For the second time this month, I’ve met an interesting birdwatcher looking at waders down on the bay. A postgraduate student, he’s making a study of the effects of human disturbance on the birds. The project itself is not remarkable, and I suspect his results will turn out to prove the obvious, but what’s much more interesting is that he’s from Iraq. With the troubles far from over we talk openly about the war, but conversation soon reverts to natural history. We speak the same language of conservation. He tells me of the devastation of the great marshes in southern Iraq, and recent attempts to begin restoring some of the damage, the effects of war on the desert, and lots more. He’s hungry to learn about the conservation movement in the West, and amazed at its sophisticated infrastructure and increasing political power.
He asks where to find data about the number of waders here thirty years ago. He’s asked the old man who counts here almost every day, who apparently seems reluctant to give him the data he needs; I promise to help all I can.
We watch the few waders together. A small flock of ringed plovers flies to and fro, restless in the face of several dogs running in and out of the sea. We marvel at a quite exceptional summer plumage bar-tailed godwit, and my new friend can’t get over the smart oystercatcher flock resting on the sandbar in the mellow evening light. I’m struck by how the beauty of the natural world transcends culture, it belongs to us all, and perhaps if we paid more attention to this, we might reduce conflict and get on with saving the planet for future generations whatever creed we believe in.
We take down emails, but forget to exchange names. No matter, we’ll meet again soon.