Wednesday 3rd February fresh SW sunny intervals, 14C
Early morning at Middlebeare, two foxes are well and truly stuck after their night of passion. For two hours they stand back to back, occasionally struggling to separate and snap at each other but to no avail.
Three spoonbills are out in the channel and a barn owl flaps past moth-like.
As for the foxes, I am videoing their predicament when suddenly they're free. The larger of the two just sits looking exhausted. The smaller one jumps around and dashes a few yards left and right before rejoining the partner for some gentle jaw open sparring.
In all my many years of watching nature I have never seen this before, an eight-legged foxy pushme-pullyou.
To Swanage after looking over for hen harriers with no luck I cycle. Through the village of Corfe and along the undulating road I cycle and go to a very dear friend, Perry's house. Unfortunately she isn't in and so I leave a message on the door and start to explore the old places I loved here back when Swanage was our home.
Around to Peveril Point and the plaque to the husband of Perry, Gordon Barnes, who died almost ten years ago. Gordon was the closest friend, other than my last wife, Karen, that I ever had. Gordon was born in Birmingham, like myself, yet in 1960 this young man became the assistant warden at the Fair isle Bird Observatory. He then became a crofter on that Fair Isle before leaving there in 1975 to sheep farm in Wales. I met him in Swanage, at Peveril Point, after he and Perry had retired from their third farm, a mixed farm in Devon. I photographed the bike with Gordon's plaque.
A phone call from Perry and a quick cycle ride to her house to spend an afternoon looking at Gordon's Fair Isle notebooks; notebooks that detailed incredibly rare birds that he's seen there. Page after page of his notes and drawings, list after list of birding seen, birds ringed and even one list detailing birds oiled by fulmars.
Hermit thrush, white's thrush, great bustard and a bird for which there is only one British record, great black-headed gull or Pallas' gull. A needle-tailed swift page even has a sharp needle tail feather stuck to the page!
Perry had a present for me for days when it may be a bit chilly cycling, a lovely pair of alpaca wool gloves. The afternoon goes quickly and Perry phones another of my best friends, Pete Barratt, to warn him that I am here. A meal at our favourite Bangaldesh restaurant is arranged for the evening.
The meal is as delicious as ever and the conversation is about lost spouses and wildlife, holidays and birding. Pete had been out to Georgia, near Azerbaijan, last year birding and had also driven out to Sweden.
The evening finishes back at Perry's house looking through photographs from the happy days when both Gordon and Karen were alive and the five of us used to spend so much time together. Photographs of sitting in the garden on hot summer days, the best photograph to me is of an alpine swift flying in front of my friends standing in a row along a cliff edge above Peveril. What a bird and oh, what happy days.
Year list still at 149, twenty ahead of this time last year.
14.76 miles 776 feet elevation up 659 feet elevation down