....more of a main course really, but I liked the play on words.
Walking along the tiered sea defences between Cart Gap and Eccles on the NE Norfolk coast the sheer might of the North Sea can be felt close at hand. A relentless battering of waves pounding on the smooth concrete steps just a few feet from where you stoically trudge toward your chosen goal. The tide was high, the breeze fresh but not excessive; what must it be like here in the teeth of a real gale? Terrifying I should imagine. Every so often, the seventh wave perhaps, there is a sharp crack as a large incoming crest meets a receding sheet of mud coloured water. It sounds like cannon fire and is quite impressive.
After about a kilometre walk a set of steps leads into a static caravan park, abandoned for the winter, and here in a small garden sheltered by the dunes hops a small buff coloured bird. A desert wheatear, a first winter male, lost, alone and quite possibly doomed. This rather splendid little bird has strayed somewhat off course. It should be wintering far, far to the east, the Arabian Peninsula perhaps or North Africa, but somehow has found itself marooned here in Norfolk probing under and around the empty summer residences for spiders, flies and other slim pickings. The mild conditions will probably allow it to find sufficient food for a while, but a cold spell would likely cause its demise. I doubt it would have strength to make another sea crossing, few vagrants make it back home, but who knows? For now this displaced waif is being admired by a regular turnover of birders all of whom have a smile on their face and are happy to share tales of its confiding nature.
The bird is foraging 30 metres away and after a while moves out of sight behind the caravan towards a stand of dense bramble. I move parallel with its trajectory, take up position propped against the side of another large white box and wait for it to re-emerge. It does so and to my delight proceeds to bound toward me foraging as it approaches. I pray silently for it to hop onto the fence post in front of me, muttering to myself: come on birdy you can do this, just pose for a few seconds. And to my joy it complies. There in front of me, at the edge of close focus range sits the loveliest bird. Tones of sandy buff delineated by a broken black mask, white fringed black flight feathers and jet black tail. What are you doing here little bird? You’re a real beauty. Good luck and thank you.
The walk back to the car was but a quick stroll, buoyed as I was with my good fortune. The light is perfect, the sea scape dramatic, all is good. A momentary stop to watch an unfortunate black headed gull, beak crammed with food, being mugged by a quartet of common gulls. Round and round they wheel, the pursuing gang wailing banshee like as they attempt to wear down the less robust bird. Spiraling patterns against a pure blue winter sky. Lovely.