Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Glossy start to the year

It's traditional to go out birding on New Year's Day. A dawn start on the North Norfolk coast is always a good cure for a hangover!

And so it was that at 11am I finally crawled out of bed. Nothing to do with last night's celebrations and more to do with the generous dose of sedation I had pumped into me at the hospital yesterday.
The weather outside was frightful, as the song goes. No....that would be a huge understatement. It was a howling, blustering, chilling, drenching gale. There was no way I was going anywhere in that! So I sat by the patio window with my binoculars, but after five minutes my yearlist was still on a big fat zero. Even our winter birds weren't coming out to play today.
So out came the big guns - the scope. Surely the lapwings and golden plovers would still be in the back field, hunkering down in the wind....nope.
And so it was that, by midday on the first day of 2014, I accumulated a list of ONE bird species, Black-headed Gull. (For those non-birdwatchers reading this, the chickens, guineafowl, ducks and geese I keep don't count).

Even if I wanted to go out somewhere, the carpetman was coming to measure up 'in the afternoon' so I resolved to spend the first day of 2014 doing absolutely nothing.
But the carpetman came early and I was getting extremely twitchy stuck indoors. The weather was not laying off, but I decided that a Glossy Ibis just down the road at Deeping Lakes Nature Reserve was too good a bird to ignore. Besides, it was supposedly in a field by the car park, so we could do this bird without even exposing ourselves to the winter wind and rain. Perfect.

Now it's not many years ago that I drove overnight to Devon to see a Glossy Ibis. In those days they were genuinely rare and hard to catch up with. But since then the Iberian population of Ibises has more and more frequently sent intrepid explorers northwards to our shores in the autumn, often in small flocks. This is inexplicable. Why would an essentially Mediterranean species, however successful, decide to fly here for the winter? And why, on a day like today, would one not just turn straight back round and fly back?

Anyway, we got to the car park and there it was, mooching around on its lanky legs probing its bill deep into the soggy ground. I don't even try to be a bird photographer, but I stuck my phone up to my telescope and clicked away, without much success!

I did actually get out of the car and it wasn't a very comfortable experience. In fact I spent quite a while trying to figure out a rather strange looking wigeon too. I wasn't helped by the driving rain, the wind buffeting my scope around and the bird being pretty far off and only visible through a bush, appearing for a few seconds in a small gap before disappearing behind an island for large amounts of time. It clearly seemed to have some blood from an American Wigeon. I'd guess about a quarter, but such guesswork is pretty pointless when it comes to figuring out the parentage of hybrid birds. If a genuine American Wigeon is reported from Deeping Lakes Nature Reserve in the next week or two, I'll be kicking myself for not putting more effort in.

Well, at least I got out of the house on New Year's Day.

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