It was a great day - succour for the soul, fresh air for the lungs. Wednesday saw my nose back to the grindstone. Next week, I have to send to page (i.e. get designed) one of my own books (52 Wildlife Weekends, edition 2), plus one of someone else's that I'm editing (Call of the Kingfisher by Nick Penny: it's going to be great!), and the next issue of Neotropical Birding magazine. So there's a lot of work to do. But today.... today, I couldn't be bothered again. Things started pleasingly when an intriguingly small Drab sp. in the moth trap got me coaxing its antennae out from their hiding place... and confirming the garden's first Lead-coloured Drab. Get in!
Have to say, I think I've developed a taste for bunking off. After all, there's got to be some perks to freelancing, right?
I've worked blinking hard this year. Six days a week, minimum, and up to 23 days at a stretch without a day off. Not because I'm workaholic. But because needs must. Cost of living crisis and all that. Not being employed means I can't hope to negotiate a pay rise. Only two of my regular clients has increased what they pay in the past five years. A couple pay the same rate they did when I started freelancing seven years ago. So the only way I can hope to stand still, financially, is to work quite a lot more. So when I decided to bunk off on Tuesday - to take a full day off work - and go birding, it felt like utter liberation. I've not been out bird finding since November. Heck, since mid-December, other than dipping a duck in Lothian, I've only been out with binoculars once when not surveying - and that was a filthy twitch for a county tick. So Tuesday saw me scouring a stretch of coast between Happisburgh and Trimingham, seeking to find my own Alpine Swift in the biggest influx of the Mediterranean species that the British Isles have ever known.
I didn't want to go further north of Trimingham, because there were already two, perhaps more white-bellied swifts just a little way north of there, between Sidestrand and Sheringham. I toyed with going further south to Winterton, but I reckoned slumping cliffs were a good thing for swifts. I was wrong. An Alpine Swift graced Winterton and I saw none on the stretch of coast I worked. But it was a damn good day. At Happisburgh, visible migration was heavy, with perhaps 2,000 Starling, 400++ Chaffinch, 30+ Siskin, Linnets, Goldfinches, Sand Martins and, best of all, two Woodlarks. The fields had three White Wagtails and three Wheatears. Trimingham held a stinger of a Firecrest. Zilpzalps (Chiffchaffs) were singing everywhere. And I had two bee ticks, in the very same patch of clifftop Red Hemp-Nettle at Mundesley: Cliff Mining-bee and (long overdue this) Hairy-footed Flower Bee.
And then news came through that two Alpine Swifts were bombing around Cromer lighthouse together - and apparently sticking. School run sorted, I decided to bunk off again. Twice in three days: how slack am I? It was also great. The blue skies enticed me to point my camera in the direction of Cromer lighthouse (see bottom pic). It didn't pan out too well, photographically - because the swifts stayed almost wholly under the clouds, and normally at range - but a few shots worked, and the birds were thrilling to watch. They were even joined by two House Martins, the first time I've seen this species in March.