Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Oh You Little Bustard! They think it's all over...It is now!!

Yesterday evening Sue headed for Rye, East Sussex, to see the New Year in with an old friend. So there was a sense of irony when, in the morning, a Little Bustard was found in... yes, you've guessed it...Rye.
Little Bustards used to make fairly regular appearances in this country when the continent froze over, but since I've been seriously birding there's only been a couple and they've not hung around long enough for me even to climb into my car.
Yesterday's bird was no exception, flying off never to be seen again by another soul except the lucky finder.
However, I still had a sneaky suspicion that I might just end up following Sue down to the South-East.

And so I awoke early this morning, the last morning of 2014. I had a vague plan to start up the rotavator and plough up the frozen ground to extend some of the flower and herb borders. I flung open the curtains and was somewhat surprised to see this...

It was far away across the fields, but it certainly was a big blaze. Maybe somebody was trying to warm their hands, for everthing else was decidedly cold again this morning.

On with the rotavating.
Usually this would be impossible at this time of year, as the tines would just clog up with clods of clay. But the ground has been frozen for days now. In fact, I couldn't even break through the ice on the sheep's water with my welly this morning. As long as I could break through the surface, I should be able to get a lot achieved today.

A new flower and shrub border
The rotavator started up first time and made fairly quick work of the borders. It was tough going for me, as a fair bit of muscle was needed to penetrate the frozen surface and my hands were slowly getting chilblains. 
An extension to the herb bed.

And then it happened... Little Bustard!   In Yorkshire!!!
Again, it came through as a 'probable' which had flown off, but then, just before midday, news that it had been relocated, in flight... at 11:07.
I really couldn't quite decide what to do, so I got the cats in, put the turkeys back in the stables, gave the chickens an early afternoon feed and awaited further news. I knew that it could take up to 3 hours to get there and that bustards have a habit of flying long distances and getting lost in crops. But a phone call made it sound as if this Little Bustard might have settled down, at least for a while. I threw everything in the car and started the mad dash.

Several times on the long journey news came through that the bustard was still standing in the same field. But it only takes one thing, a dog walker, a plane, a low flying raptor or just a random decision to fly and that could be it, all over. With ten miles to go, I'd been through a pager dead zone and had no news for almost an hour. I rang someone on site and was reassured that it was still being watched.
The bird was along a single track road which led to the coast just south of Bridlington and there was no shortage of cars heading the other way. But no ground was given and I edged past them, making full use of the verges! I could see cars abandoned along the road and a distant line of twitchers gazing down their scopes. I just kept driving until I was right on site. I jumped out of the car and ran to a friend's scope and there it was. After sixteen years of birding, finally a Little Bustard. Sorry, no photos, but just imagine something that looks like a cross between a pheasant, a chicken and a turkey. But rarer! Much rarer!

There's a bustard in this field!!
My apologies, but the phone camera somewhat gave up
the ghost as I'd exhausted the batteries using it as my SatNav.
Who would have thought this morning that I would have ended up here today!

Fraisthorpe beach

All that remained, after admiring the bird and catching up with a few distant friends, was the drive back to belatedly lock the chickens and ducks away.

Let's hope that 2015 begins just as well as 2014 has ended.


  1. On one occasion my wife and I travelled 250 miles to visit my brother (a very keen birder) and his wife to be in Cornwall . Thirty minutes after arriving he took a phone call and then took off and we never saw him for the rest of the day.

    Anyway back to horticulture. Did you rotovate the grass in or did you lift the turf first. Did it work?

  2. Yes, we birders do tend to disappear at a moment's notice!!
    As for extending the borders, I used to take out the turf but it's a very big job. So this time I applied glyphosate weedkiller to the grass and rotavated it when it was well and truly dead. I try to minimise use of chemicals, but this was so much easier. I'll sort out the edges during the year.


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