What goes around, comes around… Or so we are told. A couple of years after returning to my first hobby and rediscovering the joys of rail-enthusiasm, another of my interests has regained momentum. Unlike trains, where the interest was very muted between the end of the 1980’s and a couple of years back, this interest has always been there in my house and garden. It is, of course, my love of birds. I’ve kept Budgies since I was in primary school. But my interest in wild birds really started in the mid 1970’s as a direct result of my interest in trains!

This may seem strange to those who have never pursued the iron horse but actually it’s quite a logical progression. When you move from standing on main line stations and start to visit locations to photograph trains passing through the countryside you spend quite some time between photo opportunities during which nature claims your attention. It was often said in the past, and I suspect that it remains a truth, that the railway network is the UK’s largest nature reserve. It is a very particular reserve – you are unlikely to see Ducks and Geese waddling along the ballast. You will see Blackbirds and lots of smaller birds flitting across the tracks between trees on either side and you note that they somehow seem to have learned when trains are likely to appear – it tends to go quiet before a scheduled movement. You will certainly become familiar with most species of Crow – Carrion Crows, in particular, will scour the tracks for anything including the items flushed from the toilets of a passing train 😦 I can remember a tale about a High Speed Train hitting a cow somewhere between Swindon and Didcot – I bet the Crows descending on the tracks behind that train thought Christmas had come early 😉 Gulls play with trains – at Taunton on one occasion I remember the result was Class 50’s 1 v Herring Gulls 0. The Gull didn’t get out of the way in time and was killed by the pressure wave in front of the speeding locomotive. So, in the mid-1970’s I joined the RSPB and have been a member ever since. Ok – enough of the past, what of the present?

It started with a trip to Manningtree in mid April. The idea was simple… Get Alasdair out for a walk in the countryside, get some haulage and photos of Class 90’s on the Norwich services and cover some grid squares for the Geograph project. Birdwatching was mentioned as a hook to encourage Alasdair – he enjoys seeing birds in the wild. Oh! and we also get to visit Flatford Mill in Constable Country too 🙂 What ensued was a very enjoyable day out despite the weather turning overcast and drizzly towards hometime. The Bird side of the day was, I think, a moment of connection between father and son. We tried this 3 years ago at Loch Leven and Vange Marshes but I felt his interest was passing. This time there seemed more of a connection. We didn’t see anything rare that day at Manningtree but the Lapwings displaying over the wetlands of the estuary, a Redshank and our first Swallows of the year did seem special in their own way. The sudden shock of a Pheasant bursting from almost beneath our feet to glide majestically across a field of yellow Rape before settling a hundred yards away was also something special. The scene was set – I would return to birding but this time I’d be taking it seriously. Time to start that Life List and probably a few other lists besides 😉

This is a big subject and I will follow this post with others to describe the hobby and my progress from casual birder to average birder – and tell you about Falco Subbuteo too 🙂 In the interim here are a couple of Coots fighting…

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