I suffer from short term nostalgia syndrome. It's common amongst birders and has many forms. I want to go back to a time when birding was simple, when I could pick up a pair of binoculars and a notebook, wander out my front door and walk through fields filled with singing Corn Bunting. I want to sit by a bubbling stream and listen to the languid tones of the Willow Warbler repeatedly reminding me it's summer as a Kingfisher flashes by leaving an electric blue wake in the mind's eye. I yearn for those days when rare birds were plentiful and seemed to come tumbling one after another, when we would be watching a Woodchat Shrike on an East Coast headland as a Honey Buzzard drifted into the field of view. Walk a few yards and we would fall over a Black Eared Wheatear, standing proud on the rocks, never once looking lost.
Of course those days didn't quite happen like that. Corn Buntings were never that common in my lifetime and after a time the good days filled with rare birds seem to blur together creating an almost perfect remembered halcyon period when all the birding was good.
Perhaps it's that I struggle with the technical requirements supposedly needed to be a 'birder'. A scope and a Manfrotto were enough to give shoulders an ache by the end of the day but now you can't be seen without a camera, a mount, a phone, a pager.... the list seems to get greater. I wonder sometimes if I don't spend as much time fiddling about with the equipment as I do actually looking at the birds. The equipment brings with it stresses, I started birding because it was relaxing and pleasant, not to be permanently in angst about the vignetting on my digiscope setting.
I was recounting to someone a few days ago how I first met another well known local birder. I'd found a Little Bunting, actually that doesn't do it justice, how's this, I FOUND A LITTLE BUNTING! That feels more like how I felt that October morning. My first self found BB rarity.
What's funny now is I didn't even have a mobile phone, I actually ran the kilometre back to where I could see the hunched figure of another birder seawatching and virtually dragged him back to the bunting. It just wouldn't happen now, would it?
I find my mind grouping these days together and creating this mythical Albion of birding, when everything was Rosy (even the Starlings). The mind can play tricks after a while, even in the short, short term. The Boulmer Birder website and Stewart's field notes prompted this post, he's right that more of us should leave the second hand camera and phone shop at home some days and just head out with a pencil (from Ikea of course) and a notebook, preferably Moleskin and just scribble a few notes. Conversely the posting of several different pages of Stewart's notes compounded my nostalgia for the days when Short-toed Lark's fed and Red-rumped Swallows hawked overhead with a Fin Whale appearing in the distance offshore prompting the Little Shearwater to flutter up and move north, that is the way it happened isn't it?