Saturday, 20 April 2013

Scilly Birding - my first book!

Something really good turns up
In just five days time (on 25th April 2013), my first book will be released for publication. Brambleby Books are publishing “Scilly Birding – Joining the Madding Crowd”. In 1984, I joined a group of pretty fanatical bird watchers to spend a fortnight in the Isles of Scilly. I had only been hooked on twitching rare birds for about six months, so the experience of being in the company of over a thousand rabidly keen birders was totally new. This gave me the opportunity to observe from a totally fresh perspective, the antics, joy and despair of dedicated enthusiasts. During that fortnight, I developed a way of being in the right place at the right time by predicting the reactions of the majority, and thereby attempting to be able to enjoy birds in the presence of just a few. 1984 was a most memorable year for birds on the Scillies, and these included several charismatic American visitors, all of which gave us a good old run around. The hours spent in silence under taxing weather conditions in order to catch a glimpse of a little bundle of feathers was an experience I had never had before. The book describes, in a hopefully amusing way, the trials and tribulations, as well as the joys and enthusiasms these experiences gave.

As the fortnight progressed, I got to know one or two of the seriously experienced Scilly birders. People who, during the fortnight, would be lucky to see one new bird. It was in some ways embarrassing that I added an amazing twenty-six new species to my British bird list ending the fortnight with a list of two hundred and fifty. On my last full day I was in the company of two birders with British totals of around the then magical four hundred mark. All three of us had seen the bird of the moment, a quite remarkably beautiful Rock Thrush and a very rare bird indeed in Britain.

“Simon, never let yourself become a yesterday’s man,” They advised. “Always try to end the day without a today’s bird still to be caught up with.” We were sitting on a rock outcrop close to a headland. Suddenly the Rock Thrush flew towards us, and perched on a rock a few feet away. The views we had of it were utterly stunning, and relaxed. Suddenly several birders broke the skyline in the direction from which the Rock Thrush had arrived. It was moments later that they began to rush towards us. Having wings, the Rock Thrush, the bird of the moment, alighted and flew off another quarter of a mile away from its would-be admirers.

“Yesterday’s men……all of them,” my companions scoffed.

“Seen the bird?” a breathless lad demanded as he caught up with us.