Monday, June 10, 2013

Mad Dogs and Englishmen....and birders...

...go out in the midday sun. Apparently, they do. When pondering over a descriptive word that truly portrays Sunday's twitch, I first considered epic. However, with some time to reflect, I now think that insane would be more appropriate. I will back up a little and give some explanation for this decision. Saturday nights dilemma was: 'which bird shall I go for on Sunday morning?' There was Little Bittern, a rare breeder in the UK, showing, all be it briefly, at Ham Wall RSPB reserve in Somerset. A good bird and a lifer for me. On the other hand, there was a European Bee-eater hanging out in a park in Kent; a British tick. What to do? Another sighting came in through Rare Bird Alert, reporting on a Night Heron, another British tick, also in Somerset. My mind was made up. Go for greed not ease.

A 2 1/2 hour drive to Somerset and a 4 1/2 hour vigil over a reed bed produced no Little Bittern. I gave up and walked the walk of shame (WITH A NICE SUN BURN) back to the car. To keep me entertained during my time, I kept a species list which tallied 40 species. A pair of Marsh Harrier were present while I was there as were Great Egret, Little Egret, Bittern, Hobby and Cetti's Warbler. Checking RBA, I noticed that the Bee-eater had been reported at 11:50 am, though distant. Over two hours later, just as I had excited off the M3 at Woking, a report came in  saying that the bird was back. It was 15:13.  I did three laps of a roundabout (guilt laps) before slipping back on the M3. At 17:00 I arrived at Pegwell Bay Country Park; southwest of Ramsgate in Kent. After about 1 1/2 hours of searching with some other birders, I threw the towel in and started walking back to my car with another chap called Bren. It was then that I spotted it, perched but hunkered on a gorse bush; my first British EUROPEAN BEE-EATER! It kept us busy, as it was mobile within this little area, but we did manage a couple of record shots. We signaled over to the other birders to come see it. They, like us, were thrilled at finally catching up with this exotic rarity. 15 hours and 430 miles later I was home. Was I happy to get this bird? Yes. Am I going to re-evaluate my twitching? Yes. There needs to be a balance. That was insane. Thanks Bren for the use of the top photo. A distant shot in bad light. You did great mate! 

* en-route to Somerset M3/A303 were 5 Red Kite.



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