Subtitled: But I Haven’t a Clue Where
As new sightings for the year have started to wane, I’ve signed-up for one month to a service called Birdguides in a semi-desperate attempt to locate new birds. Birdguides provides the user with access to an up-to-the-minute list of interesting birds all across the country.
Basically, it’s a veritable where’s who of notable things with wings nationwide.
According to my sources (I can now say this and mean it, as I do actually have sources), there has been a Short-Toed Eagle making its way backwards and forwards across southern England over the past week or so. If I’m honest, I’d never heard of a Short-Toed Eagle, but the fact that the latest sightings report – stating that it was currently hanging around a forest just twenty-miles away in East Sussex – had three exclamation marks next to it (!!!), suggested that it might be bit of an uncommon visitor to the UK. In bird-watching lingo, you could say it was a ‘MEGA’ bird. Although, I would never say that, as I’m still not admitting to being a bird-watcher.
In spite of my continued resolute non-bird-watcher status, I was quite excited for three reasons: –
(1) I’ve never seen an Eagle in the wild before.
(2) An Eagle is definitely not on my 2014 bird list.
(3) My investment of £4.99 had almost instantly started to reap dividends. In fact, as far as investments went, this was already potentially up there with the time I purchased a girlfriend from an internet dating website for a one-off payment of £9.99 [I think my profile is still online somewhere, so if you’re bored (or one of my stalkers), you could always try to find it – I make no apologies for listing Ceefax as one of the things I couldn’t live without!]
A bit of research revealed that the Short-Toed Eagle (also called a Snake Eagle) usually spends its summers in southern Europe, so for it to turn up in southern England is apparently a big deal. As far as I can tell, it is named short-toed after the fact it has shorter toes than other eagles. I imagine you could have guessed that.
The bird had been seen since early morning in the Wych Cross area of the Ashdown Forest, so I took a train, a bus and walked a couple of miles (it’s times like this that make me further rue my recent driving test failure) to the location suggested on the map.
Rather unsurprisingly, it wasn’t there – seemingly, wildlife tends to move about a lot… and I had given it a couple of hours’ head start, so it could have been anywhere (Well, maybe not in the pub, or the local swimming pool…)
I looked skywards and could see for miles. There were a number of potential eagles in the distance – But were they eagles?
Picture 1 was most likely a Lesser Black-Backed Gull. Picture 2 was probably flight EZY8667 from Gatwick to Alicante. Picture 3 was perhaps the closest I was going to get to seeing an eagle, but as it was so far away, it could well have been Superman or those aliens who kidnapped Elvis coming back for another celebrity icon (please let it be Dappy from N-Dubz).
I checked my sources again… The bird was apparently ‘showing well’ (a birding term for letting people with binoculars gawp at it without putting leaves and branches between it and them) ‘c.500m east of Gills Lap car park’. I opened Google Maps and saw that that was about a four mile run away from my current location (this failed driving test was going to continue to bite me, wasn’t it?). I swiftly set off to Gills Lap car park, only stopping to have a look at a Common Redstart and a Tree Pipit and to have the odd recuperatory lie-down.
Eventually, I got there to see that the eagle had decided to fly off somewhere else…
Tired, hungry and feeling deflated, I decided to give up… I had failed to see a !!!-level bird.
At this point, it was more of a !@£* bird to me.
All in all it was a bit of a disappointing day. In fact, I had seen as many eagles today as I had seen yesterday. Only yesterday, I hadn’t spent a small fortune on public transport and walk-jogged the equivalent of a half marathon. To, once again, use bird watching parlance, I had ‘mega dipped’. You could also say that I had ‘dipped a mega’. Bugger!
The only comfort I could draw from the day was that all that dashing around was sure to buff-up my calves a bit.
To be continued…