But it was entirely my own fault. Twitching, you see? No good can come from it. I went down on Thursday morning in the insane belief I could get a filthy tick-and-run before promising to spend the afternoon with Annie on a warm summer's day. And I had to pick her up after work. If I was late she would have to wait, and she doesn't like to do that for too long if I have been twitching...
|A Whimbrel – but not the Whimbrel
As it was, I had lots of stress attempting to drive like Lewis Hamilton on my way back home, and having not achieved my goal prior to the attempt it was a miserable experience. Thankfully, the rest of the day was great. Sun, food, banter, alcohol, sleep. As it should be.
What the hell was I thinking driving all that way for a few minutes? But that was the issue. I wasn't thinking at all.
And I didn't think much on Sunday. A Black-eared Wheatear sprouted at Acre Down in the New Forest on Saturday and I thought I'd give it a go on Sunday morning. I got up later than hoped but set off, with a stop for breakfast at Cobham on the M25.
The Wheatear, predictably, had gone but it meant I could divert attention to the Yank Whimbrel. Surely this would be straightfoward. But no.
I got down to Church Norton by 9.30 and soon met up with a pair of birders I hope to meet up with again in the future. Actually, the highlight of the day was meeting some great people. Simon and Neil Payne for Northamptonshire (Rushden, to be precise) were great company as were Simon Hudson (we named the Hudsonian Whimbrel 'Simon' in his honour) and his mate Terry (sorry mate, I may have got you name wrong but you are in the photo below if you could put me right), as well as another guy for Holland Haven who's name may have been Adrian Goring, but my memory is rubbish.
|The Hudsonian Whimbrel twitching gang
Arriving at 9.30 was the wrong time of day for sure, as the tide was coming in and high tide arrived at 10.15. The Hudsonian Whimbrel was seen flying towards North Wall, where a number of birders had migrated to and were lucky enough to see it. For the majority of us over at the Church Norton end of the reserve all we could do was watch the birders on the North Wall through our scopes enjoying views we couldn't have.
Eventually the tide began to go out further and the flock of Whimbrel and Curlew (with the Hudsonian Whimbrel amongst them) flew back towards us but on to the grass island that had emerged about 300 yards away. Whatever interest there was in this course of events diminished immediately when it dawned on everyone these birds were feeding in deep vegetation and so only fleeting views of heads and beaks were seen.
|An arrow clearly showing where the Hudsonian Whimbrel was
And then there was a sound of an engine buzzing in the distance...
A Micro-Lite was heading our way. I jockingly started waving at it to come over, and it duly did! Still quite high though, but it would be the best chance to flush these birds to get things moving.
Suddenly, birds were taking to the air and eventually the Hudsonian Whimbrel was spotted circling back towards the island and it duly turned to show its rump and the lack of white confirmed it to be the bird in question. I saw all this through my bins.
It then landed back in the undergrowth. I had to leave as it was getting horribly late. At least I got to see the damn thing, but hardly worth the wait.
Predictably, an hour later it marched out on to the mud for everyone present to have great views. It is still showing well each day as I write this but I don't think I'll make the effort to go down again.
Where to next time? Well, unless something unbelievably good appears within an hour's drive away, it would be nice to enjoy local birding and Thursley Common looks a great place to visit at the moment. Obliging Hobbys, Redstarts, Dartford Warblers, Tree Pipits and Woodlarks.
Sounds like a proper day's birding.