Idle Thoughts

Survival of the Fittest

500mm Nikon lens delivered and couldn’t wait to try it out. ......
21/01/2009
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500mm Nikon lens delivered and couldn’t wait to try it out. Decided that a good place would be Slimbridge, the major wetland conservation area about 15 miles away that was set up by Sir Peter Scott. I looked at the weather forecast and it was clear that it had to be Wednesday or wait another week – it was going to be below freezing, but it would be sunny for the morning. Well what a day! Up bright and early to be at the entrance when it opened at 0930hrs. Realised that I had a flat tyre about ½ mile from home – found quiet spot, changed wheel, took flat back to tyre fitters, set off again!

Got to Slimbridge to find the car park full – and it was only 1000hrs, what a b****r! However, I shouldn’t have cursed the seeming presence of the hordes. A nice lady, who took a significant sum off me – I hadn’t realised I was buying a couple of acres – informed me that it was very quiet, all the cars belonged to people using the conference facilities. I walked out into the crisp winter’s sun and set out to find photogenic wildlife.

She was right, there weren’t any people about, but it wasn’t quiet! It took me a while to work out what the noise was that I was hearing, and then I realised that it was the plaintive distress call of the greater crest-fallen bird-spotter who was displaying itself on the path about 300yards away, making its distinctive crescendo call of ….. “help”…. “help!” … “HELP!” .. “HELP!!!”. It was a male in winter camouflage plumage that made it very difficult to spot, squatting as it was so close to the ground. I rushed over to the stricken beast, a rather elderly specimen, almost falling prey to the same ice that had caused its unexpected landing, overcame the urge to put it out of its misery, and ran back to the nice lady.

Having instructed her of the urgent need for an ambulance and lots of blankets, I returned speedily to the old cock. By now a lady with a pram and a small daughter were standing helplessly at the scene, the daughter trying to feed the old cock bird some of the grain that she had been given for the birds, and expressing her wish to go and “look birds”. Almost immediately blankets arrived with three staff, one of whom, the ‘First Aider’ and rather largish, before I could warn her, dashed around the other side to better help, slipped on the offending ice and fell on top of the old bird. The cry became a bit strangled and had changed from that which I had originally heard! Not surprising really, considering that I suspect that he had a fractured neck of femur! Luckily she avoided a full impact, and also, by dint of some quite elegant but rather uncoordinated gyrations on the ice, just missed sliding into the lake at the side of the path. I had no idea that Slimbridge was such an entertaining place!

Having ascertained that all was in hand, that the ambulance was en route and close, and that they didn’t want any further medical assistance, there was nothing for it but to follow the lady with the pram, who was now a hundred yards ahead with a much happier daughter as a consequence of the several attentive Nenes that wanted feeding. I set off again, but remained in sight should my help be needed, however, as always, and probably quite correctly, First Aiders always know better than doctors!

I regret that the relating of the next 2½hrs, until the sun disappeared, would be a bit of an anti-climax. I only saw about a dozen people all morning – had a long chat about Nikon lenses with another photographer who came over and messily drooled – but as I got nearer to the Visitor Centre on my way out, the great unwashed had arrived having missed all the sunshine. They should know that it is the early bird that catches ……. a surprise or two!
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