Tuesday, May 1, 2007


Production editor Matt Merritt writes:
May's here, and with it the chance to combine two of the great loves of my life - birdwatching and cricket.
Now, although I've been playing for almost 25 years, my cricket is pretty much on a par with my birding - purely for fun, very local, and as much about the chance to get out in the open air as anything else. The club I play for, Snibston Grange, are in a league (the Gunn and Moore South Notts), and although we've had a fair amount of success in recent years, no one takes it TOO seriously.
There's only one snag, though, and that's the fact that cricket is incredibly time-consuming, and can easily swallow up large chunks of the weekend when I could otherwise be out birdwatching. So, I like to think I've mastered the art of keeping an eye out for any good birds while travelling to and from games, and even during them. I've not yet missed a catch because I'm too busy wondering if that's a Lesser Whitethroat in the nearby hedge (although I have missed them for umpteen less excusable reasons), so the two obsessions can co-exist.
This year, I thought I'd keep a list of birds seen purely on or over the grounds I play on. First game was on Saturday, a home friendly, and I got off to a slow start. Carrion Crow, House Sparrow, Starling, Blackbird, Feral Pigeon, Wood Pigeon, House Martin and Chiffchaff, plus the species that I'm betting will be the most commonly seen during the season - the Pied Wagtail. There were never less than four skittering around the outfield, and sometimes as many as eight, and although at first it's slightly distracting when you're stood at slip and there's two of them literally four or five paces to your right, you soon get used to it. British cricket grounds don't seem to get big flocks of seagulls settling on them like Down Under, but the Pied Wag is doing its best to fill the niche.
Actually, the prospects of tallying up a sizeable list are pretty good. For one thing, we play at some far-flung and rural locations, and the name Hoveringham on the fixture list this year promises some interesting species. Sadly Attenborough, who play just a few yards from a huge wildlife reserve, are in a different division this time around.
Secondly, our own ground, despite being in the middle of a medium-sized town (Coalville), has potential. Two sides of it are enclosed by the old Snibston Pit spoil heap, now overgrown with vegetation, partly wooded, and including a small nature reserve. Kestrel, Sparrowhawk, Green and Great Spotted Woodpecker and the commoner warblers are regular, and it's even had Ring Ouzels and Wheatears in the past, although sadly just outside the season, so although I won't be smuggling a pair of binoculars onto the field under my sweater just yet, I'll be keeping a sharp eye out.

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