Whilst heading across South Yorkshire late on Saturday afternoon I received a call from Mikipedia Feely. He asked if I'd seen my pager. I hadn't. He then proceeded to drive a verbal stake through my heart by announcing that there was a probable K*ntish Plover down in Leicestershire. This is a species that has evaded my precious British List for nearly thirty years. The amount I have missed over the years is well into double figures, the most hurtful of which was in my home County of Warwickshire in 1993. I turned up a day too late. The most recent dip was earlier this year when a crowd of us drove all the way to Kent to see a female strutting around a nudist beach on the Isle of Sheppey. Once again I was a day late.
I had big plans for Saturday night so there was no way I could head over to Leicestershire immediately. The only choice I had was to delay our planned trip to the North Norfolk coast and head over to Eyebrook beforehand on the Sunday. No doubt I would be a day late yet again as the dreaded K*ntish Plover is a species of bird with extremely itchy feet. Later that evening the identification was confirmed. To make matters even worse I received a text from Stevie Dunn a while later to say that he'd connected with the critter. How could he do this to me?
After a pretty restless night I awoke early on Sunday morning and everything was a little hazy. Should we bother with Leicestershire at all? I wasn't sure if I could take the pain of missing another, especially one that had been pottering around a neighbouring inland County. Later that morning I stood looking at myself in the mirror of a bathroom at some random service station on the A1. I felt a degree of self-loathing for letting some feathered, little freak make me feel so low. It was at this stage that my phone rang. It was Shropshire's premier pie connoisseur Mike Stokes..... and he was currently watching the bird. Twitch on folks!
This is me trying to remain calm under immense 'plover pressure' at Eyebrook Rez.
After what seemed like a fortnight we finally reached Eyebrook and we piled out of the car without delay. Frenzied scanning of the shoreline commenced. There were plenty of Ringed Plover zipping around the water margins along with the odd Little Ringed Plover but where was the K*ntish Plover? I walked further along the road to gather gen. My heart sank when some old fellow sensitively explained to me that it had flown off less than ten minutes ago. I was gutted. I was desperate. Every plover I spotted I attempted to twist into something a little more 'kentish'. My mind was racing. Suddenly through my bins I picked up a Ringed Plover chasing something smaller. The pursued plover dropped to the mud in submission and squatted down facing away from me. I caught a glimpse of its gentle face, it was smaller billed, it was also slightly paler on the mantle than the bullying Ringed Plovers. It had to be the Kentish, I deserved it to be the Kentish, surely it was the Kentish. My head began to spin. At this stage a calm and collected Katie Thorpe grabbed my equipment and panned further right. Whilst my bird sat tight, looking more like a juvenile Little Ringed Plover, Katie had located a pale ghost of a plover species, pacing around at much closer range. Her bird was definitely a juvenile KENTISH PLOVER (263). Much love Miss Thorpe. Thirty years of hurt was finally over and my biggest British 'bitch tick' was now out of the way forever. I was ecstatic. The bird continued to show well throughout the morning but would become obscured by the vegetation at times.
A 'red-haired birdette' tries out the new invisible tripod prototype by Manfrotto... whilst Quasibirdo (behind right) fails to do his troublesome back problem any favours.
Other aviform highlights included a handsome Pectoral Sandpiper (264) as well as 14 Dunlin and 10 Common Snipe. An Osprey also flew over heading west gripping a huge fish. With British Bird number 442 in the bag and with a couple of nice year birds added too, we then made our way east to Norfolk.... but that's whole different story.