This was the first time I have gone somewhere with the specific aim of finding a specific bird for my 2014 bird list. I’m not sure if this moves me from the ranks of casual birdwatcher to obsessive twitcher. Although, I’m guessing that I won’t qualify as one of those until my portable bird hide and Bill Oddie costume arrive in the post.
My internet sources – mainly google.com and the excellent http://www.surreybirdclub.org.uk/recent.html – had revealed that there was a Glossy Ibis in the village of Frensham in Surrey, so I decided that this was a great opportunity to add a bird that’s not often seen in Britain to this year’s inaugural Bird Board (see tab at the top of the page).
Glossy Ibises are wading birds and, as far as I can tell, the ones that find themselves in this country are most likely to have originated in Southern Spain. A handful of them sporadically migrate to various parts of Britain for the winter.
Driving through Frensham, I was beginning to realise what a potentially tricky task it would be to locate a single bird even in a small village. The recent heavy rainfall had left most of the local area (and most of the country) in perfect condition for paddling around in, so the Ibis could realistically be anywhere. I didn’t fancy my chances of finding it.
Just as the rain began to lash down again, my first stop was Frensham Great Pond. A wader would be sure to like a pond with a sandy beach, wouldn’t it? A family of four were showing true British resolve and were building sandcastles at the shore in the gloom.
In spite of the terrible weather, the trees were full of birds – Great Tits, Blue Tits and Lesser Redpolls – a new species to add to my list. A pair of Coots quietly passed judgement on the brave (or foolish) sandcastling family from the safety of the water.
A Goldcrest flitted about in the branches of a nearby tree… I tried to take a photo or two, but the attempt was just as unsuccessful as on the previous occasion. I didn’t swear at it, so I guess I must be growing as a person.
Sadly, there was still no sign of the Glossy Ibis.
I had heard rumours that it had previously been hanging around in a waterlogged field at the back of St. Mary the Virgin Church up the road, so I headed that way.
On arrival, I could see someone up the path with a set of binoculars and a camera – He was either looking at someone getting changed through the window of an adjacent house or at an Ibis. Is it strange that these were the only two things I thought he could possibly be spying on?
I said ‘Hello’ and peered across the field in a similar direction… And there it was, a Glossy Ibis – a black/brown bird with a downward curved bill, similar in size to a Little Egret (something I have yet to see this year). I stared at it for a while and felt a sense of achievement. I had added a new species to my list – quite a scarce species at that. Excellent.
I then tried to work out how long I should look at it until I left. How long would justify the trip? I definitely don’t want this year to end up being just about putting ticks in my imaginary notepad. I have always found it odd to watch people on coach trips who get out at each monument or building of historic interest, take a photo and leave. I want this year to be more of a learning experience than a tick box exercise.
I guess my learning from today is that not all men with binoculars in churchyards are taking sneaky peeks at people changing after showering!
Don’t forget to check out the Bird Board at the top of the page to see how many different species of bird I have seen so far this year. As a reminder, my goal is 150.
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Thanks for reading!