Subtitled: And I know Where It Is This Time
After some soul-searching (I was genuinely gutted to have run across most of East Sussex in vain), a bath and a self-administered calf massage, I was ready to try again to find a Short-Toed Eagle – This time in a car.
I fixed on my L-plates, strapped my co-driver into the adjacent seat and set off to find me an eagle…
My sources had informed me that the target bird was in a tree just south-west of Long Car Park in the Ashdown Forest, so that is just where I went. I made sure I mirrored, signalled and manoeuvred in a safe and orderly fashion, stuck to all speed limits and thought bike at all times – Yes, I know it’s hard to believe I could have failed my driving test!
On arrival, the eagle was in a tree (amongst a forest’s-worth of other trees) about 400 yards away from the larger ends (I know all the technical terms) of the telescopes and binoculars of an assembled crowd, hoping to catch a glimpse of a phenomenally rare sight in the UK. My Fisher Price binoculars were put to shame by the magnification technology on show, but a number of kind individuals seemed keen to share their equipment with me so that I could see the bird for myself.
All I could see was a small part of what might be the back of the head. The rest of the animal was shielded from view by an array of branches and pine needles.
Strictly speaking, I had just seen a Short-Toed Eagle and could add it to my list for the year. I tried to think back to my rules for seeing as many birds as I could in 2014 and tried to remember if I had specified that I needed to see a certain percentage of a bird for it to be acceptable. As it stood, I had probably seen about 2% of an eagle… and I wasn’t entirely sure which part it was either.
After a wait of an hour or so, it decided to reveal the other 98% to the world and soared into the sky for a minute or so.
It was a remarkable sight… An eagle – with extraordinarily bright yellow eyes and a wingspan probably in excess of one and a half metres – soaring across the Sussex skyline. It was definitely one of those ‘wow moments’ I was banging on about a few weeks ago.
In those sixty-seconds, I forgot about yesterday’s futile dashing around and my ridiculously achy calves. I fortunately didn’t forget how to stand up or how not to wet myself. The efforts of the past couple of days had all been worth it.
I could definitely add it to my list now.
There was now a big unexpected tick in my imaginary notepad for a Short-Toed Eagle… and a slightly smaller one for the Spotted Flycatcher I spotted not catching flies on the way back to the car.
I was now up to ONE-HUNDRED and FORTY SIX birds for the year, leaving four more to get to my target. This bird challenge malarkey is going pretty well so far… And the day after all this, I actually passed my driving test – Time for my co-driver to go on holiday!