You’re lucky that this is not one of those “nature notes” columns, because it would be very limited indeed. “I saw a duck the other day” would not take me into the Gerald Durrell class of commentators on the natural world.
For example, I’ve never seen a kingfisher. I’ve never seen a badger either, but let’s stick with the birds for the moment.
Of course, I’ve seen them on wildlife programmes, and I’ve seen more than one stuffed in a museum. The latter has the definite advantage that it doesn’t move (not unless you rattle the glass case, at least).
But as for that distinctive flash of green and gold as the kingfisher plunges downwards for a fish, and the spray of liquid silver droplets as it launches miraculously upwards from the water to perch on an nearby branch... not been there, not done that.
I was over at Woodbrooke on the Bristol Road for a conference the other day, and took time out to explore the gardens and the large pool at the back. I had high hopes here. Someone whose house backs onto Woodbrooke told me that the kingfishers regularly visit their garden.
But the wretched and elusive birds must have been attending another conference instead. There was no distinctive flash of green and gold etc... Woodbrooke is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) said the sign, but it turned out to be an SSSI (NK).
This has happened to me before. I was visiting a friend in Leamington once, and as we crossed the bridge into town, he cried: “Look, there’s a kingfisher!” By the time I turned to look the bird had finished its angling and vanished. All I saw was the usual duck.
Short of nailing one to an overhanging branch, which conservationists are reluctant to do, I fear I may complete my time on this planet without ever seeing a kingfisher in action. Wildlife photographers are either very patient or very lucky. Not living in Balsall Heath might also help.
Next week in my “nature notes” I will be waxing lyrical about other rare and elusive creatures which have not come my way. The Greet Bustard. The Bird of Paradise Circus. The Bartley Green Woodpecker.
* Dr Chris Upton has his binoculars at the ready at Newman University College in Birmingham