I dabbled with the idea of twitching The King Eider but having done two very early shifts (4 a.m) on the trot I was just too tired to drive all the way down to Devon on my own. I'd love to see another Lesser Scaup but I did see one in Devon a few years ago; the Black Duck looks like being part of this weekend Birders in Boxers itinerary and so I decided to go for the Teal at Slimbridge. One of those glaring emissions from my UK life list.
Parking the car at Splatt Bridge on a very pleasant morning I was greeted by birds singing everywehere: Dunnocks, Blue and Great Tits, Robins, Blackbirds, Greenfinches etc. A Kestrel sat on a post in front of the car, Long-tailed Tits carrying feathers in their beaks, Sand Martins twittering overhead, Pheasants 'coughing' all around and G C Grebes in full summer plumage on the canal. Idyllic.
I arrived at 100 Acre, Slimbridge - scene of last year's Glossy Ibis invasion - and my heart sank: a). the viewing site was miles away from the birds b). there was a heat haze (can you believe it?) and c). there were bloomin' loads of Teal around - at least half of them asleep in the reedy fringes.
"Stop whingeing" I said to myself and get on with it. For a whole hour I scanned 100 Acre back and forth, back and forth. Loads of nice birds: Gadwall, Wigeon, Shoveler, Tufed Duck, Little Egrets, Black-tailed Godwits (one in full sumer plumage), Ruff, Dunlin, Little Stint, Redshank, Lapwing, Little Grebes 'whinneying', Chifchaffs and a Kingfisher which flew back oand forth in front of me. All very nice but no flippin Green-winged Teal. It seemed to me that this was going to be an Anas horribilis. That'll teach me to go birding without the Twichmeister. On the run of luck he's on at the moment he'd have found the Teal as soon as we arrived.
I was glad when another birder arrived. Another pair of eyes could only be a good thing. Back and forth we both scanned the flooded field until finally, half an hour after he arrived, my new companion spoke those magic words . . . "I've got it!" (God, I love those words). The bird had been on the near 'shore' of the flood and must have been tucked behind some sedges. Anyway, it was finally out in the open and I managed the following record shot.
Pretty crap I'm sure you'll agree but that vertical white stripe really did stick out like a sore thumb. First lifer of 2008 safely in the bag.
I got back to the car and celebrated with a cup of coffee and the now traditional Tunnock's Caramel Wafer - I'll bring a whole packet for this weekend's trip to Marloes!
I got home in time to pick up Geth from the holiday club - I ducked out of telling him where I'd been all day - and had an early night . . . I was absolutely 'quackered'