It was another grim day yesterday as the wind continued to blow and the temperature inevitably dropped as the afternoon progressed into early evening. There was little incentive to go anywhere, so I did the honourable thing and dedicated the day to working on the wildlife book I'm designing at the moment.
Nothing much was happening around the county anyway, apart from the female Long-tailed Duck at Staines Reservoir and the Little Gull at Holmethorpe. Annie went off to her dance class and I went to pick her up at 7pm.
It was then I received a text from one of Surrey's wunderkind birders, Alex Bowe, who moniters his local patch at Wisley Airfield, Lake Boldermere and Ockham Common. He calls it WALBOC.
He'd been texting regular this week. He's had six Golden Plovers and a couple of Egyptian Geese during the day, but what came next was a bolt out of the blue. "MEGA WALBOC: STONE-CURLEW Yellow Marshes at 18.15. From pool in Yellow Marshes bird was at western end of marsh. Then flew and landed in field south of yellow marshes on right side of uphill grassy footpath leading out of marsh towards Hautboy where settled. Bird still present at 18.45 possibly set to remain overnight. Bird was photographed on deck and in flight."
Bloody nora. A Stone-curlew! I am, least anyone has forgotten, a relative birding novice and a Stone-curlew is a lifer for me, let alone for Surrey.
What to do. I had to wait for Annie and then take her back home. Another text arrived from Alex. The bird was still in the field.
It was getting late and the light wasn't good as it was so I had to make a snap decision - it takes 25 minutes without any holds ups to get to Wisley. If I was going to go I had to leave pretty soon. I rang David Campbell, more to see if he thought it was possible to make it in time apart from anything else. He reckoned I should go for it.
So I did.
After a mad dash down the motorway and 25 minutes I was driving along Ockham Lane, but I had absolutely no idea whereabouts the grassy footpath near Yellow Marshes was. After a number of calls to David and then to Alex I found the right place.
It was getting pretty dark by now and when I eventually met up with Alex and looked across the field, we could hardly make out blades of grass, let alone a Stone-curlew.
So we walked along the edge of the fence to the rough spot where the bird was last seen. Again, it was so dark we could see little.
Bugger. I wish I'd left half-an-hour earlier. It didn't look promising.
But then there was movement in the fading light. The Stone-curlew had taken to the air – probably spooked by our proximity. The bird flew along the field and banked, heading north along the treeline and then we lost sight of it. I thought it dropped down nearby, but by now it was too dark to go on a search.
We had to give it up for the night. Alex thought the bird looked quite tired, so there was a chance it might still be around at first light. These birds move at night so if it was feeling up to it, it would be gone by morning.
Alex searched the area this morning, but he found no sign of the Stone-curlew. But no matter. A fantastic patch bird for him – his best-ever – and I managed to catch a glimpse of a remarkable Surrey sighting. It was only a glimpse but for now that will do.