Calcutta Cup drama

Glossy Ibis

Glossy Ibis

It has to be said, I was somewhat grumpy that I had to take my 10 year old daughter to a swimming party near Glastonbury late afternoon on Saturday 24th February. I mean, what were the parents thinking of? Did they not realise that the Calcutta Cup rugby match was to kick off at five-thirty?

Oh well, nothing for it but to press the record button and take my wee Linsey across the Levels to meet up with her chums. Mobile switched off, radio off – it will be fine, no-one could possibly contact me to tell me the score, and I will make the most of it by doing a spot of birdwatching around the Patch while she splashes around for a couple of hours.

It was a perfect winter’s afternoon, bright, if bitterly cold. My first stop was to be the churchyard of Holy Trinity Church in Street, on the off chance that the Hawfinches might still be about. Bingo! there he/she was, sitting at the top of a bare tree was a splendid single Hawfinch enjoying the late afternoon sunshine. What a great bird, shades of copper and chestnut in colour, with a whopper of a beak - simply dazzling.

Things were looking up.

I retrace my route the Patch to get good views of two soaring marsh harriers, great spotted woodpecker, snipe, shoveler and a little grebe. Just as I was about to call it a day and head back to the swimming pool a great white egret flew directly overhead ending an excellent walk around the Patch.

Back at the car I thought I would just have a quick look on the new ‘scrape’ recently dug out at the edge of the Patch by some old peat workings. I wasn’t expecting much as it is still a bit of a mess with that fresh look that any earthmoving work has that time can only heal. To my delight a kestrel was hovering over one of the verges, 8 little egrets were paddling and puddling in the shallow water and there with the low sun showing off its splendid plumage was none other than a glossy ibis. Whenever I have seen this bird before it has always looked a somewhat grubby and uninteresting bird, along the same lines as the colouring of a cormorant, however tonight the bird lived up to its name showing off its shimmering greens, reds and browns. Its long curved bill, and long legs made it a most exotic and glamorous looking bird.

The icing on the cake came in the form of a wonderful finale was that a starling murmeration of truly biblical proportions, appearing from nowhere. They rose above my head like a huge shoal of fish turning this way and that, as if liquid, and promptly splattered my car and my head.

They say it is supposed to be lucky to be ‘pooped’ on. Well, after the birds I had just seen, and the final result of the Calcutta Cup match which I enjoyed when I got home - I certainly felt blessed.



Graeme Mitchell