It started on Tuesday when, at Canons Farm with Richard and Peter (seeing Common Redstart, Whinchat etc), a message came on the pager hinting that the reported 'Long-billed' Dowitcher at Lodmoor might be something to keep an eye on. This wasn't solid enough to be worth dashing off for straight away but I awaited further developments.
I got up very early on Wednesday, planning a dawn start at the patch, and saw that I'd missed a mega alert from just before midnight saying that instincts were correct. Gah! I had to go, but how? I poked dad and he murmured something that sounded like I had car rights until three in the afternoon. If I were to drive there myself I had to go there and then, little time for faffing around. However, a couple of things ended up faffing me around so I ended up leaving around seven and arrived at ten-thirty. Only to find I had no change for parking so had to drive into Weymouth and break up a tenner for a Diet Coke. I wish I was more organised.
Anyway, I basically arrived to find the bird hadn't shown since about eight and I had to leave just after midday to get the car back to dad. Predictably, half way home the bird came on the pager. Having spent £50 on fuel for a short and frustrating dip-and-run, only for one of my regular lifts (Secret Squirrel) to grip-text me while I was driving to Sutton, I wasn't happy (I could and should have given him a call but was in a such a hurry I just dashed off, and he tried to call me while I was over half way there). What a waste of a day.
Yesterday evening, Liam and I arranged to meet at Waterloo this morning and catch the train to Weymouth. I got to the station just in time to buy a ticket and board but found that my debit card was missing from my wallet and I didn't have enough cash to cover the journey. Shiiiiitttttt..... I ran home and dad kindly gave me enough money to get there and back and took me to Sutton station. The train I needed to catch to get to Waterloo in time was leaving very shortly so I headed for the ticket machines that take cash. After going through the rigmarole of sorting out the ticket details, I tried to pay but it said I could only use a card. Unbelieveable. Thank goodness the queue for the traditional manned desks was short despite being rush hour, as I managed to get the ticket and rush to the platform with a couple of minutes before the train arrived. Phew.
Liam and I teamed up as planned at Waterloo and arrived at Weymouth two and a half hours later. Pager messages throughout the morning had been encouraging so we walked fairly confidently to the reserve. We were greeted by a reasonable gathering of birders including occasional twitch-buddies Micheal and Dan from Sussex who put us on the SHORT-BILLED DOWITCHER. It was tucked behind some vegetation but came out into the open and showed its notched tertials and generally well-marked coverts etc for about a minute before it scampered behind the clump again and hardly moved for two hours. We were debating when we should call it a day when it finally woke up and fed out in the open, not too distantly, for about fifteen minutes before for flying out of sight. A beautifully intricately marked bird, and a performer in the end. Stunner! The stress and hassle of connecting was instantly forgotten and we set off home happy.
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