Sunday, 22 December 2013

Pigeon Post

I thought it was over. It wasn't. It ain't over 'til it's over. This year has been astonishing. Amazing. I've seen a fraction of what's been on offer, but the quality has been right up there. When I tell you I've been to East Yorkshire..... What a bird. What. A. Bird. Never in a million years did I think I'd ever see an Ivory Gull. The other day when two turned up in Northumberland I began to vaguely change my mind, and when we got to bird number six on the Humber last weekend I thought that maybe, just maybe I was in with a chance. Unfortunately preoccupied since its arrival, today was my first chance and I decided to take it. Another silly o' clock start after an all too short sleep, and the Monkey, Shaun and I hit the road. We picked up Nick in Cambridge, and after a customary healthy breakfast arrived on site at around 8am.

No sign. It wasn't looking good. Could I have made a fatal error in bringing the Dipmonkey? He has never seen a single target bird in East Yorkshire, and it looked like he was about to add to the list. All birds have to go sometime, and when I heard that people had been using flashguns on it yesterday my heart sank. We milled about. We moped. Monkey kicked a few stones. And then some bloke said it had been seen past Sammy's Point. In unison a hundred blokes swung their scopes eastwards, and sure enough, away in the distance a pure white gull shone out. Gradually it came closer and closer, enough to be sure it was "The boy". As it came in from the bay and across the marsh I abandoned my scope and took up position on the bank near the pumping station. It came around, circled the building a couple of times, and then plonked down in the fish-laced grass.

Half Gull, half Pigeon, but still, what a cracker! My positioning, whilst not perfect, did at least see me closest to the bird than most if not all of those there, and I enjoyed the most amazing views for probably 40 minutes. Although it did feed, it appeared relatively nervous - not worried enough to get up and go, but alert enough that you could tell it wasn't entirely at ease. Luckily the crowd were superb, nobody moved, nobody crawled, nobody shouted, or stood up suddenly - presumably everyone as awestruck as I was.

It had a final wash in a puddle, and then took off for the estuary. And then the crowd went wild! Not really, this was a group of green-clad middle-aged men. But the delight and pleasure was palpable. For Monkey, this was bird #400, and I remember all too well how pleased I was to have finally got there earlier this year. Some obligatory high-fives, a bit of chimping, and then back to the car. A fabulous experience, and a privilege to see this Arctic gem. One of the best birds this year, and there have been a lot.

Not a huge amount more to tell. We broke up the trip about halfway with an attempt at Velvet Scoter photography, and met The Leicester Llama coming away. Couldn't think of his internet handle at the time, nor his actual name, so just asked him eloquently if he was that painter bloke, which he was able to confirm. If he thought I was looking at him strangely, I was, and it was because my brain was attempting to kick into gear and failing. Gave us some useful gen, so cheers for that, although unfortunately the Scoter never came close in before the light went followed by the heavens opening. And who should we meet on the track to it but Mick and Richard out on another jolly! Who knew that Spurn to Dungeness takes less than two hours!? They had been for the Gull too, over the course of two days, and then today had obviously got lost on the way to Dunge and somehow arrived in Leicestershire. Didn't get any of the photos of the Scoter, but what the hell, a great day nonetheless.

Cheers for the company lads, your musical knowledge is highly impressive, if slightly dodgy, and as for the air drumming, amazing talent. Some fearsome weather on the way back, but we made it and it goes down as yet another highly worthwhile day twitching in 2013, the year that keeps on giving.


  1. Nice to meet you today, Jono. I did think you were looking at me slightly strangely, but I was also racking my brains wondering whether I knew you and had forgotten your name! Terrible thing, getting old. The scoter does seem to have become less confiding recently, but it really has been just a few feet off the dam at times. Sounds like you had a good day anyway. Cheers, Andy.

  2. And you Andy, at least I remembered the painting first, rather than your other persona! cheers, Jono

  3. You must've been right next to us Jonno, and yet went unID'ed in all the excitement. The Guillemot's still here by the way if you need it - it lives in the seawatch hut and eats mushy peas.

  4. I was thinking that too when I saw your photos! However I was so wrapped up only my eyes were showing, which probably explains it! A top quality experience even though I dipped you.