GRUMPY OLD BIRDER

Bo Be­olens

Bird Watching (UK) - - News Wire -

THE THING ABOUT ag­ing is that you tend to look back­ward at things with more than a hint of roseate tern to your specs. ‘The Good Old Days’ of bird­ing are no ex­cep­tion. The ‘blue re­mem­bered hills’ of youth were full of Red­starts’ song, hunt­ing Red-backed Shrikes and Red Squirrels, red skies blessed ev­ery evening and ev­ery bird­ing day was a red-let­ter day. The other thing about ag­ing is, of course, an ever-de­clin­ing mem­ory. We tend to re­mem­ber the good times and con­sign the bad to a cob­webbed cor­ner of our minds. Any­one of pen­sion­able age who grew up in the coun­try­side prob­a­bly col­lected birds’ eggs. Most of us were half-hearted and af­ter an un­lucky few Black­birds had to re-count their clutch, we moved on to build­ing dams across streams or play­ing end­less games of mar­bles, or what­ever fad was in vogue. Back in the 1950s and early 1960s, game­keep­ers still set pole traps ga­lore and farm­ers would think noth­ing of dis­charg­ing their shot­guns at the re­treat­ing back­sides of us scrump­ing lads. So it was not all a bed of roses. Nev­er­the­less, one thing is cer­tain, habi­tat was un­der less pres­sure from all of to­day’s ills, whether it be too many peo­ple tramp­ing over it, too many chem­i­cals pol­lut­ing it, too much of it un­der con­crete or too much agribusi­ness de­grad­ing it with mono­cul­ture and mixed flora- and fauna-cide. Another as­pect of ag­ing is that time changes pace. When you are nine years old, one sum­mer break from school seems an end­less age of free­dom. When you get as grey as me, years slip by quicker than a Pere­grine can stoop. Now just a bird of Bo’s rose-tinted mem­o­ries I moved to my cur­rent house 17 years ago. I was over­joyed by the new bird­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties af­forded by a sea­side patch. I found my­self within half an hour of ev­ery habi­tat, bar moun­tains. Reedbeds, marsh­land, seashore, wood­land, scrubby hill­sides and duck-filled lakes were all on my doorstep. Now the houses have moved ever closer and that which is not de­lib­er­ately man­aged for wildlife is im­pov­er­ished. My right to roam has not only been cur­tailed by in­creas­ingly an­noy­ing arthri­tis, but by my bird­ing nooks and cran­nies fast dis­ap­pear­ing. Where once I could pull my car off the road to look over salt­marsh to the sea there are con­crete bar­ri­ers and ‘res­i­dents park­ing only’. The wood­land car parks, where I used to need to wan­der no more than a few yards to see wood­peck­ers and hear Night­jars, are now lit­ter-strewn. Fifty or 60 years ago, we roamed across the British coun­try­side and watched birds in its rich, quiet cor­ners. Now the cor­ners are ploughed up and fenced off and we are strongly dis­cour­aged from en­ter­ing these agribusi­ness units.

The ‘blue re­mem­bered hills’ of youth were full of Red­starts’ song, hunt­ing Red-backed Shrikes and Red Squirrels, red skies blessed ev­ery evening and ev­ery bird­ing day was a red-let­ter day

Bo Be­olens

RED-BACKED SHRIKE

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