Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Birding In The Blue

Some envious birders I meet seem to think I have their dream job.  An Ecologist, specialising in bird surveys?  Aye’.  A professional ornithologist’ they emphasise,  in case I hadn’t realised.  Yes, I suppose so’.  So, you get paid….to watch birds!’ they persist, just to make sure I really haven’t missed their point.  I haven’t, but its not all milk and honey buzzards, there are the reports of course, and the B&Bs.

Last week I was in Lincolnshire doing a wintering bird survey.  I booked four nights B&B and the first two were brilliant, clean, warm, cosy, just the job.  For the last two I had booked at a hotel near the coast where I would be doing low tide counts.  I pulled up outside Santa’s Grotto, a myriad of pulsating blue fairy lights lit up the front and most of the town.  A sign declared ‘Cabaret Entertainment’, and another ‘Curry and Chips - £3.99’, (Phoenix Nights meets Las Vegas!).  Thunderous drum and bass belted out of the six feet square mega-woofers in the bar, just below my room.

The room itself had a novel take on the notion of ‘en suite’, with the toilet down the corridor and the bathroom down another corridor, round a corner and through some double doors.  In the room there was a sink though, but it was to this that I traced the hissing noise I first feared was a gas leak.  The cold tap leaked and would not turn off any further, the water dribbling out with a loud hiss. 

Back downstairs blue floodlights bathed the bar in a ghostly hue.  Shouting over the music I discerned from the eerily blue-faced barmaid that no they did not do evening meals, nor breakfast as it turned out, yet another interesting take on the concept of B&B!  Miles from anywhere else, having prepaid and with time ticking on I went out to see if there was anywhere else open.  The only place was an Italian restaurant and I became its only patron, eating pasta while waited on by three staff.  Afterwards they directed me to a general store that would ‘definitely sell maps and things’, named ‘Yabba Dabba Doo’s’.  I went partly just to see if it really was called that.  It was but it did not sell maps after all, just all the tat that Poundland would be embarrassed to have on its shelves.  A plastic frog on a stick?  How did I ever get by without one!  The bored women behind the counter asked what I wanted maps for, so I told them I was doing some survey work.  Ooh science stuff, well what do you think about this?” one asked, waving one of those hideous tabloids at me.  NASA plan trip to Mars, what use is messing about up there when there’s so much wrong down here?”  Slightly taken aback by this unexpected line of enquiry I could only reply, “I don’t know love, I just count birds”.  Going out of the door I heard her say to her colleague, “Well what use is that either?” a dispiriting comment to hear!
Back at the Blue Hotel the drum and bass boomed on until midnight, less than ideal with my alarm set for 5.30 a.m.  I was going to do a high tide count of waders and the Moon takes no account of birders when deciding what time to slam the tide in.  The corresponding evening high tide would be completely in the dark so the morning it had to be.  Needless to say I procured a refund for my second night’s stay, and moved to a different hotel in a different town! 

I am guessing those envious birders would not fancy swapping places on nights like that, but the days make up for it.  I had the beach to myself next morning, well not entirely, there was one other occupant photographed below.  Just me, him, and the sanderlings sprinting through the backwash, and the common scoters riding the waves, and the great black-backed gulls marauding past like stealth bombers.  Later that morning I was treated to a 250-strong flock of lapwings wheeling over the fields, emitting that evocative call like someone tuning in an old radio.  Yep, it is a great job and I’m definitely not for swapping!
'Morning Maddox', 'Hello seal'

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