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Wednesday, 7 October 2015

From the High Seat, Good to Share!

My very first and fond memories of the outdoors, was as an ornithologist. Home had moved from the suburbs to a quite isolated farm house with a few acres around it, woodland around that and Romney Marsh not far away.

The Royal Military Canal, Romney Marsh, Kent - - 41644
A view of the Royal Military Canal running through the Romney Marsh
Ron Strutt [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Life felt safer then, we would ride for miles on our bikes, be gone for half a day or more, no high viz, no hard hat and no mobile phone. We would ride, stop and pick black berries, watch the birds along the Royal Military Canal and come home tired to watch the black and white TV and read a book. 

Home computers, internet and the like had not yet become the widespread distraction they are today, not for us the X-box and Game Boy, for us we had books to read and if we had more energy to burn, the woodshed and the splitting axe would provide an outlet for it, no gym, no jogging and no personal trainer. The woods, trees and garden were our training ground, hedges to be cut, vegetables to be carted, ditches to be dug, gates to be hung. Working around edged tools and being able to put in a fence post were all part of our extra curricula activities from which we benefited greatly. All of these activities and a score of others all contributed to my love of the outdoors, drove me to the high seat instead of the games console and had me reaching for the binoculars instead of the I-phone.

Maybe that has set the scene as to why I love to share the high seats and the trees they stand against.
Being able to sit still is a great skill to practice and if you need to move being able to do it slowly, smoothly and quietly, will provide you with viewing opportunities aplenty.

If you love the outdoors and wildlife generally, you won't mind what it is that comes to share your space, be it the tree itself or the ground beneath it. I have watched just about every British mammal from a high seat at one time or another, shrill Shrews, wiley Weasels and bumbling Badgers to name but a few. My real favourites though are the birds who share the branches and fill the air with tweets and song, Robins and Blackbirds, Wrens and Long Tailed Tits all give me a smile but my absolute favourites are the Wood Peckers and birds that use the trunk as their hunting ground. Unless you are incredibly lucky, your most likely sightings are the Green Woodpecker, the Great Spotted Woodpecker, the Tree Creeper and the Nuthatch in that order of likelihood.

The Green is the largest with a striking green plumage (surprise surprise) but also yellow parts and a red head in mature birds and a beautiful bird in every respect. Despite it's name, these are often seen on the ground as well, where they spend a lot of time hunting for ants but also in trees of course, often hanging on to impossibly thin branches.

Green Woodpecker
The Great Spotted is again a pretty bird which is predominantly  black and white but with striking red patches on rump and head. It was one of these which ascended the tree behind me one day as I sat in a high seat deep in a bluebell wood, lovely to see and hear though on this occasion I only heard it. You may not have to take to the woods to see this handsome fellow, if you have a bird table and feeder, he may come to you in a modest garden.

The magnificent Tree Creeper plays a wonderful game of hide and seek as it goes up, down and around the trunk of a tree with it's superbly camouflaged back in stark contrast to its Snow White belly transitioning from highly visible to "where'd he go?" A dainty down turned beak ideal for taking grubs, forcep like, from the bark.

Last but by no means least is the pretty Nuthatch, with it's slate grey back and orange belly with a stout beak, much more like a true woodpecker. Once again you might see it in a garden with a feeder but it's real party piece is that they go up a tree facing up and down facing down. I guess that you can do that if you don't have to worry about stuff falling out of your pockets! They are all a well dressed class act and I love to see them all, I'd share my tree with any of them very willingly. Good to share!

A nuthatch


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