Tuesday evening, 4 May 2010


Another day is in the books.  I was indeed up plenty early this morning.  I got about 7 hours of pretty good sleep and got up about 5:50, well before my alarm would have gone off.  I had a thick ham and cheese sandwich and a Mandarin orange for my breakfast, and I got out of here at about 7:05, just about in time to meet Gi, my local guide for the day.


Alas, I missed a turn, though, and by the time I had recovered and gotten to where I was supposed to meet him, I was about 20 minutes late.  I hate being late, but he was very gracious about it.


It was another cold and windy day.  Probably about 50 degrees F at the peak, with a cold north wind.  I had on all my layers up top, but I neglected to bring along my sweatpants, to pull on over my jeans, so I was cold much of the time.


We started at Gi’s “local patch”, which is what birders over here (and in Australia) call the local area where they spend the most time and get to know all the birds there.  We went there for Common Sandpiper and Greenshank, but also found Reed Warbler, Spotted Redshank, Jay, and House Martin.  Ka-ching!  6 more for my trip list at the first stop of the day.  Outstanding.  The Jay is a really attractive bird, much more so than the books show it.  We got a really good look at one, and they are a fairly reclusive bird, I understand, so that was very nice.


Next we went to an area of heath, which included large expanses of heather, not yet in bloom.  We saw Willow Warbler, which is a bird that I would have had a hard time identifying on my own, and we also had really crippling views of a couple of Tree Pipits, on the ground right out in front of us, maybe 10 yards away.  Both of those were lifers for me.


We moved on to another area to look for Redstart, but we dipped on that one.  As a bonus, though, we saw a Treecreeper, a fairly difficult little bird to see.


We next visited a marsh area to look for a couple of species that had been seen there recently, but we didn’t see them.  As so often happens, though, we saw other good stuff.  There were Avocets there, as well as a Wigeon (a type of duck).  There were also a couple of Egyptian Geese, another good one to knock off.


It was getting on for lunch time by then, so Gi directed us to a Tea Room/café on a little lake, and we had a nice lunch there.  It was great to get in out of the cold wind.  I had a chicken and mushroom pie, with salad and some roasted potato slices, along with a welcome cup of coffee.


After lunch, we walked to a nearby reserve to look for a couple of species that we didn’t end up seeing, but I did get a good look at still another lifer species, the Garden Warbler, and also a much better look at one I had ticked on the weekend, the Long-tailed Tit.  That brought my total for the day to an amazing 13 species, of which 10 were lifers.  I won’t get that many new ones in any single day after this, I wouldn’t think, but we will see.  I now am sitting on 103 species for the trip, of which about 73 are lifers.


Along the way to this last reserve, we walked past a very interesting place.  There is a big white windmill, and across the road from it is the House in the Clouds.  The windmill was put in to pump water for a holiday development, early in the 20th century, and the water was pumped up into a large water tank, through some pipes.  When they decommissioned the windmill in the 1950’s or 1960’s, they turned the water tank into a house that is way up in the air.  The former tank is the main house, with floors all the way up.  There appear to be about 4 floors of living area under the actual house.  It appears that they rent it out now.  I just looked it up on Google, and it has 5 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms.  http://www.houseintheclouds.co.uk/


See the next Photos for my pictures of it, and also the windmill.  I see that it only costs US$700 to US$1000 a night to rent it.  It appears to be very heavily booked, according to their availability calendar.  I guess I will skip staying there, but it was interesting to see.


So, after that walk in the woods, I was getting pretty much worn out, so I took Gi back to where I had met him, and headed for home.  One thing was brought home to me again today, and I don’t think I mentioned it before.  I need to get some better binoculars.  I had looked online at binoculars last winter, but I never got around to buying better ones.  When I was down at Dungeness, over the weekend, I looked through Paul’s, and I also tried some ones in the reserve shop there.  Mine cost about $200.  Paul’s cost about $2000, if not more, depending on where you get them.  Naturally, his are far superior to mine.  I knew that, but I had never really made the direct comparison, to see how much better they seemed to be, to me.  Well, I would judge that his were about twice as good as mine, as far as all the relevant features.  Paying ten times as much to get twice the “quality” has always seemed too expensive to me, but I need to do something.  I think that I can get over half the improvement with $700 ones and that is what I plan to seriously look at when I get home.  I spend about ten grand on each of these “big trips”, and spending $700 to have better binoculars seems reasonable to me.  Who knows, maybe my inherent cheapness can even be overcome enough to by a two grand pair of binoculars, but I suspect that $700 to $800 is as far as I am going to be willing to go.  There is a store in Anacortes, which is a town about 45 minutes or an hour north of home, and I want to go there and try out various models.  It came up again today because Gi was able to make out things that I just couldn’t discern with my “cheapo” $200 binoculars.  Who would have guessed that it could make that much difference, or that the best ones could be that expensive?

When I dropped Gi off, he showed me a newsagents store, which is a sort of convenience store over here, where he thought I could buy a voucher or a top up card for my phone.  Sure enough, I could buy a voucher there, so I paid my 10 pounds (about $15) and got my voucher, which was just a printed receipt.  It did the trick, though, and when I got “home”, I called the phone number they gave me from my cell phone, and I keyed in the 12 digit code, and now I have 10 pounds of credit on the phone.  Over here, as in most of the world, it doesn’t cost anything to receive calls, and each call I make will cost me about US 30 cents.  I have a phone, with a UK number, and that is what I wanted.  It would have been handy to have had it several times in the last week, but I will have it for the last 5 weeks of my trip, anyway.  I wasted two very frustrating hours yesterday, trying to use my US credit card, and it was really simple to do it, once I understood the “rules”.


Tomorrow I plan to go back to Minsmere reserve, which is one of the premiere birding sites in this country, and maybe also a couple of other sites nearby.  I was there yesterday (I’m sure you know that, gentle reader, as you have been paying close attention to every word I have written, but some of my other readers are not as astute or as faithful as you are, or they don’t have such great memories or such good notes as you do.  You are taking notes, aren’t you?), but it was really crowded with holiday visitors, and tomorrow should be much more to my liking.  Maybe the damn north wind will lessen a little, too.  I just checked the forecast, though, and now they are saying 30% chance of showers in this area, which is worse than what they were saying last night.  Oh well, I knew that weather was going to be a risk for me, on this entire trip.  I’ll make do with whatever we get, which is good, as I have no choice.


I’m coming up on a week here.  Six nights, so far.  I’m still not quite adjusted to the 8 hour time difference.  I’m feeling pretty good, but my body is not quite all synchronized yet.  Various functions are still a little mixed up, but things are getting close to being normal.  So far, everything is going just great, knock on wood, no jinx.  I should be moving into a little less congested country as the trip moves on, which will be good, as I don’t really like congestion and crowds. 


I have more photos from today, but I probably won’t get around to processing them and getting them up on the site until at least tomorrow night.


Having internet access at my accommodations is really great.  It does take up huge amounts of my time, morning and evening, but it is also absolutely necessary for me, to avoid loneliness and a feeling of isolation.  I often ask myself how and why I ever got into doing these long international trips, but I never have come up with any kind of decent answer.  It is one of the things I do, and I enjoy the hell out of the trips, but why I do them has never been clear to me.  I do know that it is very important to me to know that friends and relatives are “following along” with me on my trip, so keep the emails and Facebook comments coming, please, people.   I need the feedback and I appreciate it very much.


The wind seems to have died down, the skies are blue outside, and the birds are calling, at 7:30 PM.


Respectfully submitted by

The Old Rambler