A wander around a Bird Sanctuary, Martinmere wetlands Trust can teach you many things. It can teach you that the lesser spotted gland-warbler has a tongue that can extend a full three times its body length, that the hairy-backed Swan from Albania has a bellow akin to Brian Blessed and even that Lesser-Spotted Tit-Weasel can balance on their hind hairs of a Bison should the need arise. The place is a veritable font and library of the avian, the feathered and the beaked. Jut wandering around the plethora of lakes, pens and displays can probably implant more facts and figures than a diligently bearded primary school teacher could ever hope to achieve in a lifetime. You positively soak in the knowledge. However, on my recent visit, it was not just the birds that intrigued me as much as the people.
I like my bird life and I like my photography, but it slowly dawned upon me I was so far out of my depth in this place it was untrue, unfair and very possibly unlegal (I know this is not a word, but wanted to continue with the prefix. besides, it sounds like it should probably be a word). Once I started to look, they were everywhere. I hadn’t noticed at first and was blithely, naively of the view that the clientele was entirely made up of polite, shuffling couples clad in more facial hair and waterproof attire than Helly Hansen could possibly ever produce. These couples nodded at the information signs, coo-ed at the cute little bundles of fluff as they tagged along behind their impassive parents and sipped on their Hot Bovril when they had a moment to spare. But then there were the others.
They came from all corners, appeared as if by magic from the trees and up from the depths of the Flamingo pen or the marsh land like warriors. Clad from head to toe in a swathe or para-military greens and camouflage, boots and festooned with more equipment than the whole of Operation Desert Storm, these people meant business. Their lenses resembled rocket launchers with attitude and their backpacks were stuffed with enough paraphernalia to launch a decisive insurrection if they so wished. Their faces changed, but their expressions never once wavered from that of an irritated Donkey with mortgage problems. They never spoke, just grunted when annoyed at peasants who dared to breathe. They never moved other than to glare at those who dared stray in to the realm with a pathetically small lens, or heaven forbid, a camera phone.
All too quickly, my will was defeated and like the juvenile Walrus who has been bested upon the beach by the towering slab of blubber in charge, I had to beat my retreat to safer climes. I knew my place. On the way home my racing mind whirred through its thought process. Why had I been so defeated so quickly? Perhaps it was the jackets, perhaps it was the scowling, perhaps it was that I just didn’t have the will power to grow my beard to a length that can easily carry food in it, but I was just deluding myself. When it came down to it, I simply had a chronic case penis, sorry, lens envy.