Given the fact that we’d hared down to Land’s End earlier in the year to wave metaphysical sardines at a pelican, it was surely inevitable that we’d gravitate towards Minsmere for Swampy the big blue chicken at some point this week.
Neill picked me up at a Godless hour today and once I was wedged into his wheels with Trops, Alan Wright and Rob Pocklington, we sped relentlessly south east through the night past blazing lorry fires, exploding lorry tyres and countless English spires resting in countless villages not yet stirring.
We got to Minsmere (RSPB Royale) in Suffolk for 7am (excellent driving Neill – I think you enjoyed being back behind the wheel today).
We quickly walked out through the reedbeds to the South Girder pool, where the Western Purple Swamphen that has been raising eyebrows since last weekend was lurking.
A good crowd was already there, and after a short time, the big blue chicken waded out of the reeds on great big galooty feet feeding in the shallows in strong winds and hard early morning light, while Moorhens and Water Rails hugged the edges with considerably more modesty.
Many people have written many serious words about the vagrancy of this critter this week – personally I think anything that looks like Foghorn Leghorn having a deeply blue “Braveheart” moment is always going to be worth driving a few hundred miles to see, whether anyone ever turns up to claim ownership or its huge splitty splatties make it onto the British list or not.
Best big blue chicken I’ve seen since the last time I clapped eyes on one in southern Yoorp.
A marvellous performance Swamp Thing!
Minsmere had other charms too of course – Cetti’s Warblers, Bearded Tit, Green Woodpeckers, a Turtle Dove I managed to miss, Yellow Wagtails and Stone Curlew with a youngster melting in the heat haze.
Hordes of good quality bugs, with buddleia wilting under the weight of butterflies and Southern Hawkers, and a truly splendiferous Pantaloon Bee (crazy name, crazy troosers), excavating in the sand despite far meaner looking Bee Wolves hovering over it.
Brilliant pantaloons baby.
Out of the reserve and onto Walberswick, where I spectacularly fluffed two Woodlarks, before a Honey Buzzard finally drifted over the distant trees after an hour or so of ‘scoping Marsh Harriers, Common Buzzards, corvids and hirundines.
Back on the road north, with just enough time to doff our caps at motorway Red Kites and later the M6 rush hour car park.
It’s always a pleasure gents…