Jaques (Act IV scene i): […] but it is a melancholy of mine
own, compounded of many simples, extracted from many objects, and indeed the
sundry contemplation of my travels, in which my often rumination wraps me in a
most humourous sadness. William Shakespeare As You Like It
So it ends, this year, and with it my list. My blog
perhaps too, though I’m not yet sure. We have seen together 1,240 vertebrate
species; an unremarkable achievement, yet each bird, each mouse, each tree, each smile has itself been remarkable. For this is life, this puff of feathers
where a sparrowhawk has slain, this fading footmark where a tiger trod, this
winter light in an alder’s bough, this full glass with firm friends, this lone soul.
I don’t know
what is to become of this blog. I kept my word, I watched, I wrote, I felt, but a marsh tit is a
fickle thing, fleet, flighty, flown. I have other quests ahead, some of which perhaps may find their way here. For now I am
deeply, humbly grateful for this quest past. I am grateful for the indri's wail in the far forests of Madagascar;
I am grateful for the loud, bright parrots and the sweat of Amazon Peru; I am grateful for the stench of fox at the top of a Norfolk marsh; I am
grateful for the kind white smiles which have met me the world over; I am
grateful to you, for reading, for sharing, for meaning much. I am grateful for
me too, and this, this is new.
Whatever is to become of this blog, wherever this
marsh tit flies, I wish you joy of 2013. I wish you wide horizons and warm,
welcoming homes. I wish you wild wings and roadside weeds. I wish you words not
understood in faraway languages and looks entirely understood without language.
I wish the sun on your face and the wind in your hair. I wish you wildlife and
a wild life.
To be healed by skies and fens and flowers and the knowledge of these things, how wonderful. Ronald Blythe A Year at Bottengoms Farm
returning from time away - six weeks in Madagascar,
six months in India, six
years in Bolivia
– I need to nest. I need to put away thoughts of travel and curl up by my fire, eat my own food and visit my friends, sit at my desk and write for
Norfolk Wildlife Trust, and lose myself in the wild marshes of my Norfolk. Then, as always,
there comes a moment when worry over my next trip bites and I spend a night
tossing and turning, telling myself I’m not ready, I don’t know what I’m
talking about, and that it will all be a disaster.
day I get up and apply myself. I read and re-read past reports, I send off emails to Naturetrek asking questions that have crept into my
mind, and I immerse myself in books. Between this day – the day of connecting
with my next trip – and my departure I will spend hundreds of hours reading on the subject,
until I know the field guides cover to cover and am ready. Ready or not, time soon comes knocking and I must leave for another country, another continent, another
culture and another fauna.
now I have been desultorily flicking through the excellent field guide to the birds of
South East Asia, greeting the many birds I know from my travels in Asia
and attempting to familiarise myself with those which I will see for the first
time on my scouting trip to Burma and, shortly thereafter, Naturetrek’s first
ever Burma tour in March. Today, curled by my fire, I began in earnest the process of re-learning
every plate until the name of each bird rolls effortlessly off my tongue, until I
know which type of forest each inhabits and until I can instantly identify even the
brownest, dullest, plainest and, as my long-ago friend Sam would have said,
scrottiest little bird in Burma.
hear you say, March is months away. True, March is months away but there’s a
hitch. I have rather a lot to achieve before March. And a frightening amount to
take on thereafter. I mentioned the things I’ll be doing in 2013 in an
earlier post; however, since then I’ve taken on two new tours and many of you
have been kind enough to ask for an update. Here then (with apologies for the dullness of the information) is where a marsh tit
will be in the next year.
17th to 28th January I shall be in York, Glasgow, Edinburgh, WWT Martin Mere, WWT Welney, Hatfield, Exeter, WWT Slimbridge and Winchester giving talks for Naturetrek's Winter Roadshow. My first talk each evening will be on Andean and Amazonian wildlife in Ecuador and Peru and my second will be on Gondwana: from Madagascar, through Sri Lanka, to India and into the Himalayas. Travelling with Paul Stanbury and David Tattersfield will no doubt once again be a delight and I look forward to seeing many of you during the roadshow.
7th to 20th February I shall be in Assam, leading our incomparable Brahmaputra Cruise with my witty, erudite friend Sujan Chatterjee. This tour is full so you'll just have to go on it in 2014.
21st February to 6th March I'll be in Ladakh leading our extraordinary Snow Leopard Quest. This tour is definitely running but spaces may still be available.
the snow leopard is, that it is here,
that its frosty eyes watch us from the mountain – that is enough.
The Snow Leopard
17th March to 29th March I will be leading Naturetrek's first ever tour to Burma. Thereafter I'll be leading an extension to the bird-blessed forests of Mount Victoria. This tour is confirmed but spaces may still be available. Book now!
In another addition to previously published dates, from 3rd to 12th October I have agreed to join Naturetrek's second Festival of Wildlife, this time to my old stomping ground along the Napo River in Ecuador. I will also most likely be on one or both of the extensions: to the east and west slopes of the Ecuadorian Andes. Places are available on this tour.
2nd to 14th February 2014 I'll be leading our Burma tour again.
No rest for the wicked.
There are other things in the pipeline too but this is what's been signed and sealed for now. Apologies, again, for being so dull but several of you did ask, so I blame you.
In someone's dream, once, two winter-plumaged puffins flew to the pond outside my house. This year among many birds I have not seen - tree pipit, pied flycatcher, willow tit and lesser spotted woodpecker - I have not seen a puffin.
Today has been another strange day - wild weather outside and wild weather in - but today came a still small voice and the knowledge that beyond this list are new adventures and challenges, new dragons to hunt down and windmills at which to tilt. New birds to see too. And old.
Even a puffin perhaps.
Cinderella: Sometimes people leave you Halfway through the wood. Others may deceive you. You decide what's good. You decide alone, But no-one is alone. Honour their mistakes. Everybody makes, One another's terrible mistakes. Witches can be right. Giants can be good. You decide what's right. You decide what's good. Just remember: Someone is on your side. Stephen Sondheim Into the Woods
A troubled week this, my mind as restless and relentless as the North Sea's waves, my body weakened by a cold that's seen three friends in bed. Yearning to get outdoors, today I covered my cold in a woolly hat and went to the restless waves in Holkham Bay. Red-breasted mergansers were here, two drakes and a duck, fidgeting from one patch of rough sea to another, and a red-throated diver, coming headlong to land in the breakers at my feet. In a patch of youthful saltmarsh - muddied sea purslane and the crisp rosettes of rock sea lavender - a big flock of linnets fed. I stalked them (still time for a twite, after all) but they were linnets. Linnets and here and there a skylark and a meadow pipit.
Outside the day was short and cold but at home was an email which melted a year of frost.
know now that when the loving, honest moment comes it should be seized, and
spoken, because it may never come again.
It is widely acknowledged that, apart from some humans, blue-eyed black lemurs are the only primates to have, well, blue eyes. This fact was cast into doubt recently by my witty tour client Rhoda Allen (also responsible for the 'nongoose' epithet) who took a photo of a Verreaux's sifaka with blue eyes. As everyone knows, Verreaux's sifakas have yellow eyes, piercing yellow eyes, all the better for staring at you. Not this one.
Yesterday Naturetrek sent out the trip reports for my recent Madagascar tours. Today I received an email from Rhoda, tongue-in-cheekily expressing disappointment that Allen's blue-eyed sifaka had not made the report. I promised to make good the slight on my blog.
Ol' blue-eyes by Rhoda Allen
I've loved, laughed and cried. I've had my fill, my share of losing. But now, as tears subside, I find it all so amusing, To think I did all that, And may I say not in a shy way. No, no, not me, I did it my way. Paul Anka My Way performed by Frank Sinatra
This morning I work from six o'clock (have to be free to rush to Cley if there's a smew later). Despite the fret which covers the common my sparrow chirps at thirteen minutes to eight. Am I, I wonder, his human?