Sunday 7 November 2010

Reed my lips

'There it is...' said a voice at the front of the hide as I struggled for a clear view from the back through misted optics, the inevitable result of a hasty dash into a warm hide from the cold outside. ' some semi-submerged reeds'. This wasn't too helpful, as being semi-submerged is an occupational hazard for a reed. It's difficult to ask for more specific directions without sounding like a git, but I tried anyway. 'By a patch of dead-looking reeds' came the explanation. Most reeds are dead-looking by November so this didn't narrow it down much either. 'Where is it in relation to that lorry in the background' I asked? 'Oh, just under that'. 'Got it. Thanks'. I didn't mean to sound ungrateful, but this bird had taken some seeing. Last weekend's delayed Scillonian III sailing back to Penzance deprived returning birders of the chance to look for the American Bittern at Zennor on the Sunday morning. Many of us went to Zennor anyway on Sunday lunch-time but after no sign during a couple of hours of poor weather most, including me, went home disappointed. Local birder Viv Stratton persevered and told me today that the bird flew in about 15 minutes after I left.

So when the bird was relocated at Walmsley Sanctuary, a nervous week passed before I could finish work on Friday lunchtime and make it to Wadebridge for about 15:30. The bird had not been seen for about 40 minutes from the Tower Hide, and the light was rapidly fading, but a call from the other hide gave the half dozen people in the Tower the signal to move. Camera being less steamed up than bins, I raised it and rattled off these shots as the bird walked right into the open between ditches - something you would be lucky to see a Great Bittern do. I returned this morning but was unable to improve on Friday night's views and photos. The tetchy crowds and immobile queues made it a much less enjoyable experience, so I was glad to see this impressive beast on the Friday, and grateful to friends Jan and Matt for putting me up for the night in Newquay! Tried to string juvenile Grey Plovers into the American Golden reported on the Exe on the way home, but without success.

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