Iridescent feathers

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.

Glossy ibis and greenshank

Glossy ibis and greenshank

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,, 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.

Glossy ibis, taken by Jaybee

Glossy ibis, taken by Jaybee

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!

"Why are your legs such a funny colour?" - redshank and greenshank stare at each other.

“Why are your legs such a funny colour?” – redshank and greenshank stare at each other.

3 thoughts on “Iridescent feathers

  1. Richard

    Wow – you have too much time on your hands! Want to do one of my essays? Seriously though this is excellent, truely excellent and really inspirational. Thanks!

    Could you teach me to do the same?


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