Thursday 26 December 2013

An auk-ward moment

The discovery of a Brünnich's Guillemot in Portland Harbour this morning could only have strained more relations if it had turned up 24 hours earlier. It presented hundreds of birders with the awkward choice between Boxing Day with the in-laws, and becoming Boxing Day outlaws. The honourable and loyal ones chose the former; the feckless and fortunate the latter.
Brünnich's Guillemot: a very rare visitor from the Arctic.
Twitching Portland would normally be a doddle for me, but we are spending Christmas in Hampshire, so there was a certain inevitability about Dorset's biggest mega of the year appearing the minute my back was turned. Fortunately I have a very understanding family: my lovely sister-in-law even made me a Turkey sandwich for the journey and took my kids to the Panto for the afternoon. Yes, I married well.
The bird had given close views earlier but had moved into an inaccessible area of the marina by the time I arrived. Difficult to get a clear shot through the metalwork as this photo shows.
This was just what the Doctor ordered from my point of view - arm now out of sling, I have still been pretty sedentary and somewhat lacking in motivation. But Claire said the impact of the phone call from Marcus Lawson, in which news of the Guillemot was broken, had the same effect on me as Lou turning his back on Andy in this Little Britain sketch.
A gang of Outlaws storm the walls of Portland Castle, built in 1539 by Henry VIII. On returning home, these guys were (from left): divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived.
Having broken the news to me, Marcus was on site to talk me in and even had a scope ready for me on the bird when I arrived breathless from the now customary undignified trot from the car park. Having left my own scope at home I was grateful: Swineham boys have to stick together.
A Great Northern Diver was also off the Sailing Academy
After having a bit of a snooze among the pontoons the Brünnich's gave everyone the slip for a while before reappearing further down the harbour edge. Here it was even more distant and, not wishing to push my luck with the in-laws, after another look at the still present Black Guillemot, I headed off. This also left just enough time to see a Glossy Ibis on the way back through Weymouth.
Never mind the magic of Christmas, this Glossy Ibis, presumably from a warmer part of Europe, turning up just a few miles from the Brünnich's Guillemot, hailing from the high Arctic, illustrated perfectly the magic of British birding.
I headed back to Hampshire slightly disbelieving of my luck at seeing all these good birds in a brief smash and grab raid, and having such tolerant rellies.
The finders of the Brünnich's probably thought they were hallucinating. So did I when this guy rolled past the assembled twitch. Listen, mate, take my advice about arsing around on scooters...

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