An Eye for a BirdFriday 7th July 2000
A BIRD ARTIST friend comes to take a look at the Grey Phalarope. There's no sign of the bird today, but it's a good excuse to take another walk around the valley. It's useful to take a look at your home patch with another naturalist. My friend, Trevor, picks up birdsong that I can hardly hear, even when he points it out. There are Reed and Sedge Warblers on the Wyke and a Reed Bunting also has a territory there. A pair of Heron have come down to the edge of marsh, along with two young, which are as large as the adults, but greyer.
A Teal sifts the mud, walking along steadily, swinging its head from side to side.
I'm glad to have an expert with me. I remark that I can't make out the black tip on the end of the bill of the tern that is perched on an old duck-blind on the marsh. Trevor tells me that against the light you'd find it hard to pick out that detail, but this really is the Common Tern, not the Arctic; one difference is that the Arctic Tern's legs are shorter than the Common's. Bird painting has been Trevor's life, and he's always had a keen eye for proportion. Field guides give plenty of detailed clues to identification but the experienced birdwatcher usually has good idea of the species from the briefest view. Birdwatchers refer to the 'jizz' of the bird; an indefinable set of characters that help them identify the bird.
It's good to have my conviction that the valley offers a superb range of habitats confirmed by my friend; there's the wood along Hartley Bank, the sandstone scarp, the marsh, the canal . . . even the railway embankment offers sunny clearings for butterflies and dense nesting cover for birds.
In the evening I get a second walk in the valley, this time with Barbara, and we see a Kingfisher by the canal, the first we've seen here for months.