Sunday, 28 March 2010

Vanishing point

Something weird happened this morning. I was on the seawall at Aveley Bay early doors, looking for yesterday's Ring Ouzel with two other observers, one of whom had already seen it well out in the open. He relocated it breaking cover from a small hawthorn, from where it flew into a dogwood near the cycle path and proceeded to hop around on the deck.

It never left the cover of the dogwood, but it could be seen easily through the thin red stalks of the shrub as it moved about, its white gorget almost glowing against the black plumage. It then hopped slightly left towards the centre of the bush and momentarily out of view. We kept scopes and cameras trained on the spot, and pointed out the location to two more arriving observers. Twenty minutes passed and the bird still hadn't come back into view, so I walked a loop behind the bush and approached carefully from the far side - if it went anywhere, it would have to head back to the seawall and the others. But still no bird.

In the end, I was right in front of the dogwood, barely inches from where the bird had been showing. It had vanished into thin air. We combed the area for the next hour, thoroughly, but it couldn't be found anywhere. It had simply dematerialised. It reminded me of a story Simon Cox once told me of a Black-eared Wheatear twitch in Essex - a crowd had been watching the bird out in the open, and it then hopped behind a dung heap. They waited patiently for the bird to reappear but it didn't, so they walked behind the heap - but it wasn't there, and was never seen again.

What is this gap in the time-space continuum into which only members of the Turdidae vanish without trace? Unable to fathom this major quirk of physics, I headed on bemused to the stone barges, largely to try and scope distantly the first Common Tern of the year which had been reported at Crossness. I couldn't make out anything more notable than an adult Yellow-legged Gull drifting upriver on the incoming tide, so drew a line under proceedings and headed for home.

Rainham yearlist:
108. Ring Ouzel.

STOP PRESS: just had a text this afternoon from Paul Hawkins at Rainham. He's seen the Ring Ouzel again. Go figure.


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