“You asked me once, what was in Room 101. I told you that you knew the answer already. Everyone knows it. The thing that is in Room 101 is the worst thing in the world.” – O’Brien, 1984, George Orwell
I thought I would dedicate my 101st blog post as iago80 to ‘Room 101’. Orwell’s 1984 is one of my, and 25 million other people’s, favourite book. However, instead of really staying true to the 20th century classic novel, I am actually following the model of the 1990’s British television programme, ‘Room 101’, where celebrities would attempt to persuade the host to put their pet hates in 101.
Birding is probably my favourite hobby, and it gives me enormous pleasure, but there are many things about it that drive me up the wall. For the sake of brevity and not whinging too much, I shall suggest the two things which part of me would like to send to Room 101 about birding, but should actually have rejected as they are crucial to the challenge and success of the pastime…
Room 101 for birding
1.People: Having slight misanthropic tendencies or a general need to be away from people for periods of time, you would think that birding would be the ideal hobby for me. In actual fact, to be a good birder, and certainly to be a good twitcher (I’ll explain the difference another time if you don’t already know), you need to rely on other people to work as a community to show each other where interesting birds are lurking. I often and reluctantly sidle up to a group of birders with their scopes trained on some distant patch of water, reed-bed, or bush and hate myself for asking the cliched, “seen anything interesting?”, “anything about?”, or “what have you got?”
2. Birds are always so far away and so frightened of everything! We do our best to make them come near us by: hiding inside funny wooden shelters; wearing camouflaged clothing; attempting to make them think we are one of them by mimicking their voices (the beautifully named, pishing), and using special eye contraptions such as binoculars or spotting scopes. However, to take a photograph of a bird, even with a zoom lens, you need it to be surprisingly and awkwardly close. Unless, that is, you spend half of the Greek deficit on a huge and heavy super-lens.
In this series of blog posts, I have been counting how many species of UK wild birds I could photograph in a year. This has meant I have had to post a lot of rubbish… distant fuzzy blobs that I tell everyone is a rare bird. And so it was with my 93rd species of the year:
This Whinchat was photographed at the Waterworks nature reserve in East London. As its name suggests this small reserve is a former water treatment plant and you can clearly see the different treatment pools from space despite nature reclaiming it (with a bit of help from man) – the red ‘W’ shows where I saw the Whinchat:
Numbers of Whinchat breeding in the UK have sadly and inexplicably halved in less than 15 years. Furthermore, they do not breed in London or much of the South East so this individual was almost certainly a passage migrant, stopping off at this tiny patch of London greenery before continuing its journey to Sub-Saharan Africa where it will spend the Winter.