23 January 2019

[ Wirral ]

Bitterly cold, but bright. En route to Dad’s, I decided to pay a visit to the RSPB Burton Mere Wetlands reserve. The volunteers there had recently been tweeting about new visitors at the reserve in the form of bearded tits. I had never seen a bearded tit, so thought a brief visit was worth a shot.

Frozen pool, Burton Mere

There were surprisingly few birds at the reserve. The scrapes and mere were covered in thick ice, forcing their usual residents to move elsewhere. But I made my way to the main hide to find a flock of woolly hatted birders gazing toward the distant reeds through impressive telescopes. After a few minutes, one of them explained to the rest of us how the best way to look for bearded tits was to look for movement in the reeds. If the birds did reveal themselves, it was usually very briefly. Then he spotted one through his telescope, and gave a very good description of where to look for it. Through my puny binoculars, I couldn’t see a damn thing. After a while, I spotted a minuscule dot flying off above the reeds, but something about its jizz cried out blue tit to me.

The chap with the telescope called out again a few minutes later. The bird had returned. It was a male, he said. Good grief, his telescope must have been powerful. I still couldn’t see a thing. Then the bird was gone. I waited for ten minutes or so, then headed back to the car.

I wasn’t at all disappointed at my failure to add a new bird to my non-existent life list. Indeed, I took an almost perverse pleasure in not seeing any bearded tits. Where would be the fun if rare visitors were always easy to spot? There’s always next time.

Richard Carter is a writer and photo­grapher living in Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire.WebsiteFacebookTwitterNewsletterBooks
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