Bird Watching (UK) - - Event Norfolk Bird Race -

an­other build­ing as they watched us star­ing hope­lessly at the fal­con-less cathe­dral. We searched ev­ery­where, but the smug faces of An­drew, and his team­mate Jeff, were nowhere to be seen. Per­haps they were taunt­ing us, hav­ing al­ready bagged the elu­sive rap­tor. Af­ter 15 min­utes, we de­cided we’d wasted enough time – we left Nor­wich with a new dis­like for Pere­grines. We had added a new bird though, Feral Pi­geon, and in the funny way that bird races work, it counted for the same as a Pere­grine any­way. At 13:50, we pulled up in a su­per­mar­ket car park by the es­tu­ary at Great Yar­mouth. Black-headed, Com­mon and Her­ring Gulls came quickly, but it was birds of the wad­ing kind we were af­ter. Whim­brel, Dun­lin, Avo­cet and Ringed Plover were seen, as were Com­mon and Sand­wich Terns, Meadow Pipit and Shel­duck. We knew species would be dry­ing up as the day wore on, but Ian still had a few aces up his sleeve that we hoped would pro­duce a late surge. A stop on the cliffs at Cromer bagged us Ful­mar, a quick stop at Cley turned up Black-tailed God­wit, and Well­snext-the-sea gave us Brent Geese. Grey Par­tridges had been some­thing of an enigma for us through­out the day. All the hedges in Nor­folk seem to have small enough gaps in them so that, at speed, you can never be quite cer­tain if you saw one. Too many times we’d stop and re­verse to check, only to be greeted by a flock of Red-legged Par­tridges or, worse, a col­lec­tion of stones. Par­tridge­less, we ar­rived at Kelling Heath. We’d got Tur­tle Dove and Wood Lark eas­ily the day be­fore on our scout­ing mis­sion, so nat­u­rally we didn’t see ei­ther, but Lin­net and Dart­ford War­bler made the trip worth the ef­fort. We rolled up at Holkham and suc­cess­fully saw Spoon­bills, as the clock read 17:45. Around this time a text came through from the other team. It was the one we’d agreed on send­ing each other when we hit the 100 mark and at first we weren’t wor­ried, as we our­selves had just gone past the cen­tury. We then no­ticed the time it had been sent:15:30. Nor­folk’s in­fa­mous lack of sig­nal meant that it had only just reached us. Un­til that mo­ment the race had just been a bit of fun, some­thing crazy to raise money for a good cause so it didn’t mat­ter who won, right? Wrong. An­other area we’d scoped out the day be­fore was a field play­ing host to a large num­ber of Dot­terel. Dot­terel are al­ways likely to be closely shad­owed by a flock of bird­ers and they were very help­ful in show­ing us other species we were miss­ing. Wheatear, a Lesser Whitethroat and, fi­nally, the myth­i­cal Grey Par­tridge set us on 107 at 18:10. We both knew it wasn’t enough, though, so a re­turn to Titch­well was our last roll of the dice. We had some easy species miss­ing, and we knew we re­ally had to pick them up here. It was 18:30 when we ar­rived. Per­haps it was time for a mir­a­cle. Pochard on the first lake – 108. Turn­stone, Grey Plover and Teal on the se­cond – 111. A Green­shank came zigzag­ging over us – 112. We reached the end of the la­goons and looked out onto the beach. There were Sander­lings, a Bar-tailed God­wit and a pair of Curlew, while a flock of Eider rode the waves – 116. We were treated to a Lit­tle Tern fish­ing – 117. A Spot­ted Red­shank landed, be­com­ing our 118th bird. A Lit­tle Grebe, as­ton­ish­ingly still ab­sent on our list, popped up as a Red­crested Pochard emerged from the reeds, a group of Golden Plovers ar­rowed through the air, and a Lit­tle Ringed Plover picked its way through the mud to be­come the 122nd, and fi­nal, bird of the race. We left at 20: 00 know­ing our chances of big num­bers were gone. We passed the fi­nal hours on the heath, lis­ten­ing for Night­jars or Wood­cocks that never came. It was time to call it a day. We went back to the pub, met the other team, and com­pared scores af­ter the clock had struck mid­night. It was our 122 to their 119; Titch­well had proved to be our sal­va­tion. We also found out that An­drew had pre­pro­gramed the tweet that had us so wor­ried. It was set to tweet au­to­mat­i­cally at a cer­tain time and when it ar­rived it just so hap­pened that we’d been dip­ping on Pere­grines at the mo­ment we’d re­ceived it. May bird races in south­ern Eng­land should pro­duce Hob­bies

We passed the fi­nal hours on the heath, lis­ten­ing for Night­jars or Wood­cocks that never came

The sort of wader that can make or break a bird race list


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