Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Devon Flashback 4537

With apologies to Matt's birding exmouth Blog, I felt I just had to do this.........Twas on a dull but dry workday in Bath on 24 November 1981, when I got a call from my mate on my office 'phone. (We didn't have mobile phones, Birdguides or any other such modern technology in those dark ages!). "kin hell Terry, there's a Hudwit at Countess Wear near Exeter, and I'm going for it now. Be down my house in 15 minutes if you're interested". At this stage I was knocked out of my seat by the news, but luckily my (younger) brain leapt into action and I approached my very understanding boss. "What bird is it now Terry?". I need the rest of the day off, says I, hopefully. "Go on then, you'll only be as miserable as s*** for the rest of the day if you don't go, and anyway you've more than enough hours clocked up", says he, music to my ears. Soon, I'm bombing down the road to my mate's house and I screech to a halt as he says "Hop in then". We climb into his Audi and get to the motorway in pretty good time. As we're racing southwards, he politely informs me that he's had "a few problems" with a leaking radiator. Having kittens, I tell him "Why didn't you tell me earlier, we could have used my car, seeing there's only the two of us anyway". As we raced through Somerset, we had got south of Taunton when clouds of steam started to come out from under the bonnet and the temperature gauge went off the scale as we duly pulled up on to the hard shoulder. "Bleddy hell", says I, "I thought Audis were supposed to be reliable cars?". My mate climbs out without a care in the world, opens the boot and produces the biggest plastic water container you have ever seen, takes off the radiator cap to the most enormous hiss of steam and starts pouring water in. After what seemed like about 3 hours, but was probably only about 2 minutes I hear "There, that should do it!" and shortly afterwards we are tearing down the rest of the motorway at about 100mph! I don't remember how we parked in the little car park by the canal at Countess Wear as there were many other birders there, but I reckon we got there quicker than a lot of folk did that day! We ran down the road towards the beautiful sewage works, but luckily stopped after only about a couple of hundred yards. Into the small crowd we waded and soon someone put us on to the bird. Wow, we had done it! The bird was in a flock of Black-tailed Godwits and prone to fly off down the estuary apparently at a moment's notice! Luckily it had no such intentions the whole time we were there and we enjoyed good views of it on the far bank of the river, and it even raised its wings to display its dark underwing coverts a few times as well! This was the second record for the UK, but is presumed to be the same bird as the first record, of a bird seen earlier in the autumn at Blacktoft Sands in South Yorks (Humberside). The bird we had nearly broken our necks to see hung around until mid January the next year, and presumably what was the same bird was then relocated at Blacktoft from 26 April to 6 May 1983, giving everyone else plenty of time to see it!

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