The brilliance of bird watching is that you never know what's going to happen. Equally, a really shitty thing about bird watching is you never know what's going to happen.
Take this week for example. Longham Lakes is a solid patch with a great number of decent birds but it rarely (ho ho) gets anything that's astonishingly rare. Sure it's had some megas in the past, but in general it was starting to feel like last year's Great White Egrets were going to be the highlights of my patching there.
|Common Sandpipers were still present. This is a heavy crop but holds up well.|
Frustratingly, I was carless as my daughter and wife were scouting universities whilst I looked after our youngest. Thursday was even worse as my competitor Martin not only saw the Bonaparte's but also a Red-Rumped Swallow of all things. Both are firsts for the site.
|Another dull pic of the island. I thought this was a Yellow Legged Gull, but it's a Lesser Black-Backed Gull.|
Hoping only gets you so far and when I went into work the next day there were already reports that the Swallow had long gone. So then you sit there thinking 'what if the Bonaparte's goes as well', 'will I know what it looks like', 'what if I never see one on patch again'. You convince yourself of the worse and the day drags for an eternity.
|A quite frankly awful shot of a Reed Warbler. Still, it's a new bird for the patch this year.|
"Have you seen the Bonaparte's?" I asked, a little desperation creeping into my voice. "He was over there a minute ago," was the reply. I looked over there and I didn't see it. I looked again and there was nothing. I desperately scanned the skies and the North Lake but all I saw were the black heads of summer Black-Headed Gulls mocking me.
|What a cracking bird. The Bonaparte's Gull in all its glory.|
"I called out to another fellow birder who was also scanning the gulls. "That's the Bonaparte's right?", I literally whispered. "That's right, the pink legs are the giveaway," can the wonderful reply. "I soaked the bird up, marvelling at its colouration and the thought that the little bugger had crossed the North Atlantic Ocean to get here.
|A comparison shot with a Black-Headed Gull. The Bonaparte's is on the right.|
I didn't get it, but I did see five Reed Warblers, another new bird for the patch, as well as several House Martins hawking after the midges that swarmed the area. Plopping down next to another birder who was looking for the Swallow, we explained pleasantries and he informed me that I'd just missed four Shelducks. Bugger...
I'm now on 68 birds. Getting very close to passing last year's target.
|It's a fair crop, but still looks nice :)|
|Bonaparte's Gull in flight. The underneath of the wings is a good way to distinguish it from the Black-Headed.|