Saturday 1 August 2009

Swings and Roundabouts

A day or two ago, someone on BirdForum commented that twitching rare birds was all just 'swings and roundabouts'.... some you see, some you don't. Some your mates see, some they don't.

For the last few weeks, it's felt like I was constantly on the swings.... the ones that dip very frequently! River Warbler trip didn't happen due to bad weather; BC Bee-eater didn't stay; Cory's Shear went past Sheringham after I'd predicted it, but felt too ill to get up early and look; GS Cuckoo didn't show up last weekend.

Well, you'll be pleased to hear that all feels like ancient history now - I've had a superb 24 hours birding (well, not all 24, there was actually quite a good night's sleep in there as well). Here's why I reckon I'm back on the (magic?) roundabout:
  • I drove up to Norfolk on Friday, coming past Norwich early evening. No recent news on the Pacific Golden Plover on Breydon, but I decided to give it a go. Wandered round past the hide to the tern rafts, and found the bird showing really well at close range. Only two other birders there, we had a good chat, and enjoyed a cracking (and educational) bird.

  • Early doors today, Dad and I popped out to Hickling Rush Hill scrape. There had been a Pec Sand (sorry, that's Pectoral Sandpiper if you're not a birder!) on Swim Coots the day before... but there's no way to view that without a boat. However, as we walked out the door, the pager announced "Pec Sand still at Hickling now on Rush Hills". OK, it would've been nice to find it there independently, but just strolling down there and watching it, miraculously on the front edge of the scrape (unusual for anything good on here) was very pleasant all the same. Plenty of other waders there to search through as well - Little Stint, several LRP, Greenshanks, couple of smart Whimbrel, you get the idea.

  • Then, as we were wandering back to the car, the pager kicks in again: "Great Spotted Cuckoo at Weybourne"... i.e. almost exactly where it was just over a week ago! Where's that been hiding for all that time? We spent ages searching out along Meadow Lane towards Salthouse late morning, before Dad had to head back home to make a prior commitment. As a last attempt, I headed up onto Muckleburgh Hill, to get a wide view over Weybourne Camp, more in hope than expectation. However, RBA to the rescue again with another report from the RAF station, where I'd been earlier. The guy who'd relocated the bird beckoned me down the hill, and described where he'd seen it; we split up to get better coverage, and after a while, there it was in flight! Great Spotted Cuckoo, on the British List! Only took a combined total of about 10 hours searching... It showed really well, hopping around on the ground, perching up on bushes and fenceposts, eating caterpillars, just generally looking superb. I like to think it's just reward for putting in the time and effort with this bird - good things come to those who wait and all that jazz.

  • However, after enjoying this spectacular bird for a while, I decided to have a stab at seeing one more rarity on the way home - White-rumped Sandpiper at Welney. Traffic wasn't too bad, so I made good time getting there and arrived at about 5.15pm. Now I knew that Welney stays open well into the evening in the winter, for floodlit swan feeding, so I'd assumed that with long daylight hours in the summer the same opening hours would apply. Not so - a sign informed me "Reserve closes 5pm, last entry at 4.30pm". Oh dear (or some other similarly short word)! However, this is a blog post about not dipping, so there's a silver lining to that apparently very black cloud. I popped my round the door of reception to find one of the wardens still there, apologised, grovelled, paid the entrance fee, and was let into the reserve! So, if you ever read this, Lee, a massive thankyou for being so helpful - I got great views of the sandpiper (a rather smart adult bird, like the Pec), feeding, preening, in flight; all the better for being an experience shared only with a load more passage waders and no other birders.
Anyway, I've probably waffled on long enough now (and apologies for the complete lack of pictures). To sum up, then: this may have been essentially another day of twitching (though I did see a heck of a lot more birds than those mentioned above), and therefore some people may look down their nose at it, but what matters to me is how much I enjoyed it. Isn't life great when everything just drops into place and goes your way?!

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