Nipped down to Cley on Monday as it would be only the third time I would have seen the Western Sandpiper. To begin with was in the kind of mood where I didn’t want to ID anything, just went out with bins and walking along the bank, Gulls were gulls, waders, waders – it was kind of mellow but as I got into Dawkes the day took on a larger significance.
The Dawkes Hide was full and brimming with birders all armed to with the latest camera equipment. As I squeezed into a little corner I was delighted to be joined by Bryan Bland who I hadn’t seen for some time. For anyone who doesn’t know Bryan, in a nutshell he looks a little bit like God or perhaps how you would imagine Pythons Brian to look when he was older. I’ve found that with these slightly reverred figures of Norfolk birding the best ploy is to keep your mouth shut and they will start talking to you. And so it was, Bryan had recently returned from India and this was only the second time he had seen the Western. I was able to fill him in on the whole epic tale – the ID initially of Semi-P followed by the reID, the twists and turns that the online discussion had taken, the significance that this was a first for Norfolk. Brian in turn told me the full story about Felixstowe, Rainham and the whole past history that has now become associated with this bird. And talking to him, the experience of the birding scene he’s had over the last 50 – 60 years and the birds he’s seen, when you think about it its overwhelming. And all this hunkered down against a barrage of clicking cameras denoting a new age of digital birding that neither of us could quite get our heads around.
Brian had to shuffle off for pee but he was almost immediately replaced by Mark Golley who emerged from Avocet Hide (or whatever the hide on the left of the three is called). Mark is only about a third of a generation ahead of me and the conversation was much more focussed around the continual search for finding good birds and the way that decyphering birds movements is becoming increasingly difficult. We both agreed that modern birding should as much about embracing randomness than attempting to discern obvious migration patterns, but yet both of us still resist the relentless march of the digital age. Then, on a crystal clear, mild December day it was utterly bizarre to be watching streams of Geese coming over (including a flock of 13 Beans) since the reason they are here is an utter mystery. Also reassuring to hear that the area South of the A149 seems to represent a dividing line for a lot of arriving migrants, but since this represents the periphery of both our birding patches, the infrequent finds you can make in these areas provide far greater satisfaction that pulling something out of the bag in the heart of the melee.