I would like to share with you this evocative photograph by Paul Sherman of the Cenotaph in Christchurch Park illuminated in commemoration of the 100-year anniversary of the end of the First World War and in readiness for the Remembrance Day service.  Thank you to all who helped to prepare our lovely Park for this event.

I am writing this from my ‘hospital bed’ recuperating after an operation on my back which will hopefully enable me to once again walk around Christchurch Park, explore the wonders of RSPB Minsmere and carry on cycling through the Suffolk countryside.  But I must be patient.  It is difficult to bird watch from inside the hospital but on the way in I saw a beautiful male blackbird, heard a robin singing and, during the night, were they redwings calling, as a flock of birds migrated over Ipswich?  The very basics of birdwatching but how wonderful it is to hear a robin singing by the hospital lights and knowing that soon I may be ‘running along’ the Suffolk shoreline seeking a ‘blizzard’ of snow buntings. 

I thought too about the many ‘old birders’, true birders, who have recorded in all weathers simply by using stealth and patience.  Sadly, old age has now taken many of them but I used to see their sorrow at not being able to venture forth as they once did to gaze at the sea in winter or peep lovingly at a linnet’s nest positioned snugly in a gorse bush.  Now I truly know how they felt as for weeks I have thumbed through the pages of past recordings instead of actually being able to get out into the great outdoors.  I eagerly anticipate being out in a hide one day soon at RSPB Minsmere or standing in some God-forsaken sodden marsh getting drenched, searching for a feathered friend who may not be there at all.

Almost a year ago I painted a portrait of SOG stalwart, Steve Piotrowski, and of SOG Chairman John Grant.  How I miss John’s environmental words in the EADT weekend pages.  The day before I had my operation, a trio of top birders called to see me.  Besides Steve, there was Eddie Marsh and John Richardson.  We laughed together, and Steve loved his portrait.  I had painted Steve with a barn owl on one gloved hand.  Steve commented that just to show how ‘hard’ he was when handling barn owls he never wore a glove.  Yeah, right!  When I was a DoE Inspector, I once extremely foolishly held a female goshawk with no hand protection.  I still bear the scars.  Now, I no longer consider myself to be a top birder, if at all I ever was!  I do not twitch.  I once did but nowadays I just love being out there enjoying not just the birds but the countryside as well.  However, to listen to three top experts, even though they twitch, was a delight.  I cannot imagine just how many birds they have recorded between them and they made me laugh when they told me about one of their desperate escapades to try and twitch a rarity.  It was even funnier since their mission was a failure.  I believe the expression is to ‘dip’.  Wonderful!    Reg Snook