Friday, 25 September 2009

So near, and yet so very far

The news is out by now and no one cares any more, but I was there, man. I was THERE. And I missed the goddamn Puffin by about a minute.

I am of course talking about Rainham Marshes on Wednesday, where Parus and I toddled down to in the fairly vain hope that the weekend's Rainham megas might be symptomatic of some kind of run of decent birds. As it turned out, we were painfully correct. The chronicle of events was thus:
  1. We arrived
  2. We decided not to have a cup of tea
  3. We got to about halfway between the bus stop and the cordite store
  4. Parus' radio starting spouting some crazy nonsense about some kind of Auk flying past on the Thames
  5. We legged it back up the path to the visitor's centre
  6. Parus' radio spouted some crazy nonsense about the Auk being some kind of Puffin
  7. We legged it even harder down the sea wall
  8. We were told by the guys seawatching that the Puffin had done its bit and was now a tiny black speck 2 miles away under Dartford bridge.
That black speck was invisible to both my camera and Parus' 25x eyepiece, and pretty soon was lost to sight by everyone else as well - we'd missed it by about a minute. Fortunately the bird was positively ID'd by 3 very reliable birders as a juve regular Puffin and definitely not a Tufted, so we only missed a major Thames rarity and not a Western Palearctic rarity. We stood there for 45 minutes to see if the tide brought it back down the river, but it was a hopeless cause.

You can see, I hope, how not having a cup of tea cost us dearly. With a cup of tea we'd have been sat up in the centre for another 10 minutes, and would only have been 30 seconds down the seawall when the Puffin turned up. We'd have been able to run down the wall with the excellent Howard, who by all accounts got a very good view, and who would most likely have put us straight onto it.

The lesson here is quite plain - never turn down the opportunity for a cup of tea or the gods of tea will be angered and will punish you by stealing your ticks from under your very nose.

We took a wander round the reserve afterwards, but it wasn't the same. A large tit flock full of Long Tailed Tits was entertaining for a short while. A Kestrel in front of the Ken Barret hide made a decent showing. The energy was gone though, and we called it a day before too long. Seeing a Kingfisher heading up and down the border ditch on the way back was scant consolation, but it was a consolation. Great birds.

I'm going to stop thinking about this now before it all gets too depressing. Have some pictures.



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