Every blog's first page seems to have to say where the idea came from...well this one is about 4 years old and stems from picking up a ringing mobile as I walked out of a meeting...it was Steve (Axe Valle Birding)... "Get in your car now...". The emphasis was on the now and after quickly saying to my boss "Umm just got to pop out to Tesco" I was on the 12 mile trek to my patch - the Axe Estuary in East Devon.
The drive was quick - following a brisk walk, not a run as some fellow locals sometimes do - & I was in a busy (10 people) Seaton hide where Karen (Wild Wild & Wandering) said "look down my scope" and there sat the UK' 4th Auduoins Gull.
I stayed for about 5 minutes ran back to the car and was back at the office within my hour break - luckily no-one noticed the lack of shopping bag - and that was the start of my lunchtime jaunts.
That makes me sound like a twitcher...not at all, a patch lister at times but genuinely a lover of cool birds and Audoins are certainly cool birds with sleepy eyes and sharp colours. To further defend that statement, take last Tuesday's pre-work rush...I hadn't been able to get to Seaton for our first White-rumped Sand on the Monday so I got clearance for an early Tuesday pass-by. Leaving my 14 year old to walk to the bus, I had 40 mins of light before having to set-off to work...would I be able to find it & not be late??
Walking out to the Tower Hide, it was worse than gloomy. Mist, light rain and a flat grey light didn't get my hopes up, and arriving at the hide to see the tide only just clearing mud really depressed me. Not a chance I thought. However a bit of luck and I found our minute Dunlin flock (normally <20 through the winter) in the distance, one of them looked dark chest and headed but was constantly walking away. A text from Steve (who was across the river) didn't raise my confidence '8 Dunlin' but I wasnt convinced.
Having wasted 20 minutes, I felt I had to go round to the other side (5 mins drive) and still had time. So a run back to the car (notice the running away from birds theme) and as heading round when a text from Steve '2 Snow bunts at Sailing Club'... aagh, a real local scarcity - only 3 records and I had missed 2 of them due to children. Not a moments hesitation it was Snow Bunting over W-R Sandpiper anyday and I was soon heading across the shingle to enjoy 2 stunning birds...love 'em! Still think I'm a true twitcher?
A proper full-blown run back to the car (now down to between 5-8 minutes before I needed to leave Seaton) and up along the other side of the river. I was telling myself, unless I could see any small waders right close by, it was straight to work.
Stop, jump out & 2 small waders just where I had last seen them from the hide. Scope from car, run across grass and lovely views of my only White-rumped Sandpiper since I found one as a 14 year old in the days they were a real rare. Amazing - wings sticking out the back like a swift. Tell Bun & Steve & straight off to work arriving cooly at 8:29. Out of wellies & into the office.
Great 40 mins birding - and luckily for me I had no knowledge all day that I was suffering slanderous comments untill 3pm as the Sandpiper had duly vanished...but luckily back it came & my name remained untarnished, for now...