We went from spot­ted dick to spot­ting wildlife

Stockport Express - - The Laughing Badger - SEAN WOOD sean.wood @talk21.com

PETER ‘Oaf’ Bromhall, my erst­while trav­el­ling com­pan­ion and long­time rugby pal may no longer be with us but he is al­ways on my mind and when­ever I dip into past mus­ings in this col­umn he keeps pop­ping up to my de­light, re­mind­ing me of the great fun we had on our trav­els.

We were al­ways meant to be look­ing for wildlife, which we did, but in­evitably we found pubs, beer and food in equal mea­sure. So imag­ine our ab­so­lute joy in Novem­ber 2007 when we found a pub with its own na­ture re­serve in the York­shire Dales. We de­cided to call it Heaven but it was in fact aptly named the Fat Lamb at Raven­stonedale. Over 80 species of bird have been iden­ti­fied so far within or around the na­ture re­serve.

Per­ma­nent res­i­dents in­clude a good va­ri­ety of the more com­mon wa­ter­fowl - plus oc­ca­sional sight­ings of gad­wall, shov­eler, goosander and even the oc­ca­sional pin­tail.

Over the wa­ter you might glimpse the elec­tric blue flash of the king­fisher. Snipe may be heard and, with pa­tience, seen at the reeds edges as can the heron, whilst other more vis­ually oblig­ing waders in­clude lap­wing, red­shank, oys­ter­catcher, com­mon sand­piper and curlew. In the trees and shrubs you will see and hear sedge and wil­low war­bler, reed bunting, red­poll, siskin, spot­ted fly­catch­ers, red­starts and many more com­mon finches, chats and thrushes. On our first visit we de­cided to eat first, a school­boy er­ror of course, be­cause af­ter three cour­ses of paté, lamb shank and the quite won­der­ful spot­ted dick and cus­tard, washed down with a pint or five of lo­cal ale we were fast asleep in our room above the bar be­fore 3pm. Some ad­ven­tur­ers for sure, but we were very good at long shots and lucky breaks, which, is why by this time in 2007, we have al­ready seen, whales in Ire­land, ea­gles in Poland and vul­tures in Spain, and all without walk­ing for miles and wait­ing for hours.

Next day, al­most fully-re­cov­ered, and af­ter a cou­ple of poached eggs for me and a full English for Oaf, we de­cided to test our luck again at Leighton Moss RSPB Re­serve at Sil­verdale in Lan­cashire.

Bingo! af­ter ten min­utes we had spot­ted their sig­na­ture bird, the very elu­sive bit­tern, a great white egret, a pere­grine fal­con and an ot­ter. The lat­ter from the aptly named Eric More­cambe hide. The name was not lost on Oaf who pro­ceeded to reel off a cou­ple of the co­me­dian’s favourite gags in­clud­ing, “I al­ways take my wife morn­ing tea in my py­ja­mas, but is she grate­ful? . . . No, she says she’d rather have it in a cup”.

I sup­pose we were a duo of our own in those days, Oaf very ob­vi­ously be­ing the funny man, and of­ten he didn’t even know it.

That was a beauty of Oaf; like one time in Ire­land we were out on the shore, early as it hap­pens and very much to Oaf’s cha­grin be­fore break­fast. I had stopped to take a pho­to­graph whilst Oaf wan­dered off in front mut­ter­ing.

Sud­denly he shouts, ‘Woody’, (ev­ery­thing was pref­aced with Woody) I said, ‘What?’ ‘There’s a dog down there chew­ing a fish,’ he said point­ing to­wards the shore.’ In­trigued I looked up to in­ves­ti­gate. ‘It’s an ot­ter you daft so and so,’ I replied.

Af­ter our early luck at the Moss we de­cided to head for hot drinks and a cake in the Re­serve Café but, War­den at the time, Jen Walker, had other ideas and we fol­lowed obe­di­ently deep into the reed beds in search of an­other rar­ity, the beau­ti­ful bearded tit.

For­tune favours the brave again, or should that be the lazy in our case, and un­be­liev­ably we had soon spot­ted the bird, pic­tured here by War­den David Mower.

David Mower

●●The beau­ti­ful bearded tit

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