Sunday 19 May 2013

Hate camping, love the New Forest

My dislike of camping has been documented on this blog before, the consolation being that it often takes place in good birding locations. This weekend it was the New Forest, for the occasion of my nephew's 18th birthday. His own dad, who loathes camping even more than me, got away with not going, yet somehow for me this was a three line whip event. Delighted though I was for young Harry to be reaching a landmark age, it still couldn't erase the indignity of having to pee in a bucket.
We arrived at Sandy Balls campsite - I'm not making it up, that's what it's called - on Friday evening, where my son amused me greatly by misreading the sign for their Hair and Beauty parlour as 'Hairy Balls Sand and Beauty'. Just as I was preparing for another night pretending to sleep, the pager flashed with news of a Dusky Thrush in Margate cemetery. It had been present since Wednesday, but news had only just been released. The phone pinged soon after with the offer of a lift if news was positive the following morning.
Woodlark - this one recently fledged
I tested the water about the possibility of a pass out but, not unreasonably, it was a flat 'no'. It was a sleepless night, on this occasion was not just down to the usual reasons of a deflated airbed and ball-aching cold. An early report that the bird was still present at 0600 brought on a seriously sinking feeling.
Redstart - usually reliable at Acres Down but not today: this one was at Morden Bog in Dorset a few days ago
Margate is a bit too far from Fordingbridge to get away with 'I'm just nipping out to get a paper', so I tested the waters again about permission to go. This would have been unwise at the best of times, let alone 0600. Again the answer was no. With no new birds for my British list so far in 2013, several plans to add to it foiled, and a recent mega-dip under my belt (another Thrush), this was hard to take.
Cuckoo at Acres Down

I took a leaf out of my offsprings' books when they are told the answer is 'no': if I've learnt anything from them it's the susceptibility of their mother to pester power. So when fellow Dorset birder Steve Smith texted me just after 0600 to confirm his offer of a lift I nagged and nagged until, most unexpectedly, the answer became 'yes'. Cheers kids! Claire has a birthday coming up, so I can thank her in the way I know she would want: with the purchase of hideously expensive kitchen gadgets. Which she would point are substantially cheaper than Canon cameras and Swarovski optics, and make better cakes. 
Dusky Thrush: a bit shy while we were there, but who's complaining?
And so it was that by 10:00 we and about 200 other birders had a Dusky Thrush, and a couple of bemused mourners, completely surrounded. It didn't move from it's semi-obscured perch for the next half-hour, after which, having ticked, it was time to run. Steve was kind enough to settle for the partial but still close views and get me back to Hampshire before papers could be served.

Dusky Thrush, Margate Cemetery
I spent most of the rest of the day playing football, giving piggybacks, swimming, cooking, washing up and generally doing whatever it took to rebuild my battered stock with both immediate and extended family. Fortunately the friends who had come down from Kent for the camping weekend could see the funny side of me pretty much going back past the house they had just left behind.

The friendly face of author-photographer-mandarin James Lowen, pictured here twitching AND snacking at the same time. A man of many talents.
Number 431 for my British list was a long time coming, and not even the campsite staples of snoring relatives, noisy neighbours and bassy beatboxes could stop me sleeping like a contended baby last night.

The last words are reserved for my rescuer from the hell of camping, and driver for the day: Mr Steve Smith. And the words are 'Thank you Steve'!

1 comment:

  1. "with the purchase of hideously expensive kitchen gadgets" is a line that will linger long in this memory :-)