Thursday 23 July 2009

By the skin of my teeth

As a number of my mates read this blog, it would be rude not to write about the second mainland twitchable Blue-cheeked Bee-eater since 1950 that I saw yesterday. OMFL, as they say. Anyhow, a pleasant morning was shattered at roughly 10:30 when my pager and phone went beserk simultaeneously. At the time I was in a supermarket carpark, just about to unload the kids. As I have been in charge of the shopping and the shopping list this week, it will come as a surprise that we even made it as far as Wednesday, but we were totally out. I had dry cereal for breakfast - the life of a parent is one long sacrifice. Hawky was one of the first to call: roughly "Go Go GO!!!!!!!!!!!!" Somehow we continued into the supermarket - I had promised the kids little tiny trollies and to abandon this could have been disastrous. The shopping list was transformed into a picnic list, a quick stop off home to put it all together and gather optics, nappy changing equipment, raincoats, beakers, spare clothes, the buggy, soft toys and all the other crap you need in order to survive with children away from home, and we were off.

By this point it was rather disappointingly midday, and I was wondering if I hadn't made a serious mistake in not leaving the children with the Manager of Waitrose in South Woodford. Even more so when the Dartford crossing was all bunged up, and I almost cried when the pager came up with a "flew out to sea" message at about 1pm whilst still half an hour away. But crucially I continued rather than abort, and a quick call to Bradders established that it had come back and was sitting in a bush. I arrived on-site, found a space, and loaded up the buggy, a process which takes five minutes in itself - you can't just commando-roll out of the car with kids. A returning twitcher pointed the way, and off we set as fast as I could push. Halfway down the hill I noticed the guy 20 yards in front of me stop suddenly, and then heard a funny "Prrrrt" call. As one we turned and raised bins, and a funny-looking greeny-blue bird with a long tail projection flew past us and up the hill. Yay! Any further down the hill and we would have missed it. Indeed this is what happened to another twitcher who had arrived on-site at the same time as me, and had been running, and so was below the bird when it flew up. In this instance being burdened with a buggy and children turned out to have been rather fortunate. My views lasted all of about 20 seconds, and were poor against a bright sky, but it was enough. Euphoric, I cursed myself for being so slow to leave. On first news I would have spent an hour looking at it sat up in a Hawthorn, taken a few photos, and have been in a much better position to grip people off, but hey, sometimes you take what you can get, and this is one of those times.

We continued on down to the twitch in the hope it would return to the bush, but no joy. Back at the top of the hill an hour or so later, with my phone in total meltdown from East London-based birders wanting news, stacks of eager twitchers were arriving to find the bird gone. I may have been one of the last people to see it as it didn't get refound all day. So I am officially a jammy git. Three cheers to being unemployed! Here's hoping it flew off to the continent and will never grace these sunny shores again that it gets refound so all my mates can see it too ;-)

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