Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Happy Little Whimbrel Day!

As has been previously noted on this blog, I've never been much of a twitcher. Consequently, I don't have many real blockers on my list. By far the longest-standing one (and the only one I have from the 80s) is the Norfolk Little Whimbrel, and it was 23 years ago today that I saw it. Not a particularly noteworthy anniversary (like 25 years would be, or 50), but I can't think of anything else to write about at the moment.

As I remember, Jeff Higgott and I heard about it the day before from someone at Swithland Reservoir, who in turn had heard something about it on the radio, but couldn't remember whether they'd said Little Whimbrel or Eskimo Curlew! The former seemed more likely, and this was confirmed when Jeff rang Nancy's Cafe from the phone box in Swithland village. The birder who answered the phone at Nancy's said something like, "I think it's still here, but I've no idea where it is now, and we're all too pissed to care!"

Although this was a bit vague, we decided to go anyway and early the following morning we arrived at Cley, not having any idea exactly where the bird was. This was a common occurrence in the days before instant bird news, and you just had to use a bit of initiative. The obvious place to start was the Coastguards car park, where there would at least be some birders around to ask. There were, but not surprisingly at 4 o'clock in the morning they were all asleep in the 'beach hotel'. Unfortunately the one I chose to wake up turned out to be Belgian, but using a combination of broken English and sign language (my Flemish not being too good) we gathered that it had last been seen at Salthouse, so that was where we went.

Luckily the bird was still there, in the fields near the duck pond, although I can't say I can really remember it as such. My notebook tells me that we watched it for about an hour, but my mental image is of Dave Cottridge's photo, a copy of which I still have in an old album somewhere.

Two in three years in the 80s, and none since. Will there ever be another one?

22 comments:

thorntonmothman said...

Ahhh happy days. I remember that bird well (well, obviously better than you). Happy Little Whimbrel Day indeed......

beast said...

Andy..
You're post provoked me into getting me old notebooks out! Like 'mothman' I remember that little whimbrel and I also remember that it wasn't a new bird for me. The 1982 Kenfig bird delighted everyone except those that went for this bird first instead of the 'yellow legged stint' at Saltholme Pools, which turned out to be Long Toed! I, fortunately, went for the stint first!
Looking thru my notes I can see that 1982 was a slow year:
Laughing Gull
Franklins Gull
Bonapartes Gull
White tailed Eagle
Savannah Sparrow
Broad billed Sand
Terek Sand
Marmora's Warbler
White crowned Black Wheatear
Stellers Eider
Black browed Albert
Semi palmated Sandpiper
Long toed Stint
Little Whimbrel
Paddyfield Warbler
Forsters Tern
Subalpine Warbler
Scarlet Tanager
Blackpoll
Upland Sandpiper
Nighthawk
Short toed Lark
Rustic Bunting
American Redstart
Chimney Swift
Great spotted Cuckcoo
Isabelline Shrike
Arctic Redpoll
Green Heron....

Fuck me...could do with another 1982...'best days' and all that old bollox! Meantime...back to the knot that's still at eye brook.....

Mark said...

Fuck me there's 10 lifers for me on that list.
In my opinion anyone who has seen Little Whimbrel is a cunt!!

Andy Mackay said...

Strangely, given that your list is probably about 50 or 60 more than mine, Mark, only 8 of that list would be ticks for me!

Mark said...

I know that little lot would have me within a hare's breath of 500.

Savannah Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow
Stellr's Eider (turned down a lift with Skev for the last one)
Albert
L-T Stint
Little Whimbrel (3 days after family holiday to N. Norfolk)
Scarlet Tanager
Nighthawk
American Redstart
Chimney Swift (probably commonest thing I need after Great Shear')

Mark said...

Of course I meant White-crowned Black Wheatear!

beast said...

Mark...
Would a couple of me 1981 species get rid of yer 'hare/rabbits breath' n get you to 500? [I guess you meant 'hairs breath']!
Like Hudsonian Godwit n Orphean Warbler...?
Hey...yer right...everyone who's seen a little whimbrel is a cunt...I've seen 2 so me is twice as big a cunt...hope to see 3 eventually so's I can be a triple cunt...[was that an olympic event the 'triple cunt'?]

Mark said...

You bastard Beast I hate you. My mate R Twigg from Sheffield is always mentioning the same stuff how he did both UK transporter bridges in the same day yaaaaaaaaaawn

beast said...

Mark...
So old Twiggers still going is he? Aint seen the cunt [and i mean that in a nice way] for fuckin years. Next time he [or me] bore you with an 'old farts' tale just club the twat round the head like a dodo. Lets face it, we could do with another asteroid hit to get rid of the remaining dinosaurs...by the way..do you need archaeopteryx? [I remember at the time debating whether to tick it or not because god kept banging on and on that it wasn't a bird but a flying fuckin lizard with teeth...wot the fuck does he know]?!
All the best [hope you get yer 500 soon]....Bastard Beast

Andy Mackay said...

Since Mark's already called me a cunt (for having seen Little Whimbrel, which seems a bit harsh), I might as well be a pedantic one and point out that what he really meant was a hair's breadth since hairs don't breathe as a rule.

Go ahead, call me a cunt again - I can take it.

Amazing how a swearing-free post like that degenerates so quickly on this blog. I don't know, birders, what a foul-mouthed bunch they are...

Mark said...

Ha ha you pedantic cunt! I said Hare's Breath. But of course you're right it is hairs breadth which of course makes more sense than what I wrote!! You of course are exempt from being a cunt as you're a very nice chap.

Andy Mackay said...

I think "hare's breath" has a more poetic ring to it, although as you say it doesn't really make sense.

Changing the subject, have you seen Rob's finally updated his blog? He seems to do a massive update about once a month these days. Only a brief mention of his dodgy swift alas, although as you may know he's written an article about it for next month's Boring World.

beast said...

Andy..

'Dodgy Swift' you say old chap? Pray tell...to which 'dodgy swift' is one referring to?
I find myself rather bemused and yet somehow intrigued by anything that might be deemed as 'slightly dodgy'. Please tell me more if you would be so kind, [unless its a sensitive subject] and I promise to severely curtail my appalling language in the future...

[p.s...hows that Andy? I didn't say cunt once...bollox..]!!!

Skev said...

To clarify - a Hare's Breadth is what every slaggy doe is hankering for in March.
I am such a complete and utter fucking tart that there are 12 lifers for me on the Beast '82 list. However, it's good to know that being devoid of Little Whimbrel means I am not automatically a cunt. I'll make a mental note not to bother ever seeing one. Numenius minutus - fuck em all.

Andy Mackay said...

Rob and others found a swift at Sumburgh Head on 5th August that they initially thought was a Pallid. However, when the photos were posted on the Shetland Bird Club website (http://www.nature-shetland.co.uk/naturelatest/latestbirds.htm) it became obvious that it was just a juvenile Common Swift.

If you get or see Birding World (which I don't) there will be an article about it next month. Which is presumably why Rob only mentioned it briefly on his blog.

beast said...

Cheers for info Andy....hadn't heard about that...will check out photo's on Shets website.
Why are they doing an article on the 'cock-up'?...Presumably to outline pitfalls of 'too swift' an identification of Pallid Swift? These things happen I suppose[we've all been there], strong sunlight,fast moving target, even faster imagination, crap bins, too much blood in alcohol stream etc...

Andy Mackay said...

Not sure - presumably just to reiterate the pitfalls of juvenile Common Swift. It's all been covered in the literature before, which is why I don't subscribe to any bird mags any more - they're all just boring and repetitive.

By the way, part of the link was chopped off in the last comment - it should end /latestbirds.htm

beast said...

Know wot you mean about bird mags Andy. Guess they just catering for 'freshers'. Occasionally get the odd good article if a certain group of birds interests me. Having said that, wish they'd stop splittin seabirds just because they sneeze at varying volumes. Its like they're trying to split the fuckin atom...all the birds are gonna explode at this rate. All this seabird guff is all very well and upto a point quite interesting. Wot do you make of this new 'sound approach' bollox? Reviewed in 'birdwatch' and as usual it was piggin sliced bread [like with most of they're 'unbiased' opinions]. My opinion is if you can't id a bird on external features then bin it..its no good playing a recording of some sodding shearwater to see if it starts break dancing round the runnel stone is it? Okay, maybe I'm just an old slag,[yeah...I know I am] but gimme strength, is the whole world turning anal or wot? Having had this unprovoked rant, I am quite into my sub species believe it or not...don't really give a toss if its 'a species' this week. As long as I can tell wot it is without it 'sneezing' or being weighed down with more bling rings than Mr.T.
[what you talking about fool]?

Andy Mackay said...

Sound approach? Never heard of it. As I say, I don't see any of the bird magazines any more. If it involves identifying birds by playing sounds at them and seeing if they react, then it's clearly bollocks. When I was a ringer in the dim and distant past, we used to attract all sorts of species by playing Black Redstart song, and they weren't all fucking Black Redstarts! Similarly, Leach's Petrels will come to Storm Petrel tape lures, and one ringer even claimed to have caught Stormies by playing Dire Straits at them! Does that mean that all Storm Petrels are genetically identical to Mark Knopfler?

beast said...

Playing Dire Straits at stormies!!! Is they're no end to the cruelty perpetrated by ringers? Be kinder if they just rang they're necks...
Wonder what wud happen if you played Barry Manilow to Manx Shearwaters..?

John Hague said...

I guess playing a bit of early Dire Straits such as Romeo and Juliet might not harm the birds too much but later stuff like the terrible but terribly successful Money For Nothing is really cruel. I guess the fact that the later song was after Knopfler sacked his brother and disappeared up his own arse hence he was producing low grade high return music.

beast said...

John...Got a confession to make about Dire Straits...actually saw em live in Leicester and I remember at the time thinking...HHmmm...this aint a bad support band!
In my defense i didn't go to this gig for the 'support'...went to see one of the coolest bands of the time [1977] Talking Heads...pyscho killer n all that...

Back to birds...I wonder if you played Radiohead to stormies they'd crawl out their burrows and throw themselves off the cliffs without bothering to flap...?
[actually I quite like some of Radioheads stuff but you gotta be in the state of mind..ie...fucked]!