Saturday morning, 8am – I’m opening up a hide next to Druridge Bay, on the coast north of Newcastle, rather than catching up on sleep in college.
First shutter open: a heron flies off lazily. A wader skitters along the shore of the lake – I later learn from my bird book that it’s a greenshank. I open a few more shutters – by this stage I’m thinking that there’s a bit less bird activity here than I’d expected. Then I notice it – off to the left of the hide, a glossy ibis!
This was the bird I’d gone to see, prompted by local birder Jaybee. He’s a guy whom Tom and I had met a few weeks ago at a hide closer to Durham, where he and another gentleman had regaled us with entertaining tales of the stupidities of a certain local conservation organisation. (For example: when a bittern arrived to skulk around a nearby reedbed, they chopped the reeds to make it easier to see the bird). He’s a retired teacher who now spends his time doing wildlife photography. His website, www.northeastwildlife.co.uk, provides professional-quality images free of charge to anyone who wants to use them. But it’s not just for the wildlife that he’s doing this: it’s a way for him to keep using his legs – otherwise he’ll lose them.
Here’s a picture he took of the ibis earlier this week.
The bird itself is way off course. It’s meant to live no further north than the south-east of Europe, wintering in Africa, so is an exceptional rarity this far north (although a small flock spent a few days near Slimbridge a couple of years ago). It’s a charismatic bird: easy to spot with plenty of elegant antics to entertain. One of its favourite perches is a boulder just in front of the hide – hence the photo at the top with the greenshank.
It was a huge relief to be able to do this trip – I finally emerged from the fug of the cold/flu at the end of the week, and was itching to go somewhere in celebration!