I always look forward to my monthly WeBS count and it’s something that I’ve written about both on here, and in the book. It gives me a sense of purpose, as a birdwatcher, and this feeling is something I’ve explored in depth in one chapter. It’s not all about purpose though and today reminded me (again) that sometimes I need to let myself be become reacquainted with my patch, in order to rediscover the connections that I’ve been missing.
I didn’t even care about the rain and knee that I’d be able to find shelter easily, under the many trees lining the lake. The lingering wetness made everything seem like it was greener. A lushness. A late ripening, that felt out of place in mid-October, a time when things should be browning and decaying. I found a dry-spot, dark and shadowy, tucked under a verdant veranda – and is it began.
The count began. Slow and methodical. One species at a time, left to right. Occasionally I messed up, distracted by movement, and had to start again from scratch. First. The Greylag Geese. Nervously glancing at each other with suppressed honks agitating between them. 25. Including ‘FKC’ with his fine orange neck-collar, back for another winter period. Remembrance returning.
Teal, many, tucked into the reeds around the northern and western fringes. Easy to count, they weren’t mingling with the other wildfowl, instead secreting away at the edges. Outsiders. All of them 28. Gadwall next. Lots. I had to recount them thrice as they eddied around each other, feeding and socialising. Up. Up. 86. A portent of a wildfowl-filled winter perhaps?
Tufted Duck, easy, they’d dropped right down in number – 4 – all asleep, with heads and tufts tucked under their wings. Only 2 Little Grebes today, down from 7 and 5 recently; although I was certain they were tucked under an overhanging Willow frond somewhere. I had to stop for a moment as a piercing ‘tzeeeeeep’ passed over me. Redwings. A flock, moving with military precision, spaced out in equidistantly, a thrush squadron. 15.
Coot, easy to count, a scan of their black forms with white horns, 22. Moorhens. A similar approach but fewer in number. Red and yellow, 17. Another break in concentration. A larger finch over the lake, spinning in the rain, lost. It changed direction and flew towards the wood. I could see it’s peachy tones but it was too big to be a Chaffinch. Then ‘Chink’ sounded mechanically, twice, as it continued its powerful flight. A Hawfinch.
What a bird to witness moving over the patch. After this weeks first ever Marsh Harrier, I hadn’t expected another patch first for a long while. Back to counting. Oh. That was all the wildfowl species, or was it. 5 Mallard. Mustn’t forget those! Time to pack up and head home – hold on. A dart, powering over the water, a piping call and an upward flutter. A bulrush bounced. There he sat, resplendent even in the grey murk and falling drizzle. A Kingfisher. A regal end to a wonderful WeBS count. I left. Smiling. Under the watchful eye of the resident Heron.