Being a committed follower of Darwin (Charles) and Dawkins (Richard) – in no way do I believe in any supernatural being referred to as God – I can’t really believe in anything resembling destiny or superstition. However, such was my childhood conditioning that I still find myself, utterly irrationally, intentionally bumping my other elbow when I knock one elbow accidentally. Likewise, I am prone to mutter the common but equally ludicrous saying that, “misfortunes come in threes”. What rot!
We’ve been going through a bit of patch of misfortunes recently. First, while amusing myself photographing winter visitors from the comfort of our home, I noticed that my beloved posh lens, TheBeast, was playing up – image stabilizer misbehaving. At less than a year old, we returned it to Canon for repair. Second, Windows 7 decided to die most comprehensively on my smart new (one month old) Dell Inspiron laptop. This steadfastly resisted at least three of my attempts at resuscitation, ultimately requiring shipment of a Windows 7 installation disk from Dell. It is now reincarnated as a vanilla Windows 7 system upon which this is being written. Third, after many years of avoiding such accidents, on Thursday last I managed to trip elegantly up the stairs whilst holding two freshly made cups of cappuccino, thus depositing their entire contents, complete with chocolate dusting, onto our landing/stairs carpet. The carpet now sports a brownish stain but I’m working on it. Right, that’s our three, then.
On Friday, UPS delivered my repaired lens from Canon. Naturally they turned up during the 10 minutes that I was in the back garden refilling our bird feeders but a neighbour was on hand to sign for it.
A while ago, we’d booked a day trip to La Belle France which we were going to share with friends Steve and Rosemary. This was to happen on Saturday which may seem like an odd day for us but we aren’t all retired and the M25 traffic is lighter at weekends. Having retrieved my lens from our neighbour, Friday was our last chance to get Euros for Saturday’s trip so we drove into town. I went to wash the windscreen. One wiper blade flapped rubber uselessly across the screen. (#1) Bother! What great timing. No time to get to a Honda dealer so Halfords would have to do. Any port in a storm. I bought replacements. I also popped into a travel agent and bought some Euros intending to load them on our prepaid Euro travel card. I went into another travel agent to do so and was stunned to learn that they could only load my Euro travel card with Sterling and they they’d have to convert my recently purchased Euros back. (#2) Doubtless they’d explained this a year ago when we’d first purchased it but I’d forgotten. Early stage Alzheimer’s probably. I kept my Euros as cash, naturally. We returned home and Carol went to snap a picture or two of Heath Woods only to discover that her 17-85mm lens was misbehaving: “err99 – can’t write to card”. It misbehaved on my camera, too: “err01 – communication error between lens and camera”. It was buggered [Ed: technical term] over the wide-angle focal lengths. (#3) Unbelieveable, on the day my fixed lens was returned. That felt like another set of three.
Our French day trip was going very well: we were on time, our ferry was on time, the sea was calm and France presented us with a reasonable supermarket, some sunshine and a street bar for lunch in St. Omer. Having taken our new compact camera (from our new digiscoping kit) instead of a rucksack load of gear, Carol was “feeling liberated” snapping away. Liberated, that is, until, having stashed the camera in her handbag in order to visit you-know-where, she withdrew it only to notice several black, dead areas on it’s LCD screen. They have not recovered. Arghhh! Please don’t ell me we’re starting third set of three.
Things went right yesterday. With dim, uncorrected eyes, I spotted an unusual looking blur feeding on the remaining red berries overhanging our garden. I rushed for some glasses but, by the time I returned with clear eyes, the bird had flown. It had flown to the crown of one of our many surrounding silver birch trees. It’s stance in the tree, its jizz in birder-speak, looked unusual. Carol arrived with her smart new binoculars. “It’s a Waxwing!” There were others sitting in several trees and the flock soon flapped back over and set about stripping the bush of berries en masse. We’d seen Waxwings (Bombycilla garrulus) for the very first time in Woburn this year. We’d certainly never before a seen them in our own garden. Gleeful excitement set in.
Light was good, we had sun. I grabbed my recently returned 100-400 lens, my batteries were charged, some of the Waxwings posed cooperatively, occasionally, and I snapped away manically as they fed. They move in a flock; this one was between 20 and 30 strong. They swarm onto a food source, grab some berries, then flap back to a nearby tree for what seems like a rest. Maybe they’re waiting for the berries to “go down”. Then they swarm back for a another helping before flapping off for another intermission. And so it goes on, back and forth. After something of an absence, fortune now seemed to be smiling on us. Here’s a few of the more successful results.
I love these birds’ longer name, Bohemian Waxwing. They really are some of the most wonderfully striking birds. They aren’t very shy, either. The last picture was taken over a fence, which produced some of the blurred framing that I quite like, from a distance of only about 2m/6ft.