Bird Racing. No, not a test of velocity (legs vs. wings) but a sort of ornithological speed dating, where man (or woman) get acquainted with a species, make a few notes then move on to the next.
I am no longer a BR virgin, having been exposed to the ups and downs yesterday with a winter game of tick (or 'tag' as some call it in these parts) across the county, starting at 06:30 at base camp (Scotland Gate, the home of 'my' team's Captain).
Adults standing in the dark listening for the call of a Tawny Owl. Doing the same for Red Grouse. Madness!
And at the end of the day, standing in the dark (or nearly) trying to add Green-winged Teal and Smew to extend the day's total. More madness!
And in between, some highlights, and all corroborated, some by another team. Grey Phalarope seen twice, one heading north over the sea at Stag Rocks, the other on the sea at Snab Point. The latter bird was superb.
Great Grey Shrike at Prestwick Carr, on the telegraph wires to the east side of the road that leads north from the village to Mayfair Cottage. A fantastic spot by one of the team.
Black-throated Diver also at Stag (nice), and the places planned to deliver on my patch as we belted through did just that; Jay, Kingfisher and Grey Wagtail.
And so to end the day, a Wolf . Not the extinct mammal, but one of these:
So, the final 'scores on the doors'? We were 10 short of taking the prize, with a meagre 101. And in total, 123 species seen. The all-time record for one team is only a few more than that, and yesterday, enough 'expected' species remaining elusive to make that record beatable (but it'll take some effort).
So, the pros - expert advice and knowledge; good company; good gossip; good humour and good beer.
The cons - being able to take a breath and perhaps a record shot or two would be nice.
And finally, my sincere appreciation to Martin and his driving (amongst many other things), and Sarah and her Xmas cake (superb) and Trevor and his amazing local knowledge.