29th May to 2nd June fresh to gale N Mostly cloudy with drizzle but also very intense thunder storm on the morning of the 31st of May. And we call this Summer!
29th May to Minsmere
So after a rest at Dave's bungalow at Brandon and with antibiotics to hopefully get rid of my sinus problem, I set off for Minsmere RSPB reserve. A purple heron has been seen there and obviously that would be a really good bird to get. I have never seen one whilst cycling so it would be a '16' bird. That is one of the 16 I need over last year's 289 in order to get beyond Ponc Feliu's European record of 304.
Cycling towards Thetford the smallest of grass snakes is on the road in front of me. I stop but this tiny ribbon of a snake has gone.
Now in 29 months of Biking Birding ( 12 in 2010, 12 in 2015 and 5 this year), I have only seen two dead snakes along the road. Now I see two within the next ten miles, both adders. Shame. More 'car-nage'.
Late afternoon, I arrive at the Island Mere hide. Bittern coming regularly past to access it's nest beside the hide in the reeds. She comes out and lands just yards in front and parades through short reeds.
Marsh harriers and bearded tits, the savi's warbler reels once more over the far side of the mere.
The evening is cool with a northerly breeze. Darkness falls. Four young people arrive, four members of the fabulous Next Generation Birders; Jess, Jake, Drew and Dan. In the dark they have come to try to hear the savi's at the end of a birding day that started at Spurn, Humberside. How brilliant is it when one meets four driven birders of such passion? Long may the NGBs have such people.
Early morning, and by that I mean 4:00am, I am up and hoping that a purple heron will come out of the reeds. After an hour it hasn't when two photographers arrive and tell me that it was seen in front of the Bittern hide last night. I wait.
6:30am – I move around to the Bittern hide.
7:10am – the purple heron flies in front of the Island Mere hide.
7:30am – I return to the Island Mere hide.
18:00 – Purple heron!
Those intervening ten and a half hours I spent sitting in the same chair mostly with a fourteen yr old birder-photographer, Harry. My reaction to getting purple heron on the year list was euphoric. Well it would be wouldn't it after waiting so long? I danced around the hide, I fist thumped, I shouted!
Harry had arrived at the hide with one of his Dad's friends, Dave. Both had great photographic equipment and as Dave went off to explore the reserve, Harry stayed behind to try to get a lifer for himself, the purple heron.
The hide was full for most of the day due to the presence of BBC's Springwatch. It seemed funny when people's telescopes were trained on the three presenters during their rehersals in the afternoon.
Bitterns, marsh harriers and bearded tits gave views all day yet the best, before the rare heron, occurred when an otter swam around in the middle of the mere. It was fishing and caught a number of small fish which were immediately eaten. This wonderful male thought it was a dolphin and breeched a number of times as he dove deep. The sound of gasps and delighted exclamations from the crowd was brilliant, especially from a very excited small boy next to me with his sisters and Mum and Dad. I love seeing children enjoying nature.
The crowd thinned as the evening approached but I wasn't going to leave my spot. I had been told where the purple heron had landed earlier in the day, a spot way off to the west deep in the reedbed, and despite the jokes that it could have walked to Ipswich by now, I waited.
Grey herons kept coming out of the reeds, flying a short distance in the northerly gale.
Then a darker-looking heron came out.
I shouted, “There it is!” I changed my mind, “no it isn't.” Looked again all in a split second as my final cry confirmed to everyone still present that the purple heron was indeed flying. “It is the purple!”
With everyone now on the bird, the special one flew around in the distance before coming a lot closer and landing in the reeds opposite the hide.
Up again and off towards the bittern hide, Harry and I went there and met a BBC producer who was coordinating a nest search for the programme.
Harry's Dad, Dave and the friend Dave arrived with sausage rolls and doughnuts for all.
Purple heron, bird number 249 and such a good one to get.
The day starts early once more with a loud thunderstorm accompanied by intense rainfall. The water is coming in despite the hide shutters of the East Hide being shut.
Two birders come in to shelter at around six. Ian from Watford describes how he has had six holes cut into his skull in order to remove a brain abscess.
Simon is the geography master at Harrow school who talks about his experience of being in Sri Lanka on a school trip when the tsunami hit their holiday resort.
Why stay in a watch TV when one can be out meeting the real deal fascinating characters?
A couple of RSPB staff come in to bird and enthral the crowd of three. A first summer little gull is out on the scrape and the adult long-tailed drake. Now what on earth is he doing here and in six inches of water?
I spend the morning circumnavigating the scrape before heading off for lunch.
4:30pm, a text from the oracle – greenish warbler at Lowestoft.
7:30pm, I am in the corner of a sports field with a few other more local birders.
Dark falls – no greenish. Oh well, there's always tomorrow.
Greenish warbler on the list . . . bird number 250!
I am about to set off towards Lincolnshire when a text tells of a Kentish plover fifty miles to the south in Felixstow.
Forty-five miles later the news is negative, the bird has flown and hasn't been seen for a couple of hours.