Monday, December 04, 2006

Train and Bird Spotting

I'm hoping that bird spotting isn't considered quite so geeky as trainspotting by the general population, as I out my experience in this next post.

Trainspotting, in case you don't know it, isn't just a film starring Ewan McGregor, nor a book by Irvine Welsh, upon which the film was based. It's a hobby for people who like trains. They like them enough to go and hang out at stations and along train lines, to write down the different train numbers and engines, to take pictures and keep track of which trains travel which routes. Most people who aren't into it think it's a bit strange.
Obviously, hanging around outside, waiting for a train to go by, can be a chilly way to spend an afternoon in certain seasons. So a sensible trainspotter would wear a heavy jacket, often an anorak/parka. From this, the word "anorak" in Britain has become a slang term to refer to a person who has a geeky and precise knowledge of something off the wall. I heard it used just yesterday on a re-run of Top Gear, when a man in the audience regonised a car as a Ferrari just from the sound of the motor. Jeremy Clarkson (the show's host) called him Britain's biggest anorak.

But I haven't been trainspotting, I've been bird spotting. Several times in the last week or so I've noticed some sort of bird of prey hovering above the neighbourhood. There were actually two of them most of the time. They are quite distinctive and I think I may have figured out what they are: Red Kites, aka Milvus milvus. They have a very distinctive V-shaped tail and big white patches on the underside of their wings. I could of course be wrong, but having looked at a few pictures, I think I'm right. I'll add a picture here in a while.
What makes this a bit exciting is that red kites were fairly rare until recently. You had to go to Wales if you wanted to see them in Britain. Due to a successful reintroduction program, they seem to be on the comeback.

I'm both amused and pleased with myself for actually having gone to the trouble of figuring out what the bird was. It might be a slippery slope down towards anorak territory, but not quite yet.

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