Monday, April 27, 2009

The brochure tells you that the reservoir was built in the 1970s to supply water to the East Midlands and originally named Empingham reservoir. It lies near Oakham in the county of Rutland—the smallest county in England. Rutland Water, as it is known presently, is now Rutland's most popular tourist attraction, the largest man-made lake in Western Europe; an area of 3100 acres offering activities for all ages. That’s the upside.

What actually happened was that the area was purposely flooded. It was an area where there once stood a village with shops, a church and houses, and presumably people who had gardens to putter in, teapots to warm, and who were happy in their homes.

But, back to the birds. Before heading off in search of Osprey Jazz and I stood for a few moments in a blind near the main entrance to the bird sanctuary while Siggy and The Mister debated the merits of the bicycles at the post. Cheered at first by the diminutive finches at the feeders, Jazz and I were distracted by the big brown rat scuttling under the woodpile. This one was a long way from the gritty New York underground variety and probably unaware of how blessed it was.

I noticed, right off the bat, that the use of cell phones was not prohibited. They were employed freely much to my disenchantment, though I did not recall hearing them in use in the blinds, only out in the open. The myriad of ring tones and attendant conversations having to be voiced over the more soothing susurrus of nature made me think about the bird walking tours I have joined in Central Park. I pale in comparison to real bird watchers. Pale in their zeal, in their knowledge, in their equipment. But I do know that a ringing cell phone under a nesting Screech Owl would have been the equivalent of firing an AK-47. New York City bird watchers are a serious bunch. When I am in nature I love listening to bird song. I don’t necessarily have to know the bird’s identity, though I am thrilled when I do. It’s like a foreign language I am happy to listen to, and more melodic when the words are not actually understood.

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