It's an ill wind.....

It’s an ill wind…..

Arctic ternArctic terns are annoying little buggers. Not content with 15,000 mile pole-to-pole round trips to their breeding grounds, they then spend the summer zooming about at high speed. Feeding. Feeding their mates. Feeding their young. Attacking predators. Attacking me.

Which makes them very tricky to photograph. Until the wind blows, and then this mighty midget of a bird suddenly finds that when it turns into the wind it’s stuck, frozen in space for a few seconds while it works out its next manoeuvre. Which finally gives me the chance to take a photograph which includes all the bits of the bird squarely in the frame and at least some bits of the bird in focus.

And this one (right) has lost it’s head.

Arctic tern

Which brings me on to the start of our holiday on mainland Orkney. Often when we get anywhere it’s a question of dump the bags and lets go see what there is around on the beach (mountain, trees, etc). In Vancouver it was bald eagles flying past at head height, and Caspian terns. Madagascar, huge golden orb spiders. Bulgaria, Alpine swifts. Here on the beach at Birsay, it was a dead great black-backed gull. Which, after a close encounter with Jan, has also lost its head – the first souvenir of the trip.

Life’s a twitch

Red-flanked Bluetail

This is becoming a worrying trend. Third twitch in last few weeks. Third bird. Tick.

OK. That doesn’t exactly put us in line for membership of UK400, but in comparison with recent years we are on a roll. This time we were off to see the long staying Red-flanked Bluetail (Tarsiger cyanurus) in Gloucestershire. Although this would be a lifer for both Jan and myself, the fact that it was en-route to the annual reunion of the Friends of Skokholm and Skomer Islands in Bishops Cleave (well nearly en-route – you know me) made it an easy decison.

We assumed that given the length of time it had been around we would be largely on our own, and given we didn’t have huge amount of

time to spare there was a concern that we wouldn’t connect with this smart little bird before before we had to move on. But as soon as we arrived at the parking spot, two dozen cars gave the clue away that maybe there might be one or two others looking along the valley at Marshfield already. And what a glorious day to look.

After yesterday’s fierce winds and driving rain, today was still with clear blue skies. Spring was definitely in the air. A local robin made that evident by making sure the bluetail knew whose territory she (he?) was in. And the bluetail was straightforward to find. Only slightly helped by the dozen or so telescopes and long-lenses pointed at the bird.

Unfortunately time was a bit against so although we had some fine views I only managed to grab a couple of record shots. Unfortunately neither of them showed the red flanks. Or the blue tail for that matter. But hey ho. The location was a beautiful setting for this pretty little bird. A green valley, babbling brook, imposing farm houses. Stupid sheep but they looked the part.

A pronounced birding experience

Just a short walk (this may be a recurring theme) yesterday to check that the lesser yellowlegs was still hanging around at Lepe Beach. It was. As were a couple of grey plover, the increasingly tame turnstones and not a lot else. Nothing on the sea apart from boats. Or ships. Or possibly both.

But we made the most of the short break between the downpours and it was pleasant enough way to add a bird to the year list. Not that we’re counting.

Anyhow, on the way back along the path we met a guy with some bins slung round his neck in a birdwatcher rather than boatwatcher sort of way. This usually leads to the “anything about” conversation, but on this occasion this was a man in a hurry and got straight the “is the yellowlegs showing”. (I know it’s a singular – in both senses – bird, but I’m still not sure that shouldn’t be “are the yellowlegs…..”)

After breaking the news that the bird was still still there but had recently just walked out of sight, we managed to reassure him that it was probably on its usual circuit and would be back soon. And that lead to the revelation of the day. Apparently our new birder acquaintance was down from London to see family and friends, and hand been delayed by a family lunch that had gone on half an hour longer than expected. Bemoaning the interference of family life on his birding, he than let slip the bombshell. He was staying in Bohlio.

Bohlio? Bohlio? WTF is Bohlio?

And then the mists lifted, unlike the weather which was now showing signs of definitely being unlifted. He meant, of course, Beaulieu. Which should, of course, be pronounced Byoo-lee.

Or should it?

As you may know, the river Beaulieu was originally the river Exe and only changed to Beaulieu when it was rightly described as a beautiful place in a language that could do it a bit more justice than the guttural Saxon that preceded it.

Inevitably our Hampshire and other accents soon gave the name a pronunciation we could cope with – although we seemed to cope in later years with Beau Brummel.

Anyhow I don’t really care that much about the precise and correct pronunciation – only one in five can can get my relatively simple surname right first time – but I do care that I now have a pronunciation that will forever remind me of late lunches, lesser yellows legs, and birders in a hurry.

Welcome to the land of Bohlio birding.