My friend Rosey and a couple of other teachers went bird spotting with her class of ten year olds the other day. When she was first told she was to take the kids ‘twitching’, she panicked a bit because she thought it was something to do with social networking, and whilst she is an occasional user of Facebook she’s never really got to grips with a medium that only allows her to express herself in just one hundred and forty characters! She was very relieved to be told that being a twitcher is nothing like being a tweeter!
The children had been told to wear clothes that were not to colourful, as they needed to blend as much as possible with the surroundings. Rosey remembered she had a camouflage jacket somewhere in her wardrobe; she bought before she did her voluntary service teaching in Africa thinking it would make her less likely to eaten by wild creatures. Anyway, she said it was so good that when she searched for it last week, she couldn't find it!
Those of you who are familiar with Eastbourne will know that at the western end of the seafront there is a steep grassy slope which rises six hundred feet to the summit of the chalk cliff known as Beachy Head. Rosey’s school sits at its base, and the lower slopes are home to all kinds of interesting feathered fowl. Skylarks and chaffinches, swallows and sand martins. Rosey led the group with a bird spotting book in her hand and a pair of binoculars to her eyes.
There are also rabbits, millions of them up there. Rosey was pointing out a hovering kestrel when her foot suddenly descended into a rabbit hole much the amusement of the children. Her situation caused even more mirth when she extracted her foot minus her boot! Fortunately a couple of eager volunteers managed to extract it for her, and they carried on their way.
Rosey, ever thoughtful, packed some sandwiches for the expedition. Around lunchtime she seated the children and her colleagues in a circle and handed out her little triangles of bread cheese and ham. In retrospect it was not such a good idea. The other birds which inhabit that region are of course seagulls and they are more than a little partial to a sandwich and fearless when one comes into sight. One of the perishers swooped down and helped itself to a sandwich straight from the hand of a little girl who immediately went hysterical. Then the other kids joined in, throwing their sandwiches as far away from them as they possibly could. This was followed by a frenzy of activity from other gulls which flapped and fluttered around their newly acquired banquet. Gulls squawked, kids screamed and Rosey flapped her arms and shouted ‘shoo-shoo’!
Needless to say, the trip was abandoned. It wasn't the most successful expedition the school has conducted, but it certainly will never be forgotten.