I do like a good night out, although for me that means a very different definition compared to most people. It’s either time spent at the water’s edge fishing, or in this case, something to do with The New Saints.
Rather than tackle the long journey to Carmarthen on the day of the game last weekend, the team travelled on the Friday afternoon and stayed over in Llandeilo. I love the journeys across mid-wales, not only is the scenery something else but it’s also the centre of the universe as far as the UK red kite is concerned.
Although I’ve travelled fairly extensively during my life and I’ve been privileged to see the African Big Five in their native environment, I’m still very much into British nature. I counted in excess of seventy red kites on the journey, including one that flew very low across the car park in Llandovery when we stopped for a shop-break.
Just in case you’re not aware, the red kite is a bird. Once endangered and located only in remote wooded Welsh valleys, it can now be found right across the country and indeed all over England. I haven’t seen one yet over Park Hall but there were two soaring alongside Richmond Park on the Saturday during the game.
I have a very expensive pair of Swarowski binoculars (and a Kowa scope) but for trips with TNS I take a much more modestly-priced pair of bins. It’s not a birding holiday, I’m there first and foremost because of the football and I never forget that.
The lead photo this week was from my hotel room, which wasn’t set up, I really did do some birding from there. It’s just like being in a very comfortable hide that’s all. I saw ten species including nuthatch and red kite.
During my time with the club though I’ve seen some really good birds, many have been ‘lifers’, which is an ornithological term for something that you see for the very first time.
During our Champions League trip to Portugal at the start of the season, the hotel grounds were full of azure-winged magpies. As a kid I remember looking at pictures of them in my birding book. Almost fifty years later and I was watching them myself. Brilliant.
Although I’ve seen them in the UK, the hotel playing field had numerous hoopoes feeding there every morning. I also saw one in San Marino, in flight as it made its way over the hotel where I was staying.
Another lifer was the common rosefinch I spotted in the park just a few yards from the hotel in Croatia. Not the brightly coloured male but the rather drab female, nevertheless a great sight and I spent some time sitting there watching it in a tree.
Yes, I do get some strange looks, especially on the continent. In Cyprus, where they are more familiar with shooting anything that flies with a gun rather than a camera, a man doing some garden work tried to persuade me to put my binoculars away and borrow a rifle.
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Rev’s Ramblings is my weekly blog that gives an insight into my involvement with TNS from a personal perspective. I try to draw out something different, as this week’s entry highlights.