Monday, 13 October 2014

Memory Lane, Dungeness

Yesterday's post reminded me that while there may be precious little time in my life right now for wildlife watching, let along blogging, I can still take a quick trip down memory lane in the hour between finishing work and falling asleep on the sofa. A timely reminder, dear reader, that this blog is not all about you. It is, of course, mainly about therapy for the author, and after a few weeks of not posting much at all I have decided I need a bit more of that.

Today's metaphorical trip was brought on by the discovery late yesterday of an Audouin's Gull at Dungeness. With a five-meeting day ahead, and a to-do list which would rate highly on Bubo, twitching it would have been impossible. Happily, it was also unnecessary: I was fortunate enough to see the first British record of this species back in May 2003. Claire was big with child at the time - about 7 months worth - and had spent most of her later pregnancy sleeping and doing nothing more eccentric than eating a minimum of 5 whole cucumbers per day.

It was an embarrassing time to be doing the supermarket run, but as Sainsbury's didn't open until 1000, I was free to head out early on the morning of Sunday 5th May to travel the hour from home to the legendary Dungeness peninsular in the hope of seeing migrants and passing seabirds. Having seen not many of either (my dog-eared birdspotter's logbook, making its second appearance this week, records the highlights as Black Tern and Glaucous Gull), I returned home as promised to attend to antenatal duties. These principally involved decorating the nursery, making copious cups of tea as a displacement activity to avoid decorating the nursery, and stocking up on Cucumis sativus*.

The pager then alerted me to the presence of the Audouin's Gull - at Dungeness, from where I had just returned. Had I been the pregnant one, this would have resulted in the immediate onset of labour, but as it was I had to settle for the palpitations, chest pains and cold sweats which, to this day, accompany news of an accessible 'first for Britain'.
Audouin's Gull, Dungeness, 5th May 2003 - first record for Britain
Claire had been so glowing and mellow in recent weeks that I casually suggested I might pop back down to Dunge with some confidence that this would be agreeable, only to find her go all Gandalf on me (click link and watch the first 7 seconds for an explanation). Perhaps I was already coming to terms with the reality of my twitching style being cramped by having a child, but for whatever reason I was uncharacteristically sanguine about it, and after some deep breathing exercises managed to fall asleep on the sofa. On waking an hour later the pager was still persistently reporting the presence of the Audouin's Gull, which had by now been pinned down to the shingle behind the famous fishing boats. Refreshed, I subjected Claire to a barrage of pester power which I like to think stood her in good stead for impending parenthood, and was eventually granted the opportunity to tick and run. This I duly took, and after a mad dash to Dunge and a bit of fuzzy digiscoping (see above), I was good to my word and back in time for dinner. Which was salad, naturally.

* I really wanted to say 'legumes' here as it amused me. Unfortunately, cucumbers are not legumes, but members of the gourd family, which, I am sure you agree, lack the comic potential of the legumes. Hence the resort to the birding blog smart-Alec staple of the Linnean classification for cucumber. Sometimes deference to science and accuracy is just a curse.

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