Muffin had a friend round to play today. In the two hours he was here, I learned the following:
"I don't like big sausages, I only like little ones"
"I hate milk"
"The table is dirty"
"The bed upstairs is dirty"
and my favourite
"Why is this house so messy?"
The answer to this last one is easy. It is that I am in charge, and I have very clear priorities. Clean the house or twitch a Lesser Kestrel? Sorry kiddo, you'll have to somehow cope for a couple of hours before you can return to domestic paradise. And you can eat the sausages or go hungry.
Suffolk it was then. I arrived at Westleton at around 11am, to learn that the bird had disappeared from view some twenty minutes previously. For all of the previous three hours it had been happily perched on a fence. You could have written it I suppose. I gave it an hour and a half in the drizzle, but there was no sign, and then a thick mist descended as it warmed up a bit. Pudding and I headed back to the car for lunch, and wondered what the plan was. Though it pained me, we decided to cut our losses and go home. Have I ever mentioned how much I loathe dipping?
In a black mood, I turned the car around and headed for London. This was always the risk with a twitch so far away - a very slim window of opportunity, and a non-negotiable deadline to be back in London for. I knew this before I started, so I have no-one to blame but myself. I had to leave by 1:15 at the very latest in order to make the school run. At five past one my phone rang. It was John A, and the bird was back, exactly where it had been before.... Then Bradders rang with the same news. So much for my [blank-screened] pager....
I turned around, and screamed back to the site. I legged it the few hundred yards up the track to the ridge where you could scope the bird from, and before collapsing in an immense coughing fit, had a peek through a kind man's scope. Whoever you are, thanks very much. I find that twitchers are always willing to let a newly arrived and clearly panicking birder to have a look through their scope for the initial "tick" view, just in case the target vanishes whilst a tripod is being set up. I was in agony, but managed to set up my own scope and get a decent view of the bird. In my brief look at it - a stunning adult male - I was amazed at how bright it seemed versus our own Kestrel. I had enough time to note the salient pattern on the back, wings and head, and that was it, I had to go back to the car. I never even saw it fly. Tick and run. My only feelings were of relief, not elation. Rubbish. Of course, I'd rather have had this brief view than nothing at all, but the absurdity and futility of what I had just done was not lost on me. Twitching is total crap sometimes. Sometimes it's great, but today, and despite the successful outcome, I didn't enjoy it one little bit.
I made it back to school with five minutes to spare, and was thus able to be insulted by a six year old for the remainder of the afternoon. Sweet.
One of these next please.