Heard but Not Seen

Situation normal for a species that I’d only listed once, six years ago near Winchester. It hides out in cornfields and issues its wet-my-lips calls and you’d have to yomp through the crops and flush it to get any more. Which wouldn’t please the farmer and wouldn’t please the bird so hearing is as much as one can hope for.

Actually, I lie. I heard plenty either of caged birds or tape lures in the benighted island of Malta, so the call of Coturnix coturnix also reminds me of that dismal lump of shit in the Mediterranean. Nice to have some individuals escaping the bastards’ guns to brighten our summer.

So it was that Cissbury Ring, West Sussex held calling quail last Friday. Yes, I was out east for my half yearly visit to the bro at Steyning.

On the way across Wiltshire I quartered Salisbury Plain for likely stone-curlew sites. The best looked to be Porton Down but stopping for a squint would have branded me enemy of the state to judge by signs littering the roadside. RSPB Normanton Down should have been more accessible but it’s hidden better than the Army could manage. I found one possible path into it, walked a couple of miles, then gave up and went back.

Guess what? I was within 200 yards of the reserve. A map would have been handy.

My New Forest map was handy for yesterday’s return from Sussex. My target here was nightjar so I wanted an overnight stop near pine-fringed heathland. The Beaulieu Road Hotel should have served. Their room rate however didn’t serve my budget.


The hotel would have double served by being next to a station for my (abortive) Train Tour books. The timetable though also made it unsuitable. It only had three trains a day in the London direction but bizarrely twice that number westbound. What’s the thinking behind that?

Wouldn’t there be a growing enclave of easterners unable to return home? Perhaps it explained the expensive hotel. The location was a passenger black hole.

Actually I did end up paying £45 in Lymington. The days of looking for £25 and settling for £30 are long gone, went last year in fact when I accepted that a median of £35 was more realistic. In Hampshire‘s moneyed belt even that figure is too low.

Anyway, it set up today’s visit to Pennington-Keyhaven, which is a subject by itself.

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