First up, let me say that I didn't think I'd be participating in the 2017 Big Garden Bird Watch. Readers with a longer than normal attention span (all of you, surely?) may recall that the only bird to grace our garden with its presence during the previous BGBW had been a Snipe. What may not have been revealed at the time, was the fact that the RSPB's survey was not designed to cope with this particular scenario. Following a heated email debate and some pedantic sulking (yes, that was me), I admitted defeat and didn't submit the record.
So here we are in 2017 and, to be honest, I wasn't prepared to put myself through all that again. The local avifauna had other ideas, mind, and a single Blackbird pointedly paraded up and down outside the lounge window until I relented.
But it didn't stop there. Not by a long chalk. A tiny flurry of movement on the dry stone wall resolved itself into a Wren and then a House Sparrow gave away its location by chirruping from the rooftop.
Three actual birds, actually in the garden, on the actual weekend of the BGBW and they were all on the actual form, so totally legitimate for the survey. I will admit that I had to have a bit of a lie down after such frenzied activity.
As mentioned yesterday, the 100+ Common gulls that showed up for the ploughing competition over the road, didn't deign to set foot within the environs of Tense Towers, but this morning offered up a whole new level of excitement.
I was stood by the window, watching a Rook on a nearby fence post in the field opposite. It easily resisted my attempts to either levitate it or force it to fly across to our garden by mind power alone, although I did have a sudden impulse to eat a worm. No idea what that was about. It did occur to me to wonder why it was sat there, which was serendipitous, as a few fence posts further along the field was a raptor.
All thoughts of worm snacks disappeared in my mad dash for a camera, and I fired off a volley of shots through the rain-splattered window. I didn't dare open the front door, as this would've likely spooked the bird but, luckily, our bedroom window wasn't closed. With great care, I gently pushed it further open, until I could bring the camera lens to bear.
Unfortunately, the bird was sat with its back to me, and remained in this orientation throughout the whole 10 minutes I was able to watch it, before it glided off along the fence to the furthest corner of the field.
The raptor was staring intently into the recently ploughed field, possibly looking for worms (perhaps the Rook was even smarter than I'd already given it credit for). By its size and markings, I reckoned that it was a female Merlin, and I watched in awe as she took a break from hunting for lunch to run through a few stretching exercises.
Pleasingly, one of my photos captured one such move, the falcon equivalent of Tai Chi, 'Grasping the Pipit's Tail', perhaps?
And here is one of the few pictures where the bird looked around.
With a predator sat close by, I was probably very fortunate that any small birds showed up in the garden at all. I think we'll call that a result.