I was standing at the end of Northwood Avenue in Knaphill and happened to glance skywards. I was shocked to see what looked like the silhouette of a Pelican passing by the low-hanging sun. Oh my goodness, a bloody Pelican! I had to have been mistaken – Outside of the few pet ones in St James’ Park in London, we just don’t get them in this country. What a find! As the bird flew left to right across the sky, I desperately tried to make sure I hadn’t made a mistake. I was looking for a definitive sign that it was a Pelican – like a massive beak or sizeable throat pouch would do the trick. It turned its head towards me and it had bizarrely morphed into a poodle. I took out my notepad to jot down Pelican (obviously with massive question mark next to it) and its pages mysteriously began to transform into a renowned British celebrity ornithologist. Like my notepad, this situation was getting more and more Oddie by the second.
Oh dear, this was a dream, wasn’t it?
I put Bill Oddie in my pocket and promptly woke up in a cold sweat. This was the first time my 2014 bird-watching challenge had permeated my sleeping subconscious.
And there we have it, dear reader, a weird insight into what it is like to be me…
A visit to RSPB Arne in Dorset was this week’s opportunity to add to my 2014 birds list.
Today was notable for the fact that it was probably the first time I had seen the sun this year and that the RSPB had organised a Raptor Weekend – I would hopefully be able to combine not getting trench foot with seeing some birds of prey. Excellent.
Excitingly, within about fifteen minutes of arriving, I got my first ever view of a Hen Harrier. Well, it might have been a fence post, or a sheep on a fence post, or not even a fence post, or even a sheep – It was that far away, but an informed chap with a telescope assured me that it was indeed a Hen Harrier. The Hen Harrier is a species potentially on the verge of extinction in England as none successfully bred last year, so any sighting is special.
Let’s play a game of Where’s Hawky… Can you locate the Hen Harrier in this picture? (Answer at the end of this entry)
In the distance atop a gorse bush – most birds I saw today seemed to be at the very limit of my binocular-assisted vision – was a Dartford Warbler. It’s always a treat to see a Dartford Warbler, a species that has experienced a number of near catastrophic population collapses in the UK in fairly recent times due to harsh winters. I watched it for the few seconds before it dropped from view and then added it to my on-the-go bird list on my phone… Autocorrect was adamant that it should be recorded as Dartboard Warbler. I was adamant that it should be logged correctly – besides, the thought of Eric Bristow belting out show tunes was slightly disturbing me.
For a while I sat in a hide looking at a group of a group of about fifteen Spoonbills on a small bank in the distance. After about ten minutes, one of the other people in the hut said something along the lines of ‘Ooh, are they Spoonbills out there?’… As there were Spoonbills out there, I said ‘Yes’ – It seemed the right thing to do. Another person said that they could see a Grey Heron, but no Spoonbills. This was strange, as the Grey Heron was standing in the midst of a canteen of cutlery-beaked waders.
It’s Spot the Spoonbill time…
And now the solution to Where’s Hawky… Did you find him?
New species for the year were Avocet, Shelduck, Marsh Harrier, Hen Harrier, Little Egret, Brent Goose, Dartford Warbler, Red-Breasted Merganser, Spoonbill, Curlew and Redshank – Taking my total for 2014 to EIGHTY. As expected, my progress towards my target total is now beginning to slow down, but I’m already over halfway to my goal. I guess my next surges in numbers will take place when I finally learn to tell the difference between Gulls and when the summer migrants start arriving…
Here are a few pictures of what I saw today: -
If anyone knows where I might be able to go to add to my list (see Bird Board on the tab at the top of page), please let me know… Thanks!