obtained or undergone at second hand through sympathetic participation in another's experiences
For the office-bound or 'otherwise-engaged' birder, the past two days have been purgatory. The east coast, south coast and selected inland sites have been awash with birds. From dawn until dusk, the twitter feeds, texts and web updates have alerted us to the unfolding ornithological dramas - from a giant wave of Yellow-browed Warblers; to a sprinkling of Radde's, Pallas's and Dusky Warblers; Great Grey Shrikes leaping over Red-breasted Flycatchers and an obscene number of Ring Ouzels at my favourite shingle beach. I could also mention an unprecedented arrival of Bonxies up the Thames estuary and onto the London reservoirs. I've seen absolutely none of it.
It's my fault. In this supposed year of 'semi-retirement' I took on an eight-week contract throughout the months of - you've guessed it - October and November. I was planning on being at Dungeness this week until the offer of work popped up. So I missed the spectacle of 500 Ring Ouzels, of 3-4 Yellow-broweds, a Cattle Egret and a three figure movement of Sooty Shearwaters. I could just count the money at the end of the contract and feel vindicated of my decision, but you cannot buy days like these - ho-hum...
I torture myself, checking the twitter feed every so often, feeling keenly (no, worse than that, personally) every update from Dungeness. And from Beddington (Brent Geese, Short-eared Owls, 1000+ Redwing over the past two days, and Little Gulls, I almost forgot them). Spurn has been on fire all autumn (but it always is, isn't it). Not content with a Masked Shrike it now boasts an Isabelline (no doubt fighting all of the Great Grey Shrikes present for a perch). Each update is like a little stab in the heart. But I am genuinely pleased for those souls who are out there, braving the rain and testing their field skills. The retired, the shift worker and the shirker, they have all engineered to be out and about at this special time. I share their birding experience through the wonders of 'social media'.
Best I can do at the moment is hope that a skein of Brent Geese fly over me as I walk from the car to the office, or a Yellow-browed Warbler does the decent thing and calls from a front garden sycamore. It has been known!