From Waxwings to Chinese New Year 

I achieved a first this week if only briefly and fleetingly. I saw a discussion online indicating that waxwings had been seen in large numbers in Harworth, the next village to me. Now 24 months ago the word ‘waxwing’ would have had no meaning. Indeed beyond the sparrow and the still wonderful robin my ability to recognise, far less appreciate, birds was effectively non-existent. A tentative move into taking bird pictures for my Blipfoto site (, where I have taken a pic a day for over three years now, has seen me erect a bird feeder in the garden, visit bird hides at nature reserves and now a bit of twitching. Also when I am out I am seeing birds in ways I simply ignored throughout my early life. I still recognise only a few and I cannot discern a bird from its song but it’s a whole new world and so I went to do a bit of twitching. Now I did choose the coldest day of a cold week and could only stay a short time before my fingers could no longer grip my camera but stood alongside both twitchers and photographers, managing to create the illusion I was a regular and managed to get a few half-decent pics in the trees though no real close-ups. 


I have learnt to recognise quite a few birds now and get excited when I spot and get a decent picture of one. It is a simple, free pleasure and I do get a real buzz from getting a good close-up showing the colours in sharp relief. Not that this is easy and I have gone quite quickly from an iPhone to a bridge camera to a DSLR and most recently a large zoom and quite expensive lens. This last buy is good for birds as I can get close without spooking them and sometimes, through luck as much as judgment, I get a sharp, clear picture. I am slowly getting better but the learning curve is slow and I am forever coming up against limits to my knowledge. But I have not set a goal of becoming expert, I just enjoy what I can achieve. You have seen some of my efforts in previous blogs. 

A robin in my garden today

That last statement in itself represents a shift for me in how I tackle the world around me both in retirement and with the trials of uncertain health. Most of the time my adjustments in what I can and cannot do, how I manage my time and how I have to (reluctantly and sometimes angrily) accept limitations, I manage. I am no longer driven to go the extra mile nuancing what is doable and prioritising what I want to do rather than what I must do. It sounds simpler to state but harder to put into practice. My brain tells me I should be doing a number of things but though I have the time I haven’t the will or the energy. So I am beginning to get better at managing my time and setting realistic goals. I know for instant that a busy couple of days means a rest day though reading and garden bird watching can be done from the armchair. I have less need in me to achieve and I can settle for what I enjoy and get satisfaction from that and no more.
This does not stop me raging from the sidelines at the global politics around all of us. The post-truth era is potentially devastating and truly sickening for all our children and it makes a mockery of the struggle I and many others have waged for a decent social democratic society throughout our lifetimes. It seems on the surface we have done little good and the world seems to be going backwards and certainly the real fear is current policies and actions run the risk of future catastrophes. It is warming to see that resistance remains and the Women’s Marches around the world last week were testimony to this endless democratic spirit that we have within us. I was there in spirit too and hope we continue this fight.
This weekend has seen a festival which we can enjoy. It’s the Chinese New Year so Kung Hei Fat Choi to you all. I was fortunate to celebrate this festival twice during times in Hong Kong. The colour, the joy, the lion dances, the food, the fireworks, the red packets/envelopes, all make it a joy to behold. I watched the TV one year when the snow was threatening the return home of mainland Chinese to their families. The stations were packed full of determined people seeking to get to their family despite extreme weather. This family focus I saw in Hong Kong too. It is a time of the year when this is their first priority. I am sure my friends in Hong Kong will have had a wonderful family weekend and I hope the Year of the Rooster brings them all great joy as I hope it dies for all of us. 

3 thoughts on “From Waxwings to Chinese New Year 

  1. Have you read: ‘How to be a bad birdwatcher’ by Simon Barnes? I think you would like it . Your photo of the solo waxwing is a very nice shot – they are difficult to photograph . As a fellow traveller of around the same age, I too have found pleasure in birdwatching and photography in retirement. Much of what you said resonates with me – though I think for me retirement was the achievement of a goal that I had pursued since I first started work at 17 – more of a relief that I could cast aside the pretence of being a career driven go-getter and just be. No longer restrained or driven by the clock I have reverted to the sleep patterns of my teenage days – late to bed, late to rise – a very chilled out Night Owl . Keep on keeping on.


  2. Thanks Peter for your comments. I guess part of the difficulty of adjustment forme was the opposite motivation. I loved my work and it was only ill health that pushed the decision. Hence the challenge of settling mind and body to retirement.


  3. Had a catch-up on your books blog which I enjoyed (and must remember to come back to a couple of your recommendations). Great to read about your birding journey too and the satisfaction you get out of seeing them. I like the way it makes you focus on the moment. Simple pleasures.


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