A massive HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my wonderful son, Josh. Happy Birthday Son!
On the 19th day of February my true love gave to me . . . .
Early morning dash down to Chipping Norton with Steve Allcott, an ex-pupil birder from Wolverhampton, to join the queue in the rain. Enjoyable chat about birding queues from the past and same housing estate birds; golden-winged warbler, black-throated thrushes, rose-coloured starlings, Baltimore orioles.
An hour or so of the same and then a rush of wet waxed jackets. I slightly touched a closing umbrella as I tried to join on to a watching crowd from the side and was greeted by profanity from the umbrella owner. I gently asked him to grow up [subtle] and moved around the birders to kneel down at the front, next to someone with a 'scope trained on the bird - crafty! Rufous turtle dove on the list and no £5 paid to the RSPB via the bedroom entry fee.
The bird was good and a lifer too yet better than that was seeing friends who I hadn't seen for years; 'Black Country' John Holian and his lovely wife, Sharon were greeted with hugs and excitement. A fabulous couple, John was instrumental in the identification of a small duck found by two schoolboys on Chasewater back in 1986. That was Europe's first lesser scaup and more about the schoolboys later on. John was on fine form, happy and chatty as was Sharon and news of them now having four grandchildren reminded me of how old we're all getting. Eric Phillips, another cycling birder was there too and Dave Walker from Upton Warren, my beloved patch. From last year's epic there was one of the talented Essex lads met on Fair Isle and Mya and Chris, the Chew Valley birding celebrities, famous from their TV appearance in a programme shown last year called 'Twitchers'. Other people recognised me and chatted and congratulated. John Fortey, a dear ex-Midland birder who died last year was talked about with respect and generally the atmosphere amongst the 200 or so was happy. All excepting two idiots who squared up to each other over getting a clear view. Sense prevailed as their stupid actions were shown up for being just that - stupid.
The bird? Well it sat near the top of a tall ash tree, occasionally preening which showed neck pattern, silvery grey tail and darker primaries and secondaries below the warm brown edged coverts. Well seen and appreciated despite the weather; the rain having not stopped despite the BBC's promise of it doing so.
On the way back to the metal box came across three enterprising young girls with a canopy, a table and a wide selection of home made cakes, coffee and tea. These brilliant young maids were selling their wares for the RSPB! £7.00 spent from my pocket and the RSPB got their fiver after all. A photo with Mya and the girls was taken and heaps of praise for their endeavours given in this poor weather. More chatting before heading off for Rainham RSPB reserve. The slaty-backed gull had been seen again and Ste decided that we should go for it.
Now some of you might think that a biking birder should be saying "Nay" to such activities but the chance to see Rainham again was the real lure. Love the place and the two visits from last year had been wonderful. Arrived in good time, the M25 car park being relatively empty and after a quick snack walked around the reserve. Had met Dave and the cafe ladies who I remembered so well before going out. No views of the penduline tits seen the previous day and then news that the gull was at Pitsea refuse tip. Oh the romance, a gull on a tip! A dash in the car but only lesser blacks and hundreds of black-heahed gulls seen. A group of disgruntled twitchers spoke of a group of birders who'd had the special one in front of them but hadn't put it out on the grapevine because they couldn't identify it. Oh well, next time.
Darkness and home. A smashing day in so many ways and it didn't end there. A text from a very special friend asked whether I'd like to go for the RSPB Lodmoor dowitcher on Sunday? What could I say?
all the best everyone,