The winter waterbirds census: counting birds or coffees?

Another mid-January is upon us and the time has come for John, Hans, Pierre, Mario and scores of other birders from all over Europe to get out and count their populations of wintering waterbirds.

Every year Wetlands International co-ordinates the European mid-winter waterbird counts and publishes the results. That way we can all see what is happening to our winter water birds and possibly even our climate.

Mind you, there’s usually little need to tell the good birders of Lleida, Catalonia, what is happening to their climate, as they can usually see it for themselves: for at these dates there is almost invariably a blanket of impenetrable fog cloaking the plain between Montsec and the mountains of Tarragona! But the birders of Lleida show their resilience and resourcefulness at such times of adversity and usually end up retiring to the nearest bar and a coffee or two to wait for the fog to lift. And sometimes it does.

Fog was predicted for this weekend. On Saturday the Lleida City Council wanted me to show a small but interested public how to conduct the winter water birds census on their local patch, the municipal park of la Mitjana, riverside woodland on both banks of the River Segre. Before leaving home I checked the small change in my pocket to make sure I had enough to buy a coffee, but when I got to la Mitjana the fog had still not descended.  And neither did it for the rest of the day.

So in the end the census participants and myself had a pleasant walk around la Mitjana. The birds we saw were the usual ones: Moorhens, Coots, Little Grebes, Mallard (and 1 Gadwall), Cormorants, Grey Heron, Little Egret, Grey Wagtail, etc. For me the highlight of the day was the ever-splendid Kingfisher perched on a reedmace head. And the obvious enthusiasm of a good number of my companions.

I must admit though, by about midday I was missing the coffee!

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