I've had a bit of a lull since the Long-tailed Skua at Selsey Bill a couple of weeks back, and last Thursday didn't look like a day to break the interval.
Easterly winds in recent days had given the autumn migration a bit of bite. On Tuesday, a decent number of scarce migrants dropped in on the east coast. Thursday was no exception.
I was down in Margate to take my mum to an appointment and to see my dad in the home he's staying in. Annie came with me, and the way the day developed there seemed little chance of a wander down to the seafront.
I don't want to wish my life away, but it would be so much easier if I was ten years older and enjoying retirement rather than enduring the frustration of work and family commitments. Unfortunately, I'm 55, and have too many commitments. This is a situation that is going to continue for a few years yet.
But I never let that put me off when I see a glint of light to see a decent bird. As is often the case I spend a crafty few minutes while working in an office or sitting in a hospital waiting room scrolling through Rare Bird Alert on my phone.
Thursday was one such moment. There was a decent chance something might appear by the seafront, or long the cliffs towards Foreness Point.
And so it did. Well, actually, they did – and all within a two-mile radius from where I was sitting. A Barred Warbler was seen earlier during the morning (showing well, obviously) in scrub by the Walpole Bay Hotel in Margate and, within about a quarter of a mile from my parents house, a Wryneck had been flushed at Palm Bay School. Also, by the Bethesda Medical Surgery a Pied Flycatcher, Redstart and a few Whinchat were flying around.
I had to wait until the late afternoon before taking a slight detour on the way home. I made a b-line to the Walpole for the Barred Warbler. A few other birders turned up, including Surrey Bird Club's Andy Pickett, who I didn't recognise at first.
The Warbler had been seen a couple of hours earlier, but there was clearly nothing doing. A Wryneck had also reported in the same plot of scrub – probably the Palm Bay bird, but that didn't show either.
It didn't look worth hanging around for so Annie and I began walking back up the seafront passed the Bethesda Medical Centre. Stood with a giant lens attached to his camera, was another birder focusing on the medical centre's car park. A promising vista.
Good news. A Wryneck (probably the same bird) had been seen making its way down the edge of the grass in the bushes.
It hadn't been seen for at least an hour, and then after a few minutes, hey presto, movement in the bushes and out hopped the Wryneck. What a fantastic bird. It was very happy feeding along the edge of the kerb picking out insects in between the small gaps between the bricks. It liked hopping under cars in the medical centre car park, too. I dashed back to Andy and the other two birders outside the hotel to let then know the Wryneck was showing well.
While we waited, out on the grass in front of us at rear of the centre a female Redstart appeared, plus a handful of Wheatear and a couple of Whinchat. As Andy pointed out, it isn't every day you see a Wryneck, Redstart and Whinchat feeding in the same field of vision. A really satisfying sight.
Annie had never seen a Wryneck before, and even she was excited to see it. She liked its reptilian look and the fact it was a bird with character. She also liked the Redstart for the same reason. Birds with personality. Frustratingly I didn't have my scope with me and my camera failed to work, so I had to rely on my binoculars – which was fine as it was quite close – and my iphone, which proved a bit pointless.
In all we saw the Wryneck, Redstart, at least four Whinchat and about 10 Wheatear, all within the boundaries of a seaside town doctors' surgery. This wouldn't happen in Surrey...