With some frantic googling and last minute train tickets I woke up at 5am to catch a train to Peterborough (sometime known as Peteborough for short). James, being the careful maverick he is, got to the station a smidgen before and caught sight of Billie Piper. Well, the back of Billie Piper. So he claims. If you know Billie Piper and can confirm her whereabouts on the morning of Saturday the 8th of March it would hugely helpful.
Our first stop was to see a Glossy Ibis in Nottinghamshire. James has seen roughly a million before but he allowed time in our schedule for me to catch a sneaky peek of one. The last report of it was near a farm shop which I decided would be a good place for food, seeming as they sell food. We asked the staff about “the bird” but no one seemed to know any better. James filled up on free cake samples by lying to a nice chef and I bought an onion bhaji the size of an apple. Driving around, while I shoved deep fried Indian food into my mouth, we eventually spotted a man who was staring into a field with binoculars. This is usually a good omen and it continued to be, with the man pointing at bird in nice damp field. Glossy ibis are smaller than you’d imagine and more charming for it. A mallard could comfortably hunt eat one. It looks like a little curlew with an agenda. I’m sure that is a mental image that really brings together this attempt at story telling.
Having had our fill of the little tyke, we headed northwards for the days true target. Parking in somewhere in Derbyshire we looked over James’ instructions to find our destination. If I remember correctly they written on papyrus paper, needed to be held within a beam of sunlight fed through a ancient Sumerian crystal ball and deciphered using a decoder ring. Also, they were turd instructions. We had to find Black Tor. It was described as a distinctive pile of rocks. There were a lot of piles of rocks. The only distinctive element I’ve yet to discover is that they were the pile of rocks furthest away from where we started. There is also meant to be some of ordnance survey feature but that’s stupid for some reason and I don’t count it. We trudged through muck and mire, constantly accompanied by panicked red grouse. I was also given a crash course in heather identification which I will take to my grave with me, for no reason than I really like heather now.
We finally reached Black Tor. We looked around. Then we walked around. Then we saw a spot of white bounding along in the distance. It was a bloody mountain hare. We got excited. James improvised some poetry about “the moor spirit”. It was dreadful but I think he knew that. Then again it could have been brilliant; I have no inner-compass for judging these things. I even got a picture.
James got a closer picture because he is competitive like that.
We travelled to Bedfordshire buoyed, elated and a bit sleepy. I bought a bag of food from Tesco which James didn’t approve of because he doesn’t eat like a human being. Apparently I should be eating bags of bread or old pasta as and when I find them, whether it is in someone’s house or hanging limply from the lid of a bin.
Day 2. James decided we should get up very early for us to have a chance at seeing a Lady Amherst’s pheasant. He was correct in the fact but my body disagreed. My bag of food was down to some minstrels and a few bruised bananas. The world seemed bleak. I’m not sure how much I am able to talk about the pheasants. There are some. They live in a place. That place is private. You can stand on the outside of that place and hope they come out. They almost certainly won’t. It’s like Jurassic Park in a way. The best you can hope for is that a goat will disappear. We didn’t see anything. We might have heard something but definitely didn’t.
James decided to show me around some of his new Bedfordshire haunts, including his patch and place of business, The Lodge. The name is vague enough to give the impression it could be used be used for covert surveillance. I will look into that. Fortunately the weather was rather nice, so we were entertained by a resplendence of butterflies; with brimstones being at the most numerous either of us could remember. It was like looking into a dish of melted butter. James showed me some of his local specialities including lake limpet and …
Further travelling took us to Potton Wood where the most unusual find were a pair of ammonites that seem to have been dug out of the earth. James also tried to show me some fleas which he claimed where from a small rodent nest but could easily have been the den for a dwarf tramp.
All in all the weekend gathered me 20 new species for my pan-list, which is probably equivalent to a nice day in a meadow or an oak woodland ride in July.