I was trying to be good today, trying jolly hard to answer emails, plot my comings and goings for next year, and swot for my upcoming tour of Peru. Then the phone rang. It was one of my dearest friends Gavin, eldest son of Bizz and DTH, opera singer, staggeringly gifted (and jammy) birder, and all round good egg. The conversation went something like this:
Gavin: You know there was a bee-eater over Cley this morning?
Marsh tit: Yes, but I assumed it was just a flyover.
Gavin: Yes it was, but now it's... (fumbles with Birdguides on smart phone)... at Cley, on telephone wires south of the Beach Road. I've had a rehearsal cancelled and I'm coming. Join me?
Marsh tit (weighing up the merits of staying at home to work like a good boy or romping off with one his best friends to see one of Europe's most dazzlingly beautiful birds): See you there!
I went to Cley. Birdguides had got it wrong: the bee-eater was at Salthouse (thanks to Duncan of WildSounds for the correct information). Thither I tore (safely and respectfully of course but that doesn't make me sound very Daniel Craig now does it?), only to find the bird had just flown away. The good news was that, scanning the gore-tex-clad masses, I found Gavin, who had seen the bird briefly before, nobly, setting off in search of a missing marsh tit.
At RSPB Strumpshaw Fen for the past few days there has been a singing Savi's warbler. This is a bird which Gavin, an ardent Norfolk lister, had never seen in the county. The last I saw here was almost twenty-five years ago at Wells with his father. Knowing Gavin would be itching to see the warbler I asked:
Marsh tit: Heading to Strumpshaw tomorrow morning at dawn?
Gavin: I was planning to go this evening.
So we went. A bittern boomed, marsh harriers yelped, black-headed gulls shrieked, lapwings fizzed, reed warblers chuntered and through all these marshy melodies came the loud dry trill of a Savi's warbler. A small brown shape appeared in the edge of the reed and Gavin had his bird.
The last Savi's warbler either of us saw was in the Costière de Crau when I lived in Provence some seventeen years ago. We were side by side then too. Only that day we both saw a bee-eater.
New this evening