Sunday 16 December 2012

Bowled over

I like a bit of Test Match Special but with the current one being played in India, listening to it involves getting up at 04:00 AM. I thought I would give it a go yesterday morning, and, as it's on the radio, I reasoned I could do something else at the same time. Like drive to Suffolk to see a small white bird. In the end I was up long before that with a bout of dip-somnia (the sleep disorder induced by fear of travelling a long way for a rare bird but not seeing it).

Wickets had fallen fast on Friday so I thought listening to the cricket might help keep me awake on the long trip east but not a single wicket fell in the entire four-and-a-half hour journey. Even when I returned to the car after filling my boots with extremely close views of the Hornemann's Arctic Redpoll, the same two batsmen were still at the crease. It's a good job the bird was still there, as, having gone all that way, I would have felt a bit like the Indian captain must have felt when he eventually got run out for 99.

The hornemanni, a sub-species of Arctic Redpoll, was a new one for me, and while they are reasonably regular on Shetland in autumn, as I have never managed that trip an approachable one in southern England seemed worth the effort. Many photos of this bird have been posted on-line, but a lot are partially obscured by the grasses in which the bird fed. While I experienced the same difficulty at first, later the bird made its way into the open on the shingle, at one point inconveniently coming too close to focus. As my friend Steve said, 'you snappers always find something to moan about'.

Speaking of moaning, there was a bit going on between photographers and non-photographers today - not the usual problem of photographers lacking fieldcraft and flushing the bird this time, but birders who didn't understand the importance of good light standing between the bird and the low early morning sunshine and casting shadows over it. With views like this though, no one could complain too loudly.

I almost never made the journey at all after a last minute domestic misunderstanding about whether the car was needed at home to collect our son from a sleepover. The saintly Nick and Jo, at whose house he was staying, sensed my desperation ('Aldeburgh? In East Anglia? In a day? For a bird? Will it even be there?') and volunteered to drop him off, preventing said misunderstanding escalating into a full-scale sulk on my part. I shall be forever in their debt.

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