I saw a pair of redshank this morning. It was right at the bottom of the moor, out of the gloom. It’s years since I’ve seen those, on a trip with some sixth formers to Iceland about six or seven years ago to be precise. They were chilling out on the dam wall of a local reservoir, not doing much, but doing whatever they were doing peacefully.
I only knew it was a pair of redshank because the guy watching them told me they were. I had no reason not to believe him. They seem to have settled in the area, he told me, which was a rather uncommon thing in this neck of the woods.
It’s not just finely tuned (!?) athletes like myself who get out first thing on a Saturday morning. Rolling out of bed at six and spending a good couple of hours or so on the moor. Birdwatchers do it too . Or should I call them twitchers, because that sounds much better. They are easily spotted, given their sensibly warm attire and binoculars at hand. Finely tuned binoculars I might add, because I’ve looked through some of this ‘ere equipment and it tends to be bloody good.
There are all sorts of rare and hard-to-spot birds out here. Many are just passing through, but patience always pays off. There are ring ouzels higher up the hill, I’ve seen a pair of great grey shrike just a few hundred yards from today’s redshanks, and if you are really lucky you might spot a hen harrier, red kite or merlin. Buzzards, kestrels, peregrine and sparrowhawks are common. Some mornings I get to see a pair of short-eared owls hunting low over the moor. I always enjoy bumping into those out birdspotting, because invariably they know what they are talking about, and always happy to share sightings (unless of course it’s a really rare specimen that needs to be kept secret).
I’ve arrived up at Top Withins at the same time as the odd wheatear, or indeed ring ousel, and marvelled at the sighting. But in many of those cases I’ve not been alone up there. There have been significant numbers of others at times, not one of whom would have (1) actually noticed said bird sat on a rock quite close by, or (2) actually known what a ring ousel looks like.
I don’t know whether that’s a good or bad thing. Is it better to be the wise person who knows a little bit more than those who are not interested in knowing what you know in the first place, or do you shout it out and let the whole bloody lot know?
But anyway. It was nice to see the redshank. They make a right racket when disturbed, and the Icelandic ones i’d encountered weren’t going to let me pass until they were ready. Today’s pair had nobody to worry about, other than the twitcher, who was rightfully keeping a respectful distance, and a smelly runner who was heading in the opposite direction anyway.
Three other runners and two off-road cyclists were also encountered along today’s route. All of them spoke (this isn’t London, remember), although there could have been veloceraptors, yellow bellied sapsuckers (yes, they do exist), and Cheryl Cole in the immediate vicinity today. I wouldn’t have spotted any of them due to the heavy mist high up on those moors. It can feel a bit spooky at times, and I always take extra care to avoid any mishaps. If I need rescuing at any point, it’s going to be difficult given the low cloud and the fact that I don’t have my mobile ‘phone with me.
I put my headphones on for the last twenty minutes of the run. I was already feeling good. Three better songs couldn’t have been selected at random. Mark Reeder’s epic remix of Sam Taylor Wood/ PSB’s cover of ‘I’m in Love With a German Film Star’ with its long intro that builds and builds and builds before the vocals kick in, OMD’s energetic synth-driven ‘Sister Marie Says’ and New Order’s epic ‘Perfect Kiss’, with it’s awesome four minute outro. I almost didn’t want to finish the run, but I arrived at the doorstep in a few seconds over the two hour mark and I don’t want to be running late for my lunch date…