Tuesday 5 June 2012

A sight for sore eyes

I was determined not to go for the Roller in Yorkshire, a recent trip to Scotland having diminished my enthusiasm for long distances and the motorway network. But having been teased for several days by its presence, when a window in the calendar opened on Bank Holiday Monday, my desire to avoid Jubilee street parties strengthened, and my resolve weakened. The bird had reportedly flown off the night before so I decided not to go in the dark in hope, but to wait on news. The in-built twitcher's alarm woke me early anyway so I planned to head up to north Dorset to look for farmland birds first and be well-placed to head north should news on the Roller come out early. As I left the house a  flock of Crossbill flying over augured well - a garden tick for me - and I arrived at a very windy Martin Down on the Dorset/Hampshire border about an hour later. Quail had been heard there recently, but I could detect no sound of them. Seeing them would have been too much too ask, especially as by now my eyes were streaming and itching with some kind of hayfever reaction.

You don't need a frame-filling shot to identify this baby. Fortunately.
The pager then reported that the Roller had returned the previous evening after flying off, and before long confirmed that the bird was present again this morning - by then I was already on the way. Various drops and lotions had failed to soothe my sore eyes in recent days, but I can now recommend seeing a Roller (or at least the adrenalin and anticipation of a long-distance twitch) as the perfect tonic for this particular ailment. On arrival the Roller was performing to a sizable crowd - a little further away than in some of the photos I had seen, but, in perfect light, not exactly an identification challenge. It's hunting method involved a series of short flights interspersed with longer periods where it would still, scanning intently. Eventually it sheltered up in the long grass at the edge of its favoured ploughed field, so I headed home in time for the evening celebrations and fireworks (which upset the local Jackdaw roost something chronic) on Wareham Quay.

The closest view I got was this majestic flypast
 This was my fifth new bird this year, but the only one that could really be described as a proper spring rarity - the other four (Spanish Sparrow, Paddyfield Warbler, Yellowthroat and Greater Yellowlegs) all presumed to be over-wintering birds from last year's bumper autumn.

Perched in its favoured ploughed field

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