It’s been an unusual, busy week at Considering Birds. This blog has been uprooted again, finding a new roost in the wilds of Kent, and therefore been delayed by the inevitable grappling with teetering stacks of boxes, letting agents, and utility companies. All most fun, I assure you. So don’t consider my lack of blogging over the last couple of weeks as laziness, or a want of something to say. Oh no. I’m afraid plenty of words are waiting to escape my itchy (perhaps twitchy?) fingers. I’m working hard on restoring the sort of blogging frequency you deserve. Even as I type, I’m holding a phone to my ear, on hold to a broadband provider, attempting to get back online. That’s dedication for you. (Week after next. Oh well.)
Amongst all of this, dedicated birding has been in short supply. But the truth is, it’s still hard to stop. There’s always a bird. Somewhere just over your shoulder, round the back of the house, swooping over the street as you struggle through the rain – birds are everywhere. In part, that’s why they attract a larger bunch of admirers than just about any other type of creature. Birds are in your face – the most visible expression of natural variety in its many wonderful forms. The morning we left Hampshire the rooks were in fine throaty voice, issuing a solemn croaked farewell. Unpacking the van on arrival here I couldn’t help but notice the resounding call of what sounded, unless I’m very much mistaken, like a crossbill up in a small group of nearby pines. Unlikely but not impossible: it’s a good crossbill year. A good omen for a spring and summer of birding inKent.
During a pause in the first day’s unpacking, I took the opportunity to set up my scope at the front window, from which we have a commanding view downhill into the Darent valley and across to the North Downs. A twin stack of gulls was in sight, circling over their favoured haunts of the local wildfowl reserve and the neighbouring supermarket car park. Seven magpies flopped after each other across the next street, perhaps signifying a dark secret or two held within its commuter belt mansions.
Then I picked up a raptor out over the valley, a smallish peregrine from the flight action and shape, moving with impossible speed and then stalling into a series of swoops amongst the gulls and pigeons below. At last it selected a victim, and plummeted out of sight behind the tree line. Very distant, but remarkable to see. It was so very distant, in fact, that I couldn’t be 100% sure it was a smallish peregrine. It might even have been a very acrobatic large sparrowhawk. Do sparrowhawks stoop? Can they? I feel quite raptor ignorant all of a sudden. Whatever it was, it was quite a spectacle for something seen out of a residential front window.
And speaking of sparrowhawks, I’ve seen at least one every day (much closer and more readily identifiable) for the last seven days now; they’re not uncommon by any means, but that’s an unprecedented run. Each pocket-sized bundle of grey feathers and malevolence that passes overhead has been a most welcome momentary intrusion of wildness and wonder into an otherwise stressful day. As is almost every encounter with a free living bird – encounters which, I’m glad to say, you don’t even have to go looking for.
For now, I’d best return to my list of companies to call (I tell you, customer service managers will be first against the wall when my revolution comes). Normal service will be resumed shortly, with any luck. Until then I’ve got just one piece of advice for everybody: as my good friend The Rice Birder never fails to admonish me, Keep on Birding!