Saturday, 4 December 2010

The Birding Gods Smiled Down...

Saturday morning is when I do the weekly supermarket shop. This particular chore has fallen to me for several years now and I actually don't find it too onerous. At the same time it also accrues vital Brownie Points and well all know what Brownie Points make - that's right, birding! Anyway, I was just heading off to the supermarket when I got a text from Badger saying that he'd just found a glaucous gull at Appleford Pit. To be honest, my heart sank on the news.: not only was I tied up with shopping chores for the next hour and a half but Appleford can be a very hard place to track down individual gulls as there are so many places that they can go. There is a very nice pit (the Spit Pit) from which birds can easily be viewed but if the target bird isn't there then it's either a distant blob in some field somewhere around or it's on the tip itself or one of the satellite pits. These last two locations are inaccessible to your average birder though our esteemed county recorder Ian Lewington (whose patch Appleford is) has special access rights. When the Azorean yellow-legged gull turned up at Appleford last year it took a number of visits before I finally managed to see it. Knowing all this I wasn't feeling overly optimistic about my chances. Indeed I didn't even hurry over my shopping and positively dawdled on my way home. It was only as I pulled in the drive and I got a text from Badger saying that the bird was still there that I started to contemplate actually going for it. Having even unpacked the shopping (which is usually my VLW's job) I decided to cash in the Brownie Points and told my VLW that I was heading off to a rubbish pit to look for a single gull amongst thousands. She just shook her head pityingly and said nothing.

It was some half an hour later that I pulled up besides three other cars next to the Spit Pit. When birding the Pit its generally a good idea to remain in the car as you can put up the birds if you're not careful. Also given the freezing temperatures staying in the car was a sound move! I therefore manoeuvred the car next to Badger's and through wound-down windows I discovered that the bird was still there standing on one of the banks. I soon found it, a whacking great white thing which really stood out from the throng. I hurriedly set about trying to get my tripod positioned for some digiscoping which is not so easy within the confines of the car. However whilst I was still struggling with this task the bird took off, did one circuit of the pit and then flew away. I realised that I'd managed to arrive with just minutes to spare and I'd been very lucky to catch up with it. The Birding Gods were indeed smiling down on me today!

As I'd not been able to photograph the gull itself I thought that I would take a background shot of the Spit Pit, with the tip behind it and Didcot power station at the back. Most scenic!

Fortunately Ian Lewington took these excellent images of the bird, a second winter, earlier in the day which he's kindly allowed me to reproduce here (c) Ian Lewington

Now you all may be wondering about the big fuss over what is not such a rare bird but during the three years that I've been birding in the county there have not been any twitchable glaucous gulls so this was in fact a county tick for me. Pathetic I know but I was most pleased to have laid this bogey bird to rest.

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