I couldn’t quite make up my mind whether Christmas had come early - or whether somebody was still in festive mood, having missed the significance of Twelfth Night.
Be that as it may, there I was in the Christmas Goods section of the shop at beautiful Pulborough Brooks, snapping up half-price specials as fast as you could say “bargain.”
Usually we don’t have too much time, on our Birdy Group meet-ups, to spend ages in the shop. We are keen to get out and about, finding seats in the hides, training our binoculars on the lake,
the trees, the shrubbery in order to add to the Lovely Linda’s monthly tally of “Birds We Have Spotted.” That’s a collective “we”, you understand, I am quite shameless in linking my own poor efforts at aiming my binoculars
upwards with those of the more eagle-eyed among our group.
Yesterday, however, was wet, wet, wet. You could be forgiven for wondering why we decided to go
ahead with Birdy Group, given the unfavourable elements. It was, to be fair, good weather for ducks - foul weather, as somebody with a poorly-developed sense of humour, once quipped being ideal weather for waterfowlers - and Pulborough Brooks is a haven for
birds of the Duck Variety. Anyway the message from our Leader was an appealing one. Whatever the weather, why didn’t we gather in the café, find seats near the windows and spend a happy hour or more supping tea, coffee or hot chocolate, chatting
about anything and everything, and watching the birds visiting the feeders handily stationed outside the café in full view of the Watchers From The Windows. It was an invitation I, for one, was not about to refuse. We birders are an Intrepid Lot, you
There were five of us cosily crammed into Bas’s car; there would have been plenty of room, we conceded, had we not dressed up against the rainy weather
in our winter gear. You won’t catch a duck donning waterproofs and wellingtons. We can learn a lot from the Webbed Footed Ones. It is probably a good thing that nobody was watching as we three in the back seat unrolled ourselves from the car when we
reached our destination. Everyone helped everyone else to unzip hoods from their winter coats to cover our heads as we scooted into the Visitor Centre where we dripped and steamed in the warmth of the shop and met up with three more of our group who, like
me, had been attracted to the Christmas bargains.
At the café counter I ordered a latte and then gave into temptation and rashly asked if toasted tea cakes
might possibly be on offer. They were. So not only would I not be taking any exercise this morning (apart from ensuring that my jaws would not rust) I was also giving myself a totally underserved reward for not doing any exercise. Unless you count carrying
my mug of coffee over to our window table? But, hey, scrub that: “I’ll bring it over to you,” promised the café assistant. Maybe he thought he needed the exercise?
Outside on the bird feeders, our feathered friends were providing us with a performance of balletic beauty. It was as if they knew we were watching and were determined to put on a show. The Lovely Linda was kept busy noting down each
new sighting - I doubt we would have seen any more had we plodded round the reserve with raindrops falling on our heads, down our necks and dripping off the end of our noses. Oh, we were so much warmer, dryer, more comfortable sitting in the café, nursing
our hot drinks and watching the birds beyond the window.
Before we left I went back to the shop and managed to spend a lot more money than I had intended
stocking up for next Christmas. I also found myself buying fruity nibbles for the birds in my back garden, enticed by a BOGOF offer which was open to me because I had spent more than £10. Plus I signed up for yet another Loyalty Card. Just because. Out
to the car for the homeward journey I went carrying two rather large brown paper carrier bags - which fortunately found a temporary home in the boot; had I had to carry them home on my lap, none of my back seat companions would ever have been able to budge.
I learnt later that three of our number stayed so long in the café that they felt it would have been rude not to stay on for lunch - so they did,
and were rewarded by the sight of a Greater Spotted Woodpecker outside.
There is a lesson here for all of us. Fortune doesn’t necessarily favour the
brave and Greater Spotted Woodpeckers come to those who sit and wait...