Who else, but a birder, would drive with windows down in subzero temperatures? Just ahead of the final cold spell this winter (-10 C / 14 F), I went birding in relatively warm -4 C / 25 F.

I drove along the levee, water level was high… There weren’t that many birds, counting Mallards and Eurasian Teals… Wait, what is that white thing? A piece of plastic rubbish with a bird-neck-and-head shaped handle?

Hastily I mount the scope on a window clump… it’s a bird! Swimming in the shallows, all-white ghost-like bird, a small gull? With pure white wingtips? Only the adult Mediterranean Gull has white wingtips, but it should have either a winter mask or an already forming dark cap.

Anyway, this white bird swimming in the shallows looked too slender for even a small gull… let’s try digiscoping. My scope was focused on it, but the bird was nowhere to be seen on my phone screen?

Pressing my eye against the eyepiece… no, the bird is missing from the scene… hey, in that thicket, a young Northern Goshawk is making a meal of it – a domestic white dove!

But what was it doing in the water in the first place? I cannot really say, but it was probably walking in very shallow water with its belly submerged. It looked odd – perhaps it ended up in the water confused after avoiding the first attack of the young hawk? The final attack clearly happened while I was mounting the window clump, so I missed all the action.

Once upon a time this was a part of the Roman empire. Let’s imagine for the moment that it still is, that I am a birdman in ancient Rome. Someone with such skills was expected to foretell the future by observing birds.

“An augur was a priest and official in the classical Roman world. His main role was the practice of augury: Interpreting the will of the gods by studying the flight of birds – whether they were flying in groups or alone, what noises they made as they flew, direction of flight, and what kind of birds they were. … Augurs sought the divine will regarding any proposed course of action which might affect Rome’s pax, fortuna, and salus (peace, good fortune, and well-being). [source]

What future should I foretell after seeing a feisty young brave thinking “Go for the jugular, that stupid dove should be no more” while tearing up the symbol of peace?

I don’t really know, but this being the Balkans, I think I should pack my bags and head for some “warm place with no memory”.

Cover photo: The Shawshank Redemption, 1994

Written by Dragan
Dragan Simic is obsessively passionate about two things – birding and travelling in search of birds, and that has taken him from his native Balkans to the far shores of Europe and the Mediterranean, southern Africa, India and Latin America. His 10,000 Birds blog posts were Highly Commended in the International Category of the 2015 BBC Wildlife Blogger Awards. Birder by passion and environmental scientist by education, he is an ecotourism consultant, a field researcher and a bird blogger who always thinks that birding must be better behind that next bend in the road, and that the best bird ever is – the next lifer. He tweets as @albicilla66