It's a given that, when advancing in years, your eyesight and hearing will reduce in its effectiveness. I can certainly vouch for both - the increasing difficulty in following a small bird in flight as it travels over (or through) vegetation - or the ability to pick up certain bird calls, in my case Tree Pipits. I am just grateful that crest calls and Grasshopper Warblers still register in my hearing range.
What I have had to accept recently is that I am not the sprightly chap that I once was. Let's take climbing fences for example...
OK, maybe climbing a fence shouldn't be something that a birder does anyway, as the said fence has been erected to keep them out, down to maintaining the land owner's privacy or to keep livestock in place (and so there is likely to be animals on other side of the fence). But sometimes these fences are there because 'they're just there'. It seems to be a modern disease this erection of fencing all over the place. But I digress.
I have always had 'cause' to climb the odd fence - and robustly constructed fencing at that, the type where the top strand of barbed wire cannot just be pushed down and straddled over - and then climbing necessitates a certain amount of planning, a surveying of the fence to identify traps and points of possible accident. The main decision to be made is where to place your first foot hold. This is not as straightforward as you may think. How high is the fence? Is the second foot movement to be on the top of the fence or not? Is barbed wire involved? Is the fence rickety and will it easily take your full weight? There is, of course the desire not to damage it, for fear of irate land owners and doing the decent thing.
Once the fence has been summited there is the question of descent. Do you leap fully onto the ground beyond? Do you need to swing a foot round and climb down the fence the other side? And while you assess such things there is the real concern that you might snag clothing on the spiteful barbed wire, so all this needs to be factored in. A ripped jacket is not required. Punctured wellington boots a no-no.
Years past would have seen me leap, gazelle like, across such obstacles, landing like a gymnast on the other side. Now? A nervy ascent, a wobbling summit and an elephantine decent, followed by a rubbing of stiff knees and a knowledge that one or two muscles have been stretched a bit too much for their own good. It is when, having made a slightly scary crossing on a particularly nasty fence, that the horror hits you - that you will need to go through it all again when making the return journey.
All such physical activity and danger to skin, bone and clothing can be negated by surveying the wider scene before making your move - I have more than once got to the 'other side' of a fence to see a gate just a few metres further along. And on one occasion, having fallen heavily and muddied up my optics, found myself looking straight at a style.