Monday 3 October 2011

Big Bird settles in Suffolk

Having honoured a promise of a family trip to the beach yesterday (see post for 2nd October), a day off work today left me free to twitch with abandon. As I was contemplating a long, lonely drive to Suffolk last night, the phone rang with an offer of a lift from fellow Dorset birders Steve Smith and Jol Mitchell.

The plan was to arrive before dawn but the sun was rising fast as we approached the small car park at Boyton Village Hall, which hasn't seen so much traffic since UKIP and the Young Farmers double booked their Christmas parties. Steve, who had seen an earlier Sandhill Crane in Scotland, gallantly told us to jump out and go for the bird while he parked the car: greater love hath no man than this than he lay down his tick for his friends. Shamefully, I didn't even ask if he was sure about this, and a brisk walk broke into an undignified trot before we got our first distant view of the bird. Relief started to be edged out by guilt as the dominant emotion, but Steve casually joined us after a few minutes for a top drawer English tick.

The Crane flew closer and continued walking towards the long line of assembled birders for the next hour or so before finally deciding to flex its primaries. After a majestic flypast, it bugled a couple of times and headed south towards the coast. As if this wasn't enough excitement, at one point Lee Evans, policing Britain's growing army of stringers and duff birders like me, looked through Jol's scope, transforming it from a mere optical instrument to a birding holy relic of Turin Shroud-like authenticity.

We were grateful to Lee subsequently when we could see his diagonistic white socks in the distance at nearby Levington Creek, leading us to the spot from which to view a Dotterel hanging out with a flock of Golden Plovers, while other birders had headed off down the wrong side of the creek. This beautiful bird was in breeding plumage, and it was a treat to see one again, along with a Curlew Sandpiper and good selection of other waders: the birding equivalent of going to the chill-out room after the high of seeing the Crane.

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