Saturday 6 October 2012

Taking a beating

Today my phone lost the capacity to make or receive calls and texts after about 9.30am. This was not a good day for that to happen. I was sitting on the bench overlooking the Chipstead Valley for an hour or so in the afternoon, blissfully unaware that Steve Gale was watching three Woodlarks near Ruffett Wood and desperately trying to call me. I'd been switching my phone off and on throughout the day to try to kick it into gear and the best that this would do was occasionally cause a voicemail to pop up - this time there were voicemails from Steve, and Roy Weller (who'd phoned to try to pass on the news). I knew I wasn't going to like what I was going to hear, especially as the voicemails had been left around an hour previously, and upon playback I cursed my bad luck and my phone's uselessness and made my way as quickly as I could back to the farm, not sure exactly where Steve was. Eventually I found Steve, who'd been joined by Roy and Paul G and the news was negative, the Woodlarks had flown and hadn't been seen since. Shit! Over the course of the afternoon birders checked as many fields as possible but time quickly ebbed away and the light faded. The last two fields I checked as the sun set were probably the most likely fields for the larks to end up in, in hindsight, and I wish I checked them first.

Darkness fell and I made tracks for the farmhouse, where dad was picking me up. I stopped by Harrier Field (perhaps more apt for it to be named Owl Field) and kissed the back of my hand a few times to draw any owls in. Sure enough, a Barn Owl came to investigate (the first since March) and as I watched it hunt, another owl, which appeared darker on the upperparts, briefly tassled with it before vanishing into the gloom almost as quickly as it appeared. Damn, I've been after Short-eared and that could well have been one. I'll stake it out tomorrow evening in the hope of a repeat performance.

I'm hoping even more that the Woodlarks will hang around till tomorrow morning. They aren't particularly against staying put for two or three days in places like Canons so fingers crossed. We'll see in the morning.