Promoting observation, free range exploration, sense of place and citizen science, through the field notes of a naturalist.







Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Spot the grouse



Save for an odd punt on the National Lottery I gave up gambling a long time ago. I was nonetheless once partial to the occasional five pence accumulator at the bookies in the days when betting shops had frosted glass frontage and monotone race commentary was from a single wall mounted speaker. But more frequently I would do the syndicate football coupon as the potential rewards were greater.

During my long spell with British Steel Friday afternoons was traditionally when the Littlewoods coupon man came around on his collecting rounds. An elderly chain smoking gentleman I worked with was a committed Spot the Ball enthusiast, deploying a magnifying glass deluded in the thought that he may be able to pick out the outline of the ball by forensically examining the goal mouth action with a x10 optical aid. The coupon itself invariably showed a fully out stretched Gary Sprake or a cluster of players in mid air action with surprised facial expressions and it was down to the skill of the punter to place an X were it was believed the ball to be. My colleague, once deciding on the area of the goal mouth to be targeted would 'max out' on small precision X's filling the chosen space with a flock of black pen marks like a murmuration of passing starlings.  Despite the subsequent innovative introduction of a pre-formed multi Xed stamp and ink pad he never won a thing. Gambling was certainly an important part of the culture of blue collar workers in the 1970s/80s.  

So why am I rambling as such? Well my early morning visit to the Blorenge last weekend reminded me of a spot the ball attempt as however hard I tried I failed to pick out at least three called red grouse from nationally important dwarf shrub heath. It was not until I moved to the highest vantage point on the hill did I hit the jackpot. A calling grouse in the distance looking into the sun but as soon as I made a move for a closer look it took flight only to disappear into a vast stand of bracken.


Apart from the calling grouse the Blorenge held a healthy population of skylark, probably over 50 in total many moving in loose gatherings of 6 or more. Swallow, house martin and meadow pipit were also well represented. The white rump of a wheatear was seen as it made its way from stone outcrop and drystone wall and two blackbird in a berry laden mountain ash, were, for a split second bound to be ring ouzel.

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