All done. 300th bird in the bag yesterday. All done, no more hooning it round the country, I'm staying local from now on. American Bittern?! Where, where!!?
I've been resisting the Glossy Ibis at Welney all week, as yesterday I had plans to go to Cambridge with the kids anyway, there to leave them with Grandma for the afternoon. As it happened, by 10am there was no news on the Ibis, just my luck that it appeared to have gone. However there was news on two Grey Phalaropes and an American Golden Plover at Cley. Both filthy year ticks. I felt I probably had the time.....
Predictably as soon as I was committed to the North Norfolk coast route, positive news on the Ibis came out......Not to worry, get it on the way back, I was sure I'd still have the time. I'd MAKE the time!
Got to Cley with no fuss, payed my subs (in case you were wondering), and started looking for the Plover. Loads of European Goldies, but I could not pick out the AGP. Being strong of will and sound of mind, I gave up and trekked out to north hide for the Phalaropes. The first thing I saw when I entered the hide was a West Ham hat. The hat turned round, and it was Marco, a familiar site from Wanstead Flats. What were the chances? Had I known.... Anyway, we had a bit of a chat whilst I looked at the Phals (#298) - the two feeding together in the same scope view - and then I went off for a second crack at the Plover.
I gave it another hour or so, possibly not even that long, at which point the entire flock got up and flew west. If the past few days were anything to go by, they were off to feed on the freshly-exposed mud in Blakeney harbour, so naturally I followed them. I was about to sling the car in the harbour carpark when I noticed that a man wanted £3 from me. To park my car in a puddle. I found alternate (yet considerate) parking.
Tell you what, if you did a days birding on the North Norfolk coast and birded all the traditional sites, and paid for parking everywhere you went, you'd end up with very little change out of a twenty. Cley Coastguards, Blakeney, Lady Anne's Drive, and worst of all, Wells Woods - rip-off merchants the bloody lot of them. I hate paying for parking. I'd pay 50p, or perhaps even £1, but when every single place wants £3 or more, well they can take a collective hike. Thieves.
Pleased with my success at avoiding funding whoever owns the carpark, I trotted out along the beach path. I soon found the flock of Goldies, stretched out in a long line along the mud, and started scanning from one end. Fifth bird in I found it. I kid you not, it took perhaps thirty seconds. I wasn't entirely sure, my experience of this species being one adult in Kent a couple of years ago, so I kept on it and compared other nearby Plovers, Grey and Golden. Continued grilling convinced me I had struck gold, so to speak, but once some other birders turned up I still sought a second opinion. Happily I was right. Better than looking like a muppet I always think, of which I have extensive experience. #299.
Next stop Welney. Not a lot to say really. I had looked up the spot on the satellite view, so stopped by the exact field and there it was. Bins not even needed. Twitching isn't really overly skillful is it? I know that diminishes my achievement - if indeed you can call it that - of seeing 300 birds in a year, but I'm afraid it's true. Twitching is basically being able to read a map, and drive somewhere.
Whilst I was getting my fill of Ibis, a man in a truck pulled up and cast his critical eye over the field. At first I though he was an interested passer-by, but when he said "I'm here to pick up that dead cow." I realised that probably wasn't the case. "What dead cow?" I replied? "That black and white one!" he indicated. I had been bird-watching rather than cow-watching, but he did have a point, it wasn't looking too great. How exciting, a dead cow! We could watch, morbidly fascinated, as he somehow winched it into his truck! Gosh, isn't twitching fun! Where, I wondered, would he attach the rope? I scoped up the cow, looking for holes, hooks etc.
It was breathing.
Dead cows don't normally breathe do they? No, thought not. Much as it would have been hugely funny to watch the man drive his truck up to a perfectly alive cow, attempt to winch it into a truck, and then jump back in considerable surprise as it sprung up and attempted to gore him or something, I felt it was best to tell him.
"Er, it's not dead."
"That cow, it's not dead, it's breathing."
"No, it's dead."
I invited him to look in my scope, at which point it raised its head and had a bit of a look about.
"Ah, so it is. Must have the wrong field."
So he got into his truck and drove off, the cow went back to sleep, and we continued looking at the Ibis. Anyway, any Ibis twitchers that saw the bird today have me to thank, as I prevented it being flushed by a man in a truck driving round the field and molesting sleeping cows until he chanced upon one a dead one.
So, #300. Hurrah! No more twitching for me! See you in Cornwall! Er, I mean, have a nice time in Cornwall, losers!!