Unbeknown to me DTH and Gav have been plotting while I've been in Madagascar. They are my oldest birding friends and theirs is a very benign plot, for they've been planning my path to 1,000 birds before the year is out.
I'd agreed before I left that I'd stay with Gav and his girlfriend Amy in London when I got back, in part just to spend time with them and in part to pick up any good birds which could be seen around town. Gav and Amy are both professional singers so I was asked on arrival whether in the evening I'd like to attend ENO's production of Carmen in which Gav is currently performing. Thus it was that after thirty-six hours without sleep, the last music I'd heard being the rainforest wail of of the indri the day before, and dressed in a new style known as just-out-of-the-jungle, I tipped up at the Coliseum to see the show. I had a splendid time and was very grateful for the privilege.
From opera our exploits turned back to birds and early morning today saw us on the beach at Dungeness looking for the site's regular glaucous gull. This trip was smilingly presented to me as a fait accompli, part of DTH and Gav's master-plan for nudging me past the thousand mark. The gulls at Dungeness were good: among the many great black-backs and herrings was a tidy adult yellow-legged and over the sea were an adult kittiwake and a first winter. I love both yellow-legged gulls and kittiwakes, but I've already seen them this year. I also loved the snazzy adult gannets that were over the moody grey water and the many great crested grebes that were on it, but I've seen tons of those this year too. What I hadn't seen was a glaucous gull.
For some time I continued not to see it, until Gav picked up the handsome, hulking ice-winged brute over the fishing boats. From green jery in the Malagasy forest to glaucous gull on a drizzle-damp beach in wintry Kent in two days. What a world this is.
With the gull on the list we sat in the RSPB hides and watched wigeon, goldeneye and kingfisher until cold, wet and hunger harried us back to London. This afternoon I reached my home in Norfolk where, with DTH and Gav's plot to guide me, I hope to see eight more species of bird before December's done.
New today on a cold, wet beach
Sparrows are big
Amy Wood, singer