Sunday morning, about 10:45am (still half asleep after late return home from Norfolk)... glance at pager: probable Black-winged Pratincole, Reculver. ****! Wake up, start thinking about going...
10:48: Call from the Rainham Nerve Centre... "Have you seen the pager? Just thought you might like to know..." "Yeah, OK, cheers, I'm going!"
10:56: Call from Chez Hawkins... "Have you seen the pager? Are you going?" [Slight deja-vu...]
Turns out that Mrs H has headed out leaving Mr H carless... lift duly offered, and a Barking postcode goes into the SatNav.
11:00: On my way, fingers crossed!
12:50: After legging it along the path by the oyster farm, we're told that the bird has just flown into the distance. Grrr... Fortunately, one or two people are still watching, and we pick it up distantly, hawking for insects over the fields. Just before 1pm, it's headed east of the oyster farm, and appears to drop. The waiting game begins.
13:50: Still waiting.
14:10: Hawky's seen the pratincole again, as it gets up from the field where it disappeared earlier. No-one can stay on it through the worsening heat haze though.
14:23: The shout goes up "Behind you!", and it's back! Flying in over the pools, then landed on one of the sandy islands - superb. Pretty good views for about an hour, including a brief view of the underwing as it leapt up to pluck a wasp from the air.
15:25: After a brief flight to an adjacent island, the bird's off again - heading east again, over the rape fields, and into the distance. Exit stage left, and back home. Black-winged Pratincole never seen again. 6 new UK birds in under a month... where will it end?
Monday afternoon: Quick check of the pager reveals White-winged Black Tern at Staines. Very nice - consider an early exit, then encounter not one, but two fairly major problems at work as other people make their escape. Departure on hold.
1845: Finally leave work. Surely too late to get to Staines - never mind, it might stick around in worsening weather, or there might be loads more turning up in the forecast easterlies.
19:20: Get home, no sign of the shopping list I was supposed to be dealing with. Try to work out how long it'll take to get to Staines. M25 in the evening... probably a terrible idea.
19:28: Call from the Leth. "Are you going for the tern? It's showing really well - bring your camera!" Mind made up... what the heck, let's give it a go.
20:19: Arrive Staines, leg it up onto the causeway, quick scan - there it is! Unfortunately, the light's getting worse all the time, so photos are pretty awful, but what a cracking bird...
[Edit: Just for the record - all the above photos were taken at ISO 2000 to get a reasonable shutter speed and freeze the bird's movement in dwindling daylight. Obviously not prize-winning material, but goes to show how you can squeeze out tolerable shots at these ridiculously high ISO settings on modern SLRs!]
17 hours ago