… makes the medicine go down.
I joined up with an International team on Friday night for a 21hour bird race organised by the Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust – Leicester Members Group. The rules were familiar to anyone who has done a bird race with one or two differences. The boundary was within the City of Leicester – with the one exception in that both lakes at Watermead South CP counts – and that teams had to travel by green means. Three teams set off by bus, bike and on-foot.
I was on foot with Canadian birder, Chantal Bielmann; American, Meghann Toner and Dutch birder Daniel Van Helder. By close of play on Friday night we were on a respectable 39 species.
Saturday morning dawned with the threat of rain but not before we had ticked off a pair of Spotted Flycatcher right in the city centre. By the time we had made it to Watermead CP South it was raining steadily but not too hard. Daniel had picked up the Oystercatcher on the island and I had glimpsed a ‘pale looking Cormorant’ coming into land before trying to get everyone onto the Oystercatcher. Dan then said calmly, well, how would he know the significance, ‘isn’t that a Spoonbill?’ ‘What! Oh, my God… Spoonbill!’ The first since 1965 for the Soar Valley.
As the bird circled 5 or 6 times I was on the phone to Andy Mackay. His reply, ‘I fucking knew something would turn up in this weather!’ The bird then appeared to gain height and we thought it was off but it soon started dropping and disappeared from view to us towards Birstall Meadows. Thinking it had landed, the meadows look superb for holding a Spoonbill, I rang Ken Goodrich who was soon there and quickly Allen Pocock was on site. Despite searching by them and us from the riverside the bird had clearly gone straight through.
A Spoonbill had flown from Paxton Pits in Cambridgeshire early morning and one pitched up at Willington Pits in Derbyshire in the afternoon. One bird involved? Sounds good to me.
The International Brigade finished the race on 66 species – taking the inaugural title by 4 birds from Dave Gray and the bikers with Russell and his bus crew coming in third with a highly respectable 56 species. Bird of the day? Oh, go on then… Spoonbill.