It is raining cats and dogs but twelve intrepid members of our Birdy Group have turned up at beautiful Warnham Nature Reserve anyway. We don waterproof trousers and jackets, walking boots, rain hats and hoods. Well, some
of us do anyway. Unfortunately I was what might be called under-prepared when the lovely Linda turned up outside in her car; I couldn’t remember where I’d put my boots after our last trip out, I hadn’t given any due consideration to the elements
other than opting for my raincoat rather than my warm winter coat, and there was no sign of my gloves anywhere. I trot out to the car pretending that I have every base covered...
I love Warnham. I love the fact that we always manage a respectable Bird Tally when we visit. I love the fact that it only costs £2 a visit (accompanied children go free.) I enjoy sitting round the tables in the café at the end of our visits,
cupping our hands round our mugs of tea or coffee to warm them up (especially important for those who haven’t been able to find their gloves), trying to locate the field mice in the display cases and inspecting the bookshelves for a good read (all donations
go to buy more bird seed for the feeders.)
Stalwarts that we are, we set off to the first of the reserve’s hides where we huddle together and train
our binoculars on the lake. Everyone crosses their fingers, wishing for an appearance by one of the resident kingfishers. Now that really would brighten a Dull Day. Alas, the kingfisher is obviously far more sensible than we are and is tucked away in its kingfisher
lair, possibly laughing at our rather ridiculous expectations. My binoculars are steaming up and I only have a shredded tissue in my pocket which isn’t very effective at cleaning the lenses. I try breathing on them and using my fingers to wipe them clean
which doesn’t work either.
The next hide, the Bullfinch Hide, has been installed fairly recently by the Friends of the Reserve. We are all very grateful
to them, I especially so because not only does it keep us dry but also I don’t actually need to resort to my binoculars to see the many birds flitting to and from the feeders. A male pheasant struts before us, glorying in his splendid plumage. A little
later, a somewhat dowdy female emerges - clearly the #MeToo movement hasn’t yet penetrated the Pheasant Kingdom. Our Leader, Linda, is already totting up Birds We Have Seen in her head.
I send a short, rain spattered video via WhatsApp to my Little Sister: “Bird watching in the rain!” I say, unnecessarily. She responds to say that out in the Kentish countryside it is beautiful day...
We splish-splash our way to another two hides before we decide to call it a day, on account of us all feeling a little chilly so we head back to the café which is far busier than I have ever seen it. Only
Marion braves the elements a little longer and is rewarded when she spots a little grebe from one hide. The good thing is that we can add the little grebe to our bird tally, even though only one of us actually saw it. Before you ask, there are limits - like,
for example, if Mr B were with us and asserted that he had seen a Golden Eagle. We wouldn’t exactly call him a fibber - but we wouldn’t be adding Golden Eagle to Linda’s List. We do have a few scruples.
There are exciting times ahead for this Nature Reserve which has been awarded a grant of £278,000 from something called the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development. I haven’t heard
of it myself - but I’m glad someone had the wit and the wisdom to apply for money for Warnham.
I can’t wait for our next visit to see what’s
new and to explore the Discovery Hub which the money will fund.
We, the intrepid members of the Birdy Group, will be there, come fair weather or foul.
If you’ll excuse the pun...