Wednesday 8 January 2014

Hove Actually! 8th January 2014

A little anecdote to start with.

Having lived and worked near Brighton and Hove for ten years of my life I came to know the area intimately. One of the many anomalies about the place is the inherent snobbery of some of the residents. Brighton, as Keith Waterhouse once said,  'Is a town that should be helping the police with their enquiries' whilst Hove which is conjoined to Brighton is considered much more genteel and up market and whilst Brighton and Hove are for administrative purposes combined and in reality are one and the same, woe betide any stranger asking the more snobbish residents if they come from Brighton. In answer to a question such as 'Do you live in Brighton? The person addressed, if living in Hove will invariably reply, 'Well no, Hove actually'. It is an in joke with everyone who lives in and around the city and for some miles beyond, and many non snobby residents of Hove will often say with self deprecating humour they live in 'Hove Actually' as if the place is really called that.

I visited 'Hove Actually' today, full of the post Christmas blues and feeling thoroughly in the doldrums, arriving in the dark with the dawn just breaking over the sea to the east and Brighton and Hove coming to life. The motivation for revisiting my old haunts was a Grey Phalarope which for the last few days had been frequenting a tiny paddling pool in a children's play area, located just behind the beach huts on the seafront and adjacent to a small cafe and the much larger Hove Lagoon which I would have thought much more suitable for a phalarope. The paddling pool was hardly deep enough for the bird to swim in but it seemed quite happy tootling around the kiddie friendly, gently sloping edges of the pond which frankly, more closely resembled a giant puddle than a paddling pool.

No matter. I left the Black Audi parked by the side of the road and walked a short distance down the sloping path to the pool. The Grey Phalarope, ridiculously confiding, sat quietly at the edge of the pool preening and then going to sleep briefly. It took not one iota of notice of me or anyone else before commencing to do a circuit of the pool feeding on tiny red blood worms which it seized from the water's surface or plunged it's head under the water to capture. 

Under normal circumstances this grey and white mite should be far out in the Atlantic braving the tropical waves off West Africa or even further south but doubtless due to the almost incessant high winds had got well and truly blown off course and was now seeking, presumably temporarily, a sanctuary in the most unlikely of habitats but seeming to be perfectly happy and content nevertheless.

I had to wait a bit for the light to improve before taking any photos so leant against the railings and chatted to curious residents out walking their dogs and later being joined by a few more birders cum photographers but with never more than half a dozen people present at any one time. The phalarope went round and round the pool, stopping to preen and sleep at a particularly favoured spot before re-commencing its circuit. All you had to do to get a point blank photo was to wait quietly by the edge of the pool and it would soon come round to you, so close that at times it was almost impossible to get all of it in the frame. A couple of photographers prostrated themselves full length on the wet concrete presumably to get an eye level image. Rather them than me. 

The phalarope carried on feeding and just being a phalarope, totally ignorant of its star status. There was something poignant and touching about this tiny scrap of life going about its tenuous existence and, with its confiding nature, innocently, blissfully unaware of its vulnerability and all the many perils that surrounded it in its temporary home.

I remained at the pool for over an hour and left at about 8.30am. The post Christmas blues and doldrums long gone and forgotten. Life's routine has begun again as has another birding year.

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