point you to some Southern D's!

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    1. Jeremy - thank you for the offer - that would be great! It would have to be late June - or maybe even early July. Any chance then?

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  5. Late June might be OK, esp if we have a late spring, but early July's getting pretty unlikely. But there's always another year (or so I keep telling myself when I miss out on something!). Drop me an email on the address listed if you are interested & around.

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