A celebration of birding, generally within a 10 mile radius of Ely Cathedral, Cambridgeshire, UK.
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Sunday, 29 January 2017
Dive! Dive! Dive!
No, this post is not about submarines, rather it is about a bird that does what a submarine does. The going underwater bit, not the firing torpedoes at unarmed ships bit.
I put down my book ( “I Partridge, we need to talk about
Alan,” by Alan Partridge- it's so refreshing to hear an author tell it like it
is. I say “hear” rather than "see", because Partridge has a way of writing that
is so good you can honestly hear his voice thrusting forcefully into your head
as you experience his literary prose. Literally.)
I set off.
I had an appointment with a rather dapper bird to
I’d promised Dunc that I would see it. He had to stay at
home unfortunately- family stuff- playing with the littlest Poyser or something
(not a euphemism), so I had to witness the sinewy snake-neck ( again, not a euphemism)
on my own. Then I thought to myself, why drive all that way by myself, that’s saaad!
So I roped in my esteemed colleague, Rich (by which I mean
his name is Rich, not that he is a friend who is wealthy - although he‘s not short of
a bob or two- lets just say he can afford to eat takeaway Chinese meals, two,
maybe three times a week, and often does!)
As we drove on we passed a few flocks of grazing swans. “
not today my white friends!” ( not racist- they were white) I shouted, “ I’m off to see a White-billed Diver” (
again, not racist. I will and often
do look at birds that are not white or do not have white in their name. In fact
later on I looked at some Goosanders flying over, and although they are quite
white, they do have other colours on them as well.)
After a pleasing drive of just shy of an hour and forty
minutes ( take that, google maps route planner!) along some of Lincolnshire’s
most interesting minor roads ( sadly not the A1111) we arrived at the river
Witham, and walked up to where a group of twitchers were looking forlornly at
the wrong part of water. I strode up onto the back as if to announce my
presence, looked down upon the large bird (an actual bird- i'm not using slang here) in front of me and then turned to look
back at Rich. He gave me a look that seemed to say, “ how did you know it was
there, and how did you manage to see it almost twenty five metres away?” I just
smiled and started taking pictures. Easy!
Within five minutes we’d drunk it in, had our fill and were
heading back to the car to avoid any mid- afternoon traffic. Job done! “How can
we have truly enjoyed the experience and gained anything from such a short time?”
you may ask- well, we did enjoy the experience and we did gain something. Just look
at the photos, and imagine what they’d be like if I had a really decent camera!
Then back for tea and medals, and I definitely had earned at
least one, no matter what the nay-sayers might
think. “All you did was turn up and see the bird straight away without having
to search really hard for it”, they might say. “So sue me!” I would reply. if
you can’t handle the heat, you shouldn’t be in the kitchen. Or by a river in
this case. As I say, I had definitely earned a medal of some sort. Not the Victoria
cross perhaps, I didn’t kill anyone or take out a german mg42 machine gun nest
single-handedly armed with only a hand grenade and a commando knife- maybe just
one of the lesser medals like the D.F.C , the D.S.O or D.H.S ( not sure about
that last one). Rich also deserved some kind of reward, not least for driving me
there and back, so I bought him a can of Spryte.
We’d been gone too long, and I suddenly remembered that I was beginning to yearn for
the flatlands of the Cambridgeshire Fens for some reason. Maybe it was the
experience of being in the flatlands of the Lincolnshire Fens- I can’t say- but
something was tugging me off towards the eastern part of western East Anglia that
I, and many others like me, call home. Yes, Lincolnshire was flat, maybe too flat,
maybe not flat enough, but it wasn’t the Ely Ten that I’ve come to know
and love. You can keep your Quadring Eudyke, and your Pode Hole, your Whaplode
and your Tumby Woodside, I’ll settle for Ely, the "Himalayas of Cambridgeshire". For
my money it’s the place to be, and I’ve been all over the place, from Bungay to
Thrapston, Costessey (pronounced Cossey by the illiterate proles who live there)
to White Roding ( again, not racist, I can’t
stress this enough!)
goosanders. Far from being white, they have all the colours of the melting pot.
White-Billed Diver. As you can see, it's bill is actually cream and pale blue, not white at all!