I have a confession to make…
A while back, as you might well remember, I said that I would not turn into one of those bird-watchers who dash around the country in search of a new bird for my 2014 bird challenge list.
Unfortunately, it seems that I have not been a man of my word and have done just that… Sort of.
On Monday, I got in my car and drove for slightly more than an hour across the country to look for three new birds to add to my list… If I recall correctly, I said I wouldn’t rush off somewhere for a solitary bird, so I felt that going after three was, technically, semi-acceptable behaviour. Perhaps. Maybe.
I had seen reports that, over the weekend, a Desert Wheatear, a Shore Lark and a few Snow Buntings had been seen in Reculver in Kent. I hadn’t seen any of these birds this year (or ever), so temporarily put my promise to not be a crazed twitcher to one side and headed eastwards for a day at the seaside.
When I arrived at my destination, Reculver Country Park, I was greeted by the imposing sight of Reculver Towers, a long, sweeping shingle coast line disappearing off into the distance and a car park that only wanted a contribution of one pound for a whole day’s worth of parking. I was pleased by the bargainous nature of the car parking fee, but less enthused by the length of the beach that potentially housed my target birds – Finding them would clearly pose a bit of a challenge as the birds wouldn’t be much larger than any of the pebbles strewn as far as the eye could see.
As per the bird sighting report that drew me to the area, I needed to head in an easterly direction from the Towers, so that is what I did. I wandered along the seafront hoping to see a gathering of bird-watchers standing and staring at an unusual bird – a technique that had helped me find a Short-Toed Eagle, a Long-Tailed Skua and a Little Stint earlier in the year – but I couldn’t seem to see anything that resembled a crowd of camouflaged, telescope-wielding folk.
It seemed that finding what I was searching for might be difficult, but I pressed-on. After about five minutes of walking I saw someone I recognised from a previous bird-spotting jaunt. Here I was, miles away from home and I had found a familiar face. On one hand, this was a relief, because it might improve my chances of adding something new to the bird list, but on the other hand, I feared that it meant that I might have spent a bit too much of my time chasing after ornithological discovery. Did this mean that I had now become a bona fide bird-watcher? Was I now an official twitcher? Or did the man standing in front of me just look a bit like someone I had seen somewhere else at some point?
If I’m honest, it didn’t really matter, as the chap cheerfully pointed me in the direction of what I was looking for. Although, he said that no-one had seen the Desert Wheatear, so it must have moved on. This left me with the hope of seeing a Shore Lark and a Snow Bunting. In the words of Meat Loaf, I reasoned that two out of three ain’t bad.
A distance up the beach I saw a mini-throng of people pointing cameras and binoculars at a small bird that had just popped-up on the top of a shingle bank. So as not to look out of place (and also see what everyone was staring at), I alternated between pointing my binoculars and camera at the bird. It was a Shore Lark, a small brown-grey coastal-dwelling bird with an unmistakeable yellow and black head pattern and, in the breeding season, the male has distinctive feathered horns. This is why it is called a Horned Lark in the USA. It is a species that is an uncommon visitor to the UK, so any sighting is a treat.
It took my total for the year to one-hundred and eighty-six.
After a minute or so, the Lark disappeared behind the bank and I didn’t see it again – Mainly because I wanted to push on and find the other two birds on my hit list.
It turned out that I didn’t see either. I guess one out of three ain’t quite as good as two, but I did get to see some other excellent birds and had a lovely day beside the seaside.