Monday, 11 February 2013

Winter walkshop

The threatened snow held off until early evening, but there was plenty of rain at Attenborough Nature Reserve, just outside Nottingham, yesterday morning. It didn't deter the workshoppers (workshoppees? worksoppers, even, given which county we were in?), and it didn't seem to deter the birds, either. For all the cold and damp, they had evidently decided that spring was just a few days away, and were determined to be ready for its arrival.

There was plenty of Mallard activity, much of it involving two males pursuing a single female. The less than delicate art of courtship among Mallards has been well documented, so I won't go into it here, but we did see an atypical pair, in which the female stood on a large stone, staring off into the distance with a bored look on her face, while the male paddled around her trying to get her to notice.

The other ducks were making more effort. A group of male Teal displayed to their intendeds, and here and there a male Goldeneye did their head-back display. Goosanders were a nice spot, too, with good numbers of males and females around.

Grey Herons were already on their nests, while among the smaller birds, we came across a pair of Robins indulging in some display (with Robins, anything that isn't full-on aggression is probably foreplay). Great Tits were sounding their two-note spring siren all over the place, and as well as busy little tit and finch flocks, we came across an incredibly confiding Goldcrest.

All of which meant we had plenty to work with once we got back to the visitor centre. After desperately-needed hot drinks and some splendid cakes, we took birds, birdsong, birdwatchers and migration as our starting points, and wrote. It's always a privilege to hear writers' work in its earliest stages, and this was no exception - I'm grateful to all who attended for their enthusiastic and energetic responses.

Even in the brief time we had, there was some very imaginative and thought-provoking work aired, and over the next two or three months, we plan to turn this into some collaborative poetry and prose on a blog that I'll create and link to from here. We also plan a similar event in early autumn, when hopefully it might be a bit warmer and dryer, so keep watching this space for further news.

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