I was as excited as any other birdwatcher when I read about the Bearded Vulture that has been spotted in the Peak District and Yorkshire. Also known as a Lammergeier, this is only the second time such a bird has been spotted in Britain this century. Which makes it almost as rare as a Cabinet Minister telling the truth. Or a Special Advisor admitting an error. It is thought that this is a juvenile Lammergeier that has simply got a bit blown off course – admittedly by a few thousand miles. The bird obviously thinks that we still live in a Europe of open borders and no distrust of foreign immigrants. Oh, the naivety of youth.
When I was a naive youth, the Lammergeier was top of my must-see list of birds on the occasions when our family French camping holidays took us to the Pyrenees. We saw lots of other eagles and vultures, but never a Lammergeier. It would be amazing to spot one, but I will not be making the trip to Yorkshire to try and see it. Even without the lockdown restrictions having been lifted (for those of us who abided by them in the first place) I will not be leaving the garden for any of length of time at the moment. Because this is the time of the year when the hard graft finally pays off. It is the time of the year when my parents would say that there was no way they could go on holiday, because the peas will need picking, then the beans, the courgettes and all the other veg that they grew on an industrial scale.
And I now understand their sentiments. The scale of my veg and flower patch is nothing to compare with theirs. Mrs B and I are not interested in the long hours of blanching and bagging veg which my parents engaged in, to enable them to freeze enough greens to see them through the winter. But we currently have more peas, sugar snaps, courgettes, kale, carrots and runner beans and french beans than we could shake a big Tory Lie at. Not to mention salad leaves, cucumbers and, this week, the first tomatoes in the greenhouse.
The sighting of a rare vulture in Britain is a relief from the other depressing news (although it also brought into focus the illegal persecution of birds of prey such as the hen harrier on nearby grouse moors). Being in the garden has also provided solace for me and Mrs B. The flowers are looking particularly fine at the moment and Josh’s Spursy Border is performing far better than I had any right to expect in its first season.
All this has happened not because we made any spurious promises or deadlines, or pretended we had seeds in stock when, in fact we had not. We did not double count plants or make up random straplines like “We will get digging done” or “pick, pick, pick”. No: we just got on with it.
And now, like the Lammergeier in Yorkshire, who must have been a bit tired after its long journey over half of Europe, we will take stock and enjoy the fruits of our labour.