Average Birding

A Ring Quest

The weekend of the 7th arrives. I am on call on the Saturday; I need to stay near an internet connection. AB2 disappears off to meet some of our friends for a night out in South London. Trouble.

Pronoun guidance: AB1 would never agree to go for a night out in South London. This post covers the events of 7th-8th April 2018.

Saturday: Effective altruism

We're in prime Ring Ouzel territory, and I'm hoping to get to Ivinghoe Beacon tomorrow; there's no chance of that happening if this night out turns out to be a big one. There's only one thing for it; now any chance of a call has gone, I'm going to have to brave the trip across the river to show willing.

This is a trendy group. I am informed they are somewhere within Peckham Levels; getting in should be simple. I arrive around 9pm. There are around a hundred people queuing. A little light questioning reveals that it is one in one out. I make contact with an ally on the inside, and they begin to canvass the group for the possibility of leaving. Thankfully, I've brought a book.

At some point, a mildly tipsy AB2 emerges to find me in the queue. She carries no information as to the plans of the remainder of the group, but the gesture is much appreciated. Until she realises she's left her things inside, and the bouncers won't let her fetch them.

Eventually, the group inside decides it's time to move on. One of them brings AB2's things; phew. We relocate to a pool club that doubles as a night spot. It's grubby but serviceable, but woe betide you if you are foolish enough to consider leaving any of your bags on the utterly dance-free dancefloor. The energy of the group is waning. I quietly mention to AB2 that leaving shortly would allow us to get the last train home. That does the trick. We're asleep before 1am; all is not lost.


It's a slow start the next morning, but it is a start. We need to go into central in order to go out, so it's Northern line to Euston followed by national rail to Tring. Arriving at Tring, we're straight onto the Ridgeway towards Ivinghoe beacon. At least three Ring Ouzel were seen there yesterday on their way North; we should be in with a fighting chance of seeing one ourselves.

The weather hasn't been on our side during the week - the path is sodden. It takes some fancy footwork to stay upright; it's neither a particularly flat or wide trail at this point. There are unhappy complaints from just (actually, increasingly) behind me on this very subject. Thankfully, we've tried this route before, and so it's with a very honest face I can turn around and say "once we're into this wood it gets a lot better".

A Red Kite sheltering on the edge of the wood provides a further distraction and the general mood improves. On the exit of the woods, we start to climb Pitstone Hill. It's here that the landscape starts to open up a bit, and my radar tells me this isn't the last place we might find an Ouzel. I blitz up to the top of the hill to obtain the best view and, to the North, sitting on a fence, is a blob of roughly the right size and colour. Probably just a Blackbird. Nope; there's that patch of white on the chest; my first ever Ring Ouzel. Woohoo. AB2 catches up; the bird obliges her with a decent view as well.

We're now back into solid walk territory - we might as well get to the end of the trail at the top of Ivinghoe beacon. I push my luck by taking the steep descent down the North side. Further complaints ensue.

AB2's view as AB1 disappears uphill
AB2's view as AB1 disappears uphill

An attempt at lunch in Ivinghoe fails; yet another country pub that only serves food between 12 and 2; we sit and fume into our drinks and eat packets of crisps in record time.

A pair of Little Gulls have been frequenting the nearby Wilstone reservoir, but that's too far for us today; even my non-hungover feet protest at the thought. After a brief cameo from the first Swallow of summer, all that remains is a return walk down the utterly lifeless Grand Union Canal.