Monday, 23 December 2013

The only justifiable ivory trade

With the Pointless London List target becoming as achievable as England retaining the Ashes, it was inevitable that, given the chance, I would jump at going north for a certain high-Arctic waif visiting nearby to Britain's next City of Culture, Hull.

Imagine Hull as a City of Culture!

Being in Cambridge was not a problem as Jono, Monkey and Shaun had to pass nearby and so after standing out in the dark for a good 45 minutes listening to Robins they finally arrived and we were off.

Three hours later and we add another abandoned car to the impromptu car park on a small, muddy, farm road in the middle of nowhere on a very exposed part of Humber.  A mile slosh down the road to the haven where a good number of stalwarts are already trying to find as much shelter as possible, awaiting the enigmatic visitor from the arctic.  And we waited.  Had Monkey's dipping prowess travelled with him.  Shaun was already muttering, while it was hard to see what expression Jono was pulling, so wrapped up against the cold was he.  Phlegmatic as ever, I was enjoying myself.  Vast quantities of waders were throwing themselves around the estuary: clouds of Knot, Bar-tailed Godwit, Lapwing, Golden Plover, Curlew, and very few gulls.  A Peregrine idled by and took out out one of the waders and we waited. After an hour and a half it had to be said, it was not looking good.  The bird had changed its routine or gone.  Then someone in the ranks got a call, the bird had just passed over Sammy's Point, heading our way. As one scope, bins and cameras trained eastward and soon a bright white object was seen way over in the distance.  It got closer, weaving its way against the wind, but now definitely our bird.

It did a few little sorties round the tidal gate and then plonked itself on the fish platter provided by countless acolytes. Wow!  Far smarter than had imagined it.  Plumage like a Snowy Owl, built like a gull but with totally the wrong head.

It eyed us warily, having a drink now and then, after it finally decided we offered no threat, it started pecking at the fish. To think this bird had probably been following Polar Bear up until recently.

Then after about an hour, it decided enough of the prying eyes and it rose up and flew over onto the salt marsh where it was lost to view. Excellent. Job done and #400 for the Monkey, we congratulated ourselves on our ability to travel somewhere to see someone else's find and decided to seek the warmth of the car and go home.

It was still light so we hoofed it down to Eyebrook Reservoir, and a lesson in map reading for the Monkey as I got us there spot on. Here a rather smart male Velvet Scoter was showing well by the dam, amongst a smattering of Smew, a female Ring-necked Duck, which we half-heartedly searched for, and some Goldeneye.  A couple of Red Kite from the nearby Rockingham Forest re-introduction were also on show. By now the sun was dipping out in the south-west and its place was being taken by a rather ominous dark cloud, which promised deluge.  We scampered back to the car before that deluge hit.

Back in London by five after a journey of name the tune and impromptu air drumming by all members of the car except for Jonathan, it's not really his bag and he was driving.  Another good day, so a big thanks to the lads for the constant entertainment.  Surely that must be it for, what has been, a highly interesting year?

Or is it? News of a Stella's Eider of Mussleborough broke on the way home.  Now if that could just come a tad closer, Norfolk say!

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