The Birder’s Wife

Doesn’t quite have the ring of The Time Traveller’s Wife does it? Still, I thought I would share with you my few thoughts on this subject. In a country suddenly gone mad, the simple and civilised joys of birding appeal more than ever.

I am, as you may have gathered, a birder’s wife. Let’s take a moment to establish what this means. He is not a twitcher. Twitchers are the obsessives. Birders are the quiet informed regulars. The conservationists. The contributors to surveys, ringing and sightings. OK?

Sometimes I accompany him. Luckily he isn’t keen on spending hours in a hide. Although I suppose I could sit next to him and knit. He likes to wander, stopping to look through his binoculars once in a while, and then carry on his way. It’s the ambling gait of a man at one with his surroundings. And while he’s looking, he likes to share his knowledge.

I’ll be honest here – I’m a rubbish birder. My mother finds this distressing: she likes to tell people that she brought me up to know birds and nature. And she did. I’ve just forgotten most of it. So in a way it’s nice to have him tell me things about birds. Even if I was able to ID them there’s a good chance I wouldn’t know about their habits and mannerisms.

I am quite a good birder’s wife though. I can pack him up with food and waterproofs. I don’t mind that he’s gone to see his feathered friends, I don’t feel hard done by or abandoned. The only time I feel a little out of place is when I do accompany him into a hide where other birders are sitting. This is, in fact, the inspiration for this post – we were out at Martin Mere Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust on Sunday and entered a hide. One lady birder stopped peering through her binoculars and glared at me because I was sitting back, legs crossed and sunglasses on, quite obviously NOT birding. Sorry love, I’m accompanying my husband. I’m not creating a disturbance.

There is a cliquey-ness to birding, you can sometimes see them surreptiously checking out each others binoculars or telescopes. But more often there’s a quiet sense of cameraderie. Anyone watching a row of birders patiently waiting for just one sighting of the rare creature that’s appeared in their patch can’t help but feel a warm and, may I say motherly, affection towards them.

If you appen to be around Attenbrough Nature Reserve in Nottingham and you spot a row of birders waiting, a palpable sense of anticipation running through their group, stop awhile and say hello. One of them might be my husband.

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