(An extract from my old birdwatching diary “Crippling Views”)
Saturday, June 11, 1988
I walk back home from the local newsagents, my eyes peeled as always for the odd brilliant white Gyrfalcon, soaring over the City Hospital. But, as always, without any luck.
Suddenly, a big brown raptor comes into sight, making its way purposefully along the Ring Road, flying along the line of the valley, heading roughly eastwards.
At first, because of the time of year, I presume that it must be an Osprey, although I can’t really imagine why, because it doesn’t look anything like an Osprey and it isn’t carrying a fish.
For a start, it has an obviously pale, or even white head. It is this latter feature that makes me realise that it is a Marsh Harrier.
Then there is an agonising decision to face. Do I run a home like the clappers, and then the bird will become eligible to be included in my “Seen from the Garden List”? If it were left to me, there would be no contest, but the problem is that I have my Baby Daughter, aged two, asleep in my arms. Mum will be a bit displeased if I plonk her down on the pavement and leave her, just so that I can see the same bird a second time, only thirty seconds after I have seen it for the first time, although, granted, from a different place. So, I forget the idea of momentarily hanging Baby Daughter on somebody’s front fence, and walk maturely on, trying to persuade myself that moral ticks count just as much as real ones do. It’s a lot more difficult to make these decisions when you’ve only just moved house and your Garden List is not yet in double figures.
Twenty six years later and I still haven’t seen an enormous number of raptors from my back garden. Sparrowhawks are probably the commonest.
In nearly thirty years, there has only ever been one Kestrel.
I have seen a good number of Common Buzzards.
I have also seen Peregrines on several occasions, but this is because the latter now nest on the top of the Newton Building in South Sherwood Street in the middle of the City.
The best bird of all has been Red Kite, which is a good bird to see out in the countryside of wildest Nottinghamshire, never mind in a suburb of its largest conurbation.
Birds of prey, or raptors, are notoriously difficult to identify, and fleeting glimpses, often without binoculars, quite often make you feel that you may have seen a particular species, but, alas, not well enough, or with enough certainty, to add it to your Garden List. In this category would be Hobby, Goshawk and Rough-Legged Buzzard.