When I was in Australia a few years back, I promised myself – and any koala that happened to be in ear-shot – that I would never again complain about the weather. On this particular occasion, it was raining to almost biblical proportions and I had spent about ninety minutes cowering under a small tree with all my worldly travel goods (including some water-hating electrical items). For an hour and a half, I had been stuck under a branch of some sort of eucalyptus tree unable to go back to where I had come from (Port Macquarie Koala Hospital) or go to where I wanted to get to (an unofficial aunty who’d probably never even heard of me and definitely wasn’t expecting me to turn up’s house).
To say that I was annoyed at the situation was an understatement. On leaving the Koala Hospital, I had turned down a lift – to wherever I wanted to go – from the kindly lady behind reception, to wherever I wanted to go. It was only threatening rain, so I declined the offer. However, as the car pulled away, the heavens opened and I had to seek solace under a gum tree.
This was the worst weather experience of my life.
Like the good boy I am, I dutifully kept my promise of not complaining…
Flash forward (maybe that should be flash flood?) three years to a bird hide at RSPB Titchwell Marsh in Norfolk…
It was raining so hard and so sideways that it was coming in through the wooden walls of the building that I had dashed to cower in. It was so rainy that the floor was beginning to flood, the benches were sodden and I had got soaked through to my pants.
I swore… Out loud… A lot!
The weather was ridiculous. It was British Summer Time and I was in Norfolk (statistically the driest county in the UK), wringing out my underwear whilst sheltering from what can only be described as a *@$%ing, @*%tty monsoon! To quote Kevin Patterson, “This was so unfair!”
Looking out of the window, I could see the waterfowl cursing the weather under their breath… That’s how bad it was. A sodden Avocet looked miserable – Rainwater was pounding onto its head, roller-coastering down and up its up-curved beak and forming sizeable droplets at the end.
In spite of me experiencing the early signs of trench foot (and, perhaps its groinal equivalent) I did manage to see a Little Tern and a Little Gull – firsts for the year – out in the distant gloom. The Little Gull was having great trouble remaining in Norfolk due to the powerful crosswind.
Eventually, the monsoon was downgraded to a severe storm and I made a mad dash to the solace of the car, hoping that I had packed a change of underwear. I was disappointed that I had broken a long-standing promise to never complain about the weather, but vowed to start it again… From now!
The next couple of nights were due to be spent camping in Suffolk, so I stopped in on Lowestoft – One of the best places to see Kittiwakes on the east coast of the country. Other facts about Lowestoft: It is the most easterly point in the UK… Composer Benjamin Britten was born here and it is statistically one of the driest places in the country [That’s my favourite one!].
Sadly, Kittiwakes, a medium-sized gull with a yellow bill and dark eye, are a species in decline in the UK and this has been put down to waning supplies of sandeels – I suggest they might consider trying Clarks in Lowestoft High Street.
Down near the seafront, whilst hopelessly trying to work out which of the gulls swooping overhead might be Kittiwakes and which were not, I happened to see something odd fraternising with a group of Starlings – Even with my dubious bird identification skills, I could tell it wasn’t a Starling… It was a bit too green to be one of those! It looked like a parrot… In actual fact I had seen a couple in Canberra on my trip to Australia [The trip I seem to be banging on about today].
It was a Red-Rumped Parrot, which is native to south-eastern Australia. It couldn’t possibly be here of its own volition and was clearly an escapee from a local birdcage. I could not count it for my list, but it’s always nice to see a captive bird making a bold bid for freedom.
I finally found some Kittiwakes busying themselves on the side of a building with specially installed areas for nesting. It’s far easier to ID something when it’s sitting down.
In Other News…
It hadn’t yet rained again, so my pants lived to fight another day.