Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Short-billed Dowitcher in Dorset

At just before midnight last night my pager started wailing and my phone vibrating.

New photos published late established the identity of the Dowitcher down in Dorset. Trouble was, it hadn't been seen all afternoon yesterday and was clearly very elusive.
I almost drove down to Weymouth there and then, but decided to wait for news in the morning. A few years ago I would definitely have been on my way at midnight!

Wednesday 5th September 2012
Happy birthday Mum!

As the sun rose, I still didn't know if I was heading for Dorset today.

By 7:30 the bird's continued presence was confirmed, and I was still on the farm over four hours away. I decided to play it cool, feed the animals and prepare myself for the journey.

By 11 o'clock I was here...

Parked on the M25 - the old stomping ground.
Couldn't be much different to where we are now.

Sitting on the good old M25! The bird hadn't been seen since just before 8 and I still had half my journey to go. It was begining to feel like an act of desperation. If the bird didn't play ball, I would be doing the same route overnight on Friday for another go. But I have a saying. Never turn back from a lifer, so on I went down the M3 and along the South coast, finally pitching up at just gone 1 o'clock, some 5 hours since the bird had last been seen. I was due back in Holbeach St John's at 7 for a talk on the archaeology of the area. This was of real interest to me, as we live on the site of old Roman salt workings. I was unlikely to make this now. Sue would have to attend on her own. She is very understanding when it comes to my birding!

It's a strange old hobby, twitching. Every few months or so you meet a group of friends and acquaintances from across the country. You don't know where or when it will be until it happens. And so I pulled up in the car park just behind an Essex birder I know who, within a couple of minutes, received a phone call that the bird had just been seen. Panic! Run around like a headless chicken trying to find which way to go. Meet other headless chickens. All follow each other. Until we got here...

The bird was, apparently, skulking around in those sedges just across the first patch of water.
It doesn't always happen, but I do have a rather annoying habit of turning up just as long absent birds reappear. Within fifteen minutes the pressure was off. I had seen the bird well enough to get all the ID clinchers. Further patience as it gave occasional, fleeting views through a small gap in the vegetation, but eventually it did come out into the open in good late afternoon light. I'm not equipped with the right gear for taking piccies of birds, but I tried putting the camera up to the scope and I did get this...

It's the bird at the back,
a Short-billed Dowitcher!
Under the water is, in fact, a pretty long bill.
But the key ID features are at the other end of the bird.
Four and a half hours later I was back on my fenland smallholding. Mission accomplished. 

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