Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Wet my lips

Things have been so busy the last couple of weeks that I've done very little birding. It is a quiet time of year anyway (although autumn migration has already begun - how depressing is that?), but I was still starting to get withdrawal symptoms.

So, on the way home last night, I thought I'd go looking and listening for the Quail reported near Groby Fishing Lakes. They used to be a species that I heard regularly each summer, but one of the best sites for them locally is now an opencast mine, so it's become rather hit or miss. I thought that I'd probably have to return to the site last thing at night, or first thing in the morning, but reckoned it was worth giving it a try at 6.15 on a Tuesday evening, even with the A46 and A50 in full, noisy flow just a few hundred yards away.

I walked past the lakes (busy with anglers) and started up the public footpath towards Anstey, and stopped at a stile to get my bearings and check the map, when quite close at hand a male obligingly called, an utterly distinctive, three-note call traditionally rendered as "wet my lips".

Seeing the birds is a different matter, so I edged into the field, along the footpath, stopping now and then to look down the tractor tyre trails in the hope of seeing a Quail dashing across them. I didn't, so I tried imitating the call. That involved all sorts of experimentation that would have made me appear a lunatic to anyone passing by, so it was just as well there was no one else in sight. And I had some success, getting at least two birds to call back, except that the longer it went on and the dryer my lips got, the worse my calls became (trying it again this morning, I can't even get close). In the end, the Quail clearly concluded either that I was a particularly weak and feeble-minded member of their species, or more likely that I was an idiot in a striped t-shirt who should have known better. They fell silent, and I went home to wet my lips, with gallons of strong tea.

It all set me thinking about the way birdsong gets written down (generally, field guides try to approximate the rhythm above all else, I reckon), so I'll return to that subject sometime soon. There's another one for the growing backlog.

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