There are many obstacles placed before the frustrated seabirders of Gwent, dubious geographical location (does that count as sea?), distance to the deepwater channel, a limited choice in observation points, etc. However, it is the evil conjoined twins of disbelief and self-doubt that are the most impassable impediments. Anything half-decent flying up or down-channel is instantly trailed by a dense fret of vacillation. But add the slightest imperfection of viewing conditions, or brevity of sighting, and the water at the foot of the sea wall broils and froths, spray fills the air and a nigh impregnable wall of watery irresolution rushes skywards. And there you are, at the foot of an impossibly vertical torrent of unlikelihood, clinging to your possible penguin or probable petrel. Momentarily a troubled, colourless face peers back then,… the wave breaks and crashes down, crushing down, pummelling the olive clad body without and the ornithological spirit within. The under-current swirls around once planted, sliding, slipping, flailing feet. Swept out into the sea of not-quite-knowing, gasping, thrashing, turning to see,… to see nothing but unbearable wave after wave of incredulity, bearing down, barrelling down. Submerged, wide-eyed, white-eyed, silent screams; brine-filled convulsions, lungs burst and from your grasp slips the prize find; down, down into the weedy, eely-mouthed darkness to a silty-soft, cold as death, hagfish-filled (thats-what-you-get-for-birding-on-the-)bed.
How’s it above?
And so it was. An auk, arse-on, going away, Avonmouth-bound at a rate of (no [knots], only Barwit of note on the wader front). White below, black tail, white rump, WHITE RUMP! Get on this! There's white on the upperparts, THERE IS WHITE ON THE UPPERWING! GET ON THIS! It ploughs on towards blighty. GET ON THIS! Directly away, following an upriver furrow, lost amongst the frothing white horses. PANIC! A squall murks the background, landmarks blur, ill-formed directions are ineffectually blurted. The arse is lost in the distant foam and all that remains is an alcidic etching on the retina. A resignation settles on the flock, a helplessness learnt of innumerable unidentified feathery specks. The one has all but got away.
Tiddlers in a jamjar?
But it couldn’t be anything else. There is nothing else it could be. Solace?! Who will give me solace? The good book is sought, offered and, once found (in a glove-compartment beneath the sticky tin of sugar dusty sweets), consulted. And from the bible-black-backed tome comes forth the flickering light of faith. No, really, there is nothing else it could have been. A phone call to Severnside and tweet to the ether (carefully caveated with ‘possibles’, ‘maybes’, ‘keep your eyes open fors’ and ‘he’s not 100% buts’) and,… and that’s all that can be done. Not that that knowledge halts the wind-whipped waves of despair and self-loathing. AAARGH! Didn’t nail it. F***CK! A county first. Definitely didn’t get enough to get it accepted. Jeeebus! Single observer. No photo. Didn’t happen. Sob.
When she smiles, is there dimples?
“Thanks… Just had close views of Black Guillemot off Severn Beach”
Oh, Twitter how do I love thee? Let me count the ways. Get in! I’m bloody having it! Will it come back down? Keep flipping looking.
“Black Guillemot showing well Blackrock… on the rocks.”
Slamming of car doors, revving of engines, screeching of brakes and passengers, then brakes again,… Blackrock. It was here three minutes ago,… it’s here now! Lappage, photographage, rejoicage, oh-bugger-it-just-flew-offage,… more birding, then home.
Oh, my dead dears!
First-winter Black Guillemot, Blackrock, Gwent. If it had flown by Goldcliff Point in this fashion much less anguish would have ensued. Photo by Tom Chinnick.
First-winter Black Guillemot, Blackrock, Gwent. It climbed out of the water on several occasions, maybe not 100% healthy. Again, photo by Tom Chinnick.