Saturday, September 06, 2008

The Swimming Cows

I only have myself to blame. It was a perfect opportunity to share my knowledge and experience with enthusiastic kids. To explain about the miracle of migration, about how Sooty Shearwaters visit Newtonhill from the South Atlantic. Maybe recruit a couple of extra soldiers for the war against total environmental meltdown. And I blew it. Still, I am what I am. It went a bit like this... 6.30 pm, and I am seawatching with scope and bins from the bench at the clifftops. Two kids come along, girls, maybe 9, 10 years old, with their Mum, or Dad (I honestly wouldn't like to be drawn on that point) trailing behind. This is the conversation, verbatim as I remember it. I'm not proud, but what can you do?

Girls: Whatcha doing?
Me: Just looking... for things.
Girls: [look at scope] Are you making a video?
Me: Something like that, yeh.
Girl1: [stands right in front of scope] Can you see me?
Me: No, you're too far away.
Girl: Can I look through?
Me: No. Move along.
Girls: Whatcha looking for?
Me: Cows.
Girls: Cowards?
Me: No. Cows.
Girls: [look out to sea!] Can you see any?
Me: Not yet.
Girls: Will there be any here.
Me: Might be; might come swimming past.
Girls: How long have you been here?
Me: Since 1983
Girl 1: Since 3?
Me: No. 1983.
Girl 2: No. How long have you been here today?
Me: Since 1983! [Looks at watch] - yep, about 25 years i think.
Girls: [puzzled,'can't be bothered with this' look] Bye.

I have actually used the 'cows' line before. Last year, I was stood scoping for pipits in a field full of cows. That time it was 2 boys.
Boys: Whatcha looking for
Me: Cows.
Boys ?[puzzled]
Me: Will you tell me if you see any.
Boys: The field's full of them
Me: ? [Looks at field] [Doubletake] Argh!!

Still not proud. But in general it's not a good idea to try and strike up a conversation with me in the field. And that's another thing. Why is it that everyone I met this morning told me 'It's breezy today!'. Yes, I know. Can you tell by my horizontal hair full of yesterday's gel... *I know* it's breezy, and that in fact is why I'm out birdspotting. Now get your stupid dog off my jeans.

Which is me getting ahead of myself again. As many of you will have noticed, there was a bit of an easterly or north-easterly blow going on overnight and this morning (why did no one tell me it was a breezy day?!), potentially good for migrants. Indeed, in the end, it looks like the northeast of Ingerland got lucky. Not Newtonhill. But it could have been us, on another day. So I was out. Started with the sea at 06:15 to 07:20, not sparkling, but 5 Sooty Shearwaters, 3 Manx Shearwaters, all north, 5 Arctic Skuas (1N, 4S). One of the Arctic Skuas was, on shape and size, likely to have been Long-tailed, but just that bit far out. 1 Great Skua north presented no id. problems, nor did 4 Red-throated Divers (3S), 10 Sandwich Terns south, 2 Atlantic Puffins north. For ?fun, I counted Northern Gannets (235N, 4 S), Northern Fulmars (99N) and Black-legged Kittiwakes (33N). I didn't stay too long as I wanted to bash bushes, but in hindsight that was a mistake, with no proper migrants whatsoever around the patch. Very disappointing. However with the wind staying in the NE all day, I nipped out for another seawatch around teatime, 17:45 - 18:45. Another 2 Sooty Shearwaters, and a Great Skua, but very slow. I counted 185 Northern Gannets north, and 38S. Couldn't be bothered counting Kittiwakes but actually they picked up and by the time I finished I reckoned there must have been a few hundred through. And of course a herd of cows swimming majestically in on their annual transmigration of the North Sea. So you can see that my conversation with confused children was the highlight. That's why I put it first. If tomorrow doesn't improve, I'll tell you about my new salt-and-saturated-fat-laden unhealthy snack, going to market in the next few months, I call it 'I can't believe it's not lettuce'.

Actually that reminds me... a final perusal of yesterday's Cage and Aviary Birds, before I used it to line the kids' litter tray, revealed another seller offering 'Calorina Ducks'. I think they're like Carolina Ducks (Wood Ducks), but with more fat and sugar.

No comments: