We are keeping fairly close to home for our first Bird Watching meet-up of the new term. Lovely Linda (who has taken over the organisation of our Birdy Group – don’t you just love a willing volunteer?)
picks me up from my house, having already collected Scottish Christine from her home. As she says, by offering lifts she can guarantee that she won’t be on her Ownsome come 10 a.m.
I have real trouble deciding what to wear on account of the weather forecast changing its mind every five minutes. One minute we are going to have rain at 11 a.m., the next minute, I am told, precipitation will hold
off until at least 2 p.m. Which is it to be? I take a trip to the front gate to check out the temperature. It feels cool. I think I will wear my red summer coat, the one with the hopeless hood which flops over my head like the hood on a monk’s
habit. Though, obviously, monks don’t generally wear red and my coat is a very bright red. Maybe I could slip my phone in one pocket, string my trusty binoculars round my neck, grab a bottle of water from the fridge and head out unencumbered by
Mr B observes my preparations from his arm-chair and tells me that it is going to be very warm. Hmmm, I think, maybe the coat isn’t such
a good idea then. I search out a polo-shirt of long-standing which I will be able to pull over my tee-shirt if the weather isn’t as warm as Mr B believes it will be. I realise I will be without pockets so the trusty rucksack has to be brought
back into use. I cram in polo-shirt, binoculars and water bottle, adding a fiver just in case we stop at some coffee shop along the way. Never let it be said that I have failed to Think of My Stomach. I nearly forget my phone which is already in
the pocket of my red coat with the hopeless hood but I remember it at the very last minute. I am also still pondering whether I should change into my hiking boots when I realise that the Lovely Linda has pulled up outside in her car – so my trainers
will have to do.
When we all gather in the car park next to the delectably-named Honeysuckle Lane, it becomes obvious that everyone else has been more sensible
than I. Everyone to a man or woman has a raincoat with them. Why didn’t I think of that? I do own a raincoat, after all, the Youngest of the Darling Daughters and I each bought one, exactly the same, years and years ago. She has lost hers
(I have a feeling it was left behind somewhere) but mine is still going strong. If only I’d remembered it today. As if to prove the point, the clouds gather in a threatening fashion and squeeze out a few drops of rain, possibly as a portent of More
Despite this, our Birdy Group sets off happily along the lane, ears and eyes on the alert. I pull on my polo shirt because it isn’t all that warm
whatever Mr B predicted. It seems most of our feathered friends, lacking polo shirts, are cuddling up for warmth and aren’t about to show themselves purely for our satisfaction. Half way through our walk it starts to rain in earnest and I have
to pretend that a little spot of rain doesn’t trouble me, oh dear me no – because I don’t want to admit to a Wardrobe Malfunction. Fortunately for me and my polo shirt, it dries up pretty quickly – and as it does, so we get a
bit luckier on the bird front.
OK so it's mostly blue tits and great tits, a veritable flock of pheasants. "I don't like pheasant," Ian confides to me. I
am not sure if he means pheasant as a bird, or as a dish. I hardly like to ask, being as we are, after all, the Birdy Group. Then we spot a pair of yellowhammers which are, according to the RSPB, on the “Red List” on account of a recent
population decline. When I say “we” spotted them, I am using a generic term to refer to the Birdy Group as a whole, despite the fact that one of our number couldn’t actually manage to train her binoculars on the birds in question. That’ll
be me, then.
I want to see them so much and Lovely Linda tries so very hard to point me and my binoculars in the right direction. She is almost as
sorry as I am at my abject failure. I keep telling her it doesn’t matter, really it doesn’t, I am sure I will get better at this bird-spotting business in time.
You might be wondering if it was a waste of a morning but indeed it wasn’t. There was the healthy two-hour walk, for a start, plus the engaging company and the ever-present excitement that we might, just possibly, spot something. Even if we –
or, rather, I - didn’t. And then, just a few hundred yards from the car park, a robin starts singing right above our heads. On and on he sings as we, delighted, listen below and strain our eyes trying to spot the tiny chorister up there in
the branches of the tree.
I won’t remember the rain, or the missed opportunity to spot the yellowhammers or the fact that I should have worn my boots
on account of the muddy terrain underfoot.
All I shall remember is the singer - and the song.