Wind changed, frost thawed, a different feel to things. And just west of the pools, a bird in close to the shore, flapping its wings and showing a black belly. A badly oiled Guillemot. Except that when I looked through binoculars I could see it was an Eider. I don’t see so many of those these days, especially a male with subtle boreal washes and…a great big…..orange……..beak……….
This is where it got seriously strange because, just the previous evening, I’d been looking at an article on dutchbirding.nl about a Kerstdag twitch for a Koningseider in 1981. And here, straight in front of me, seemed to be a drake KING EIDER, in fact a better one than on the Dutch website. Such a dark and unfathomable synchronistic twist that I really wondered if I was seeing what I thought I was. Anyway, how did I know what it was? What did Steller’s Eider look like? Not expecting to see either eider, I’d never paid any attention to their details.
Then I found my phone wouldn’t work: Now press * Press. Now press* Press. Now press* …Too cold, I suppose. Nobody else around.
Better do what people used to do, before mobiles and digital cameras: a field sketch! It’s truly terrible; I blame frozen fingers. But I could note the beautiful, soft, subtle blue-grey on the crown, the warm, unlikely orange-pink of the breast, and the not-so-subtle mad beak.
Still no luck with the phone. It unlocked, but then tried to call unrecognizable numbers.
There was a birder back by the pools. I considered running back to tell him, but worrried that by the time we returned there would be no sign of this Alleged Rarity. Luckily, he drove along and chose to stop nearby, so I slid down the seawall and blocked his view, requesting a field guide which he graciously supplied.I figured King Eider must be right at the end of the ducks, the baroque ultimate model of evolutionary production, but I couldn’t find it. There were scoters & Long-tailed Duck, but my numb fingers were unable to separate the pages until…there it was - I was right!
Following some vicious stabbing of buttons, my phone woke up, enabling me to contact Barry but, as usual, Pete Rouse had his phone switched off or was just not answering. By this time, the duck was swimming out into bigger waves, was beginning to dive and got lost among the hundreds of grebes and dozens of divers offshore. By the time Barry arrived, it was distant though still recognizable, but when Pete, Graham and Andrew got there, we had lost sight of it.
Anyway, I’d got things to do''.