Wednesday, 17 June 2015

A tragedy of miscalculation

I think it was the great historian AJP Taylor who described the outbreak of World War I as a 'tragedy of miscalculation'. While the consequences for world peace were slightly less serious, the same phrase could be used to describe how last weekend went for me. I have come to bore even myself, let alone long-suffering readers, with my seasonal moaning about camping, and about this time of year, I would normally be bleating about being subjected to a weekend in a tent in the New Forest to celebrate my wife's birthday. This year the special day fell on Saturday, but to avoid the humiliations of canvas, we pushed the boat out and hired a campervan (a 1970s VW T2 called Maggie from the excellent Kombi Klassics in Wareham) in which we resolved to go to South Devon.
Male Cirl Bunting, Prawle Point
It shouldn't have been a surprise then, but was still a bit of a kick in the teeth, when the pager mega-alerted a male Eastern Black-Eared Wheatear in, you guessed it, the New Forest on Saturday morning. This would have been the closest new British bird for me to home this year, had I not already gone 100 miles in the wrong direction.
An attractive bird in an equally attractive habitat
As if to underline my miscalculation, the finder Gary Howard was down from Kent for the weekend - on a camping trip! And while theoretically mobile (we were in a campervan, after all), the duties of officiating at the birthday party, not to mention the fuel consumption of the van, meant that nipping back for the bird was not really an option. A bit like last month's Citril Finch, the other accessible spring weekend mega which I was unable to go for on the day of its discovery, it did not stick around.
Compare to this closely related male Yellowhammer
So I had to put it from my mind and concentrate on enjoying the sights of South Devon - Salcombe for lunch, Hope Cove for dinner, Kinsgbridge for fried breakfast in the van, Slapton for ice cream and the always inspiring Prawle Point for the resident Cirl Buntings. These provided some balm to soothe my Wheatear-related bitterness. Not a photo-year tick, on account of the trio of birds seen in Dorset earlier in the year, but still great to see and hear in song.
The acceptable face of camping: a pig to drive, but lots of fun

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