26 January 2009

Too much information...

Web sites and e-mails. Mobile phones and text messages. Pagers! Are they, along with binoculars and a telescope, the essential tools of the modern birder or do they just add to the chaotic lifestyles we find ourselves being subjected to? Birding to my way of thinking should be about taking time out to clear one’s head, to escape from the day-to-day grind of the workplace and to generally slow down. So why doesn’t it happen that way? I blame information technology!

Yesterday started off quiet enough for me - I hadn’t switched on my mobile phone or my PC - and I spent the first hour of my morning recording all the birds seen in or around the garden as part of the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch. By 9:30AM I’d recorded a total of 15 species, nine of which qualified for the Big Garden Birdwatch by actually landing in my recording area. The nine were Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Dunnock, Blackbird, Blue Tit, Greenfinch, House Sparrow, Starling and Magpie.

The six flyover sightings were Teal, Sparrowhawk, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Black-headed Gull, Jackdaw and Carrion Crow. The big surprise was the Teal - quite why a single Teal was flying over such a built up area as this I don’t know! The LBB Gull was also a new species for my “10-Mile List”, so that alone made it worth staring out of the bedroom window for an hour.

It was after the garden birding that things started to get a little more hectic - I turned on my mobile phone and my PC. A quick check of the Birdguides news page and it was clear that the Waxwing flock in nearby Ilkeston had not yet been reported on Sunday morning, but they had been seen during the previous afternoon. As there was nothing else of note nearby I decided to chance my luck and go and try for the Waxwings anyway. Just as I was walking out of the door my mobile went off, a text message from my birding friend Mike, he had located a couple of drake Pintail at Willington Gravel Pits.

I now had a problem... should I go for the Pintail and be more or less guaranteed another bird for my “10-Mile List” or should I stick with trying for the Waxwing flock. Lynda’s input on the subject had me heading for Willington! “Go for the easy tick!

The Pintail proved to be very easy to locate. They were swimming up and down the Gull Pit and gave great views from platform 3 at the end of the lane. Other birds out on the water included 229 Wigeon (my highest ever count here), 8 Gadwall, 6 Teal, 43 Pochard and a female Goldeneye. A single Buzzard was seen briefly as it soared over Canal Scrape and a Great Black-backed Gull over the new workings gave me yet another new bird for the ever-growing “10-Mile List”. The pick of the birds seen in the lane included Sparrowhawk, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Greenfinch and Bullfinch.

At 11:15AM technology dictated the pace and venue of my morning’s birding once more. Another text message arrived on my phone and, after a quick return call to confirm the details, I was leaving Willington in a hurry and heading to Ilkeston. The Waxwing flock had shown up! As I jumped into the car it suddenly dawned on me - I had no map and no way of finding my way through the new housing estate the birds had been seen in! Yet another phone call, this time to home, and Lynda was able to send directions back to me via yet another text message.

It was on the drive to Ilkeston that my “10-Mile List” came very close to literally hitting species number 75 when a pair of Grey Partridge flew across the road just feet in front of the car. I managed to get very close, if brief, views of the birds but it didn’t do much for my heart rate. I reckon it must have been close to 200 beats a minute! Oh, and the brakes on the car work okay too!

The Waxwings hadn’t been seen for around 15 minutes when I arrived but, after a further half-hour or so, a small group of them did return to the trees right next to where I was stood. If the light had been better then they would have been in a great position to photograph. As it was, my camera was unable to focus properly through my ‘scope and the chance was missed. That aside, it was great to be able to watch the Waxwings at close quarters and also to hear their trilling calls so well. If only these birds would expand their summer range and take up residence in the UK.

So, with the help and/or hindrance of the latest information technology I was able to add a further 5 new species to my “10-Mile List” yesterday bringing the current total to 76 species. I must admit that I was more than happy to have seen the Pintail, Grey Partridge and Waxwing but, as I sat and updated my records last night, I couldn’t help but think that a day out just looking for and watching my own birds may well have been even more enjoyable.

Your thoughts on the growing use of I.T. in birdwatching would be more than welcome!

1 comment:

  1. Perhaps it does make birdwatching 'easier' but I think it takes away from the whole 'being one with nature' aspect. Sometimes we have to shut out technology. Get back to the simpler things for a spell. A ten mile list is a great idea as it gives one something to focus on but from time to time it's nice to just sit, watch, listen, enjoy, without having to take notes or pick up a cell and be pulled from one spot to another because someone else spotted something else somwhere else ;-)