During Saturday morning while we were driving from Spurn to Cleveland, we received news that a SHORT-TOED EAGLE had been photographed in a tree in Dorset. There had been one or two reports of Short-toed Eagles in recent years, and along with multiple BOOTED EAGLE sightings, you tend to just put them to one side and forget about them. Then we saw the photo of it on twitter - it was a genuine sighting this time, but there was no further sign of it after it had flown off at 10:10hrs.
Then, at 14:30hrs, it flew over the site, Morden Bog, again. It was still in the area. Finally, at 17:00hrs, it was found perched in a tree. And there it stayed. We drove all the way back from South Gare with reports of it still sat in the tree.
Now having been out all day on Saturday, I knew there was no chance I would be able to go out on Sunday as well. You just have to accept these things. But on the lonely journey back from Cleveland, you start to think. There was, after all, a SHORT-TOED EAGLE sat roosting in a tree, and almost certainly it would be there in the morning, at first light at least.
I thought about the CRAG MARTIN error in April when I erred on the Sunday morning. I started to think. What would I have done in the old days? What did I used to do in order to get my list to the size it is today? (300+ if you're interested). Then it came to me. I would try and get permission to go on Sunday. The plan was hatched.
We didn't leave South Gare until 18:00hrs, and it was 22:00hrs before I arrived home. My good lady wife was still up. I'd already prepped her with a little text saying "something had gone and turned up in Dorset." And then gritted my teeth and I just came out with it. I actually told her I was going down to see it, but we'd be back by 10:00hrs, so it wouldn't affect the rest of the day.
She said OK.
I texted CJW, who I'd only just dropped off. I told him my plans. What the hell he said, I'll join you. Then I texted GAS. He agreed as well. We were going to set off at 02:00hrs, and then meant about three hours sleep. Oh my word, the things you do. We'd just been out for 17hrs birding, I'd been driving all day since 05:00hrs, and I was going to have three hours sleep. I'd get over it...eventually I hoped.
My alarm went off at 01:45hrs. GAS picked me up, and CJW was ready, having not been to bed. I set the sat nav up as I hadn't had chance to do it and hadn't really looked where we were heading, and our arrival time was 06:00hrs. That was a bit later than I hoped; nearly 90mins after sun rise. I told CJW I would do something about it.
As per usual, the M6 was closed so we headed down the M6 Toll. The rest of the way was clear, and we arrived at Morden Bog at 05:20hrs. Somehow, I'd managed to knock 40 mins off the estimated travelling time. I wonder how that happened? We parked in the field already full of cars and made our way towards the viewing area. The first birder was already walking back. Don't worry, he said, it was still sat there. Oh, and fog has descended making viewing tricky. Just another thing to worry about!
We joined the crowd of 300+ birders, standing with Stevie Richards, Phill Locker and Phil Andrews. The fog wasn't too bad, and there, sat in the tree, was the SHORT-TOED EAGLE.
And it just sat there. We were stood about half a mile away. The light slowly improved. It moved its head occasionally, and then it went to sleep. We stood and chatted, started to get bit by the midges, reflected on the crazy last few days and then at 07:00hrs, we headed for home like I'd promised.
We arrived home only seven minutes late. I was slightly tired later in the day. But it was bloomin well worth it.
The crowd at Morden Bog
The Short-toed Eagle - the 3rd for Britain