I was really looking forward to the chat and the company. The monthly Birdy Group is excellent at providing both. Yesterday, however, while there were plenty of feathered friends to keep me company along the paths of the
Arundel Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, the company of humans was strangely missing. It was, of course, All My Own Fault.
The day started well; four of us in the
Lovely Linda’s car travelled to the venue, exchanging news of what had happened to each of us since last we met. In the car park, we met up with others of our group - eleven of us in total - then, when we entered the Visitor Centre, one of our number
generously handed out vouchers to us all so that we could get a reduction on our entrance fee. As you know, I do like to bag a bargain, which is why I have so many Loyalty cards in my handbag that I have had to decant them from my purse, into a receptacle
all of their own.
So far, so good. We spent a useful five or ten minutes before going outside, gazing out of the plate glass window trying to spot the oyster catcher
and the wagtail which someone had spotted. I was at a disadvantage, having been unable to find my binoculars that morning (I suspect they had been hidden by one of the Trio of Rampaging Rascals who love nothing better than borrowing my bins to scan the back
garden, usually looking through the lens the wrong way round.) It was good, therefore, to move out into the bird feeding area where there were ducks a-plenty and excellent illustrations to help me differentiate my pochard from my mallard, even without the
help of binoculars.
At which point came the Parting of the Ways. I noticed that all but three of us had set off along the pathway. Had I been sensible I
would have waited until the other two were ready to move on but, no, off I trotted in the steps (or so I thought) of the rest of our Merry Gang. Sooner or later, I told myself, I would catch up with them - though, as it turned out, it was neither sooner nor,
I asked everyone I met on my journey whether they had seen a Flock of Birders, easily recognised by the binoculars slung around their necks and
their constant calls of: “Can you see it? Up on the high branch, no, not the top branch, see the branch which kind of juts out to the right as you look at it...” Or words to that effect. Nobody, it seemed, had seen them. Possibly, I told myself,
they were too occupied looking out for actual, well, birds...
There were compensations to my lonely wandering. I didn’t frighten off my feathered friends
with my chatter because there was no one to chatter to. My solitary approach didn’t disturb a single bird going about its nest-building business. Silently I watched the swallows darting in and out of the Scrape Hide as they set about their home making;
the thrush wandering into my path. Silently I joined a woman with a giant camera trained on a bird box, waiting for the resident blue tit to make an appearance. Silently I listened to Jenny Wren, throwing her voice out into the sky - such a loud noise for
such a tiny bird.
I loitered in the Wetlands Secrets cabin, where displays of plants each with a description of their medicinal properties struck me as a mixture
of medieval magic with a touch of Harry Potter thrown in for good measure. In the Wildlife Garden where I stopped for a rest, I was joined by a friendly robin taking pity on my loneliness.
The Visitor Centre was ahead of me - the one thing I knew for certain was that we would all be back there by midday or thereabouts. So why was I the only one at the counter buying myself a regular latte and a toasted tea cake?
Which is when it belatedly dawned upon me - could it possibly be that, rather than the rest of the group being ahead of me, I was actually in the lead? Which would explain
why I was first back to the Visitor Centre and why nobody I met on my travels round the reserve had seen the Flock of Birders. Why hadn’t I back-tracked?
theory was confirmed when I was eventually joined by the rest of the group. After moving off from the feeding area they had gathered in a nearby hide - which, in my eagerness to play catch-up, I had completely by-passed.
I have learnt my lesson. Next time I will stick fast to my fellow birders.
I did, it is true,
have a perfectly lovely morning, all on my own, with only the birds for company.
But it’s much more fun being One of the Gang.