It’s been a story of plans scuppered of late; hoping to get a little further afield, a little higher, only to be overtaken by circumstances, and usually ones not of our own making; we belong to what is apparently known as the “sandwich generation”. So we get out where we can, when we can, for as long as is available (stretching that to the limits at times), our mood a mixture of disgruntlement at the restricted opportunities and appreciation of the possibility of at least some escape when it’s there to be taken.
However much I’d rather be out there than trapped indoors or attending to overdue jobs, there are times when another stroll around familiar paths, woods, field margins, and even local hills falls a little short of what I really have in mind. But there’s invariably a point in every outing where all of that is discarded and I realise I’m quite happy to be… well, wherever it is I happen to be. It’s mostly down to seeing things…
Seeing things: it’s a phrase which conjures up images of hallucinations or big cat encounters; ghostly armies marching to fight battles from centuries past, leopards furtively stalking wooded slopes, strange lights in the night sky. I’m talking about something much less esoteric: simply seeing what’s there to be seen; it’s a skill we mostly improve over time – part of seeing is knowing where to look.
A couple of days back, once again short of time, we snatched a few of the daylight hours and made time for a few local miles. Within yards of leaving the car we were treated to a grey wagtail walking confidently on a frozen canal and revived the debate we always seem to have when identifying wagtails: if they look grey, they’re pied; if there’s a substantial amount of yellow, they’re probably grey; even more yellow and they might be… erm, yellow. Iolo Williams would probably despair of us.
A little further into the walk and a couple of Great Spotted Woodpeckers decided to amuse themselves at our expense – drumming to attract our attention then moving to another tree while we tried to re-focus the binoculars. Further on again and a large buzzard – sat on top of a post overlooking a railway cutting – glanced over its shoulder and quickly concluded that we were of no interest. For a big raptor it was certainly more of a day for patient opportunism than soaring on thermals.
Pictured above – top to bottom:
Pied Wagtail (not grey, pied)
A Grey Wagtail (not yellow, grey)
A Yellow Wagtail (obviously…)