Yes, driving from Dorset to Kent to see a dubious duck would have been a bit sad, but as we were staying with friends in nearby West Farleigh this weekend anyway, I did pay a 'rude not to' visit to the Hooded Merganser at Whetstead Gravel Pits on Sunday morning. The weather was foul though I suppose residents of the parched and pestilent South East were grateful for a bit of rain. Back to the merganser: frankly, her hair was a mess and she could not match the drake Smew on the neighbouring pit for sawbill beauty at its best. But it is possible that this is a wild bird, and therefore possible that it will be recognised as such by the records committees, and therefore possible that I will get a tick out of it. With escapes and Dutch feral birds to consider, it will not be an easy judgement, but a previous winter record in Kent (which I missed, despite living there at the time) has since been accepted so who knows.
...it just got worse.
I had dragged my family and our hosts to Dover Castle the previous day, ostensibly to appreciate some English heritage - and we did indeed enjoy the excellent new interpretation of the secret wartime tunnels. But there was obviously a hidden agenda, namely, to put myself within striking distance of the Kumlien's Gull in Dover Harbour, a cunning but unsuccessful plan as it turned out. Searching the web for directions to the birds preferred haunt, the Admiralty Pier, I chanced upon a rant on a fisherman's forum about how it had allegedly become an overcrowded and smelly place. After complaining about being the only 'white English' on the pier, it went on to use one of the most chilling phrases in the English language: 'I AM NOT A RACIALLY PREJUDICED'. Grammatically as well as politically incorrect, and in upper case as if to emphasise that these words are generally a cast iron guarantee of some racial prejudice. Depressing stuff, and enough to make any rare bird want to go back to where it came from...
See more of my photographs - 400+ British bird species, 60+ British butterflies, plus moths, mammals, dragonflies, reptiles, amphibians, orchids and lansdscape at www.petermoorewildlifephotography.co.uk
Welcome to Peter Moore's wildlife blog, created largely to compensate for a failing short-term memory by providing a record of my experiences watching and photographing wildlife. I have been fortunate enough to see over 450 species of bird and 61 species of butterfly in Great Britain, photographing most of these (badly) over the course of the last 15 years.