My friend Pete Snook had phoned me last night excitedly - ‘are you going’ - ‘shall we drive down together Pen?’ Anyway after working all day on Sunday I was physically and mentally too tired to possibly leave my house at 4.10am, which is what time Connor told me he was leaving - I will re-phrase that, HIS dad took him to Dereham to meet another birder to take him to Westleton! (good old dad!). Pete lives in Holt and I live in King’s Lynn, so both in the wrong place for meeting up - I decided that if I did go, I would drive to Holt and then Pete would drive us to Westleton and back to Holt. It would obviously have been quicker for me to go via A47 but it's more fun etc to go with someone else.
Woke up naturally about 7.40am - went downstairs - ‘missed call’ from Connor on my iphone and nothing on the pager yet - phoned Connor - ‘no news yet’. Got back in bed, felt shattered. Phoned Pete who sounded very sleepy - updated Pete - Connor rang simultanously ‘its showing, get down here now’ - Connor always seems to make me move faster than I sometimes want to - his enthusiasm and excitement over seeing a good bird is dangerously infectious at times! I should be at home doing all sorts of jobs and errands!!! Worked times out and said I would be at Pete’s by 9.30am!
Arrived Holt 10am!!! Transferred my stuff to Pete’s car and off we went.
Arrived on site at Westleton Heath at 12pm to join approx 50 others - dismal grey skies and low cloud and mist!!! Pete was not a happy bunny to begin with - he had forgotton his scope, which wasn’t funny as he has a Swaroski top range scope - much better than mine! The distant area the Lesser Kestrel had been seen in earlier was now heavily shrouded in mist - ‘you see the two white tapes’ said another birder ‘it was just over there’ - you could hardly see the tapes let alone a bird!!!! We hung around for a bit and then I suggested to Pete that maybe we should go and see the Pallid Swift at Kessingland being as Connor had just rung me to say he had seen it (Connor doesn’t miss much!). I had visions of staying for hours and dipping out on the kestrel and the swift, so thought it would be good to see the swift quickly first and then return to stay for the kestrel. Pete has seen Pallid Swift in Britain so was a bit reluctant to do this - I HAVE NOT seen Pallid Swift or LK in Britain!!! We got 3 miles down the road to just outside the village of Westleton and the pager bleeped up that the Lesser Kestrel was showing again - ‘STOP!!!!!!!!’ I said ‘turn round’........ lots of mutterings from Pete ‘I told you Pen’ ‘we shouldn’t have left........I’ll kill you if its gone’ .... worried Penny!!! Re-parked car and ran to top of the hill on the heath. Pete picked it up before me. Robin Abel was there and kindly let me look through his scope which was much too tall for me to look through, but just as he was lowering it for me, it went out of view again. Luckily it returned again and saw it through Richard’s (one of Pete’s friends) scope - it was perched on a dead tree giving good distant views in the now much brighter sky with sunshine! It flew about a bit and returned to the same tree twice - awesome!!! (1.30pm) Several other familiar faces there from Norfolk: Dave Holman, Phi Vines, Richard and Pat, Mike, Dave Foster etc etc. A face from the very distant past then turned up - a well-built, tall man, with grey beard and green wool hat came up to me and shook my hand ‘have not seen you since you were about so high’ - I stood mystified as to who this was - I had no idea........ ‘Big Jake’ he said. ‘Oh my goodness’ I almost screeched. Big Jake as he was known (and still is apparently) was a serious, hard core twitcher from years ago. I remember him very well when I worked at Holme Bird Observatory with father - he always wore a long black wool trench coat, black longish hair and a black wool hat - he would appear at Holme every time a rarity/mega turned up. Big Jake said to me ‘I recognised you instantly - you look exactly the same as you did when you were about what, 15?’ - ‘that was 30 years ago’ I said!!!!!! Lovely compliment! Jake then reminded me that he would regularly try and 'tick' a rare bird at Holme without buying a permit and how my father also regularly asked him to leave if he didn't buy a permit - I remember it well!!!
Also saw a sparrowhawk, poss. distant Common Buzzard in the heat haze and Pete heard a Woodlark here just before we left. Had a quick sandwich and coffee and then left.
What a depressing place to be - well it would have been better if the skies had been prettier, but standing by a sewage works with grey skies, rain and NO sign of the Pallid Swift was not exactly exciting stuff. But did see two Grey Wagtails, 1 White Wagtail and loads of Pied Wagtails flitting about. Feeding around on the grass and surrounding fields were goldfinches, meadow pipits, hedge sparrows, 1 song thrush and in the trees several chiffchaffs flicking about. Stayed here until about 5.45pm (I think) and left Birdforum member Birdboybowley and two others to carry on in hope.
Got back to Holt and had vege burger and chips in the fish ‘n’ chip shop. Swopped stuff over in cars and I arrived back in King’s Lynn at 8.30pm. As I pulled into my drive I could see Sapphire sitting on the windowsill, who turned to look at me with a very disapproving face - a face that said 'WHERE have you been ALL day!!!!!'
Thanks to Pete for driving and to Connor for updates.