It was all kicking off in East Anglia this weekend. For me this meant spending all yesterday watching Dereham Otters Iceni swimming gala in which my youngest daughter was competing. She achieved a personal best in all 4 events she took part in and did a qualifying time for next years Suffolk County championships so I was a proud parent. Unfortunately her total time in the water was 4 minutes in an 8 hour day and as I slowly died from boredom watching the umpteenth heat of the girls 200m Breaststroke ("It looks like a Sunday leisure swim" commented a parent next to me) my mind couldn't help but wander to the birds on offer in Norfolk and Suffolk.
It was only this morning with the girls safely on the school bus that my husband, Chris, and I could go to Minsmere. We arrived at Bittern Hide at 9.20 having been assured by Steve Piotrowski that the Little Crake had been showing well (thanks Steve!). Unfortunately the crake had wandered off in to the reeds at 8.55 and thus began a long and increasingly chilly vigil as the wind picked up and showers started to arrive blowing straight in to the hide. The pool was utterly birdless, not even a Moorhen graced its margins let alone a Little Crake. At least decent flight views of Bitterns provided some relief. The sudden change from summer to autumn had caught me out in my choice of birding garb and after 4 hours facing the teeth of the wind I was beginning to shiver. With conditions deteriorating further and the reedbed whipped in to a frenzy by the wind, Chris and I called it a day and headed home.
There was no mention of the crake for the rest of the day but knowing that crakes can be crepuscular I decided late to give the crake another go at dusk. I was more appropriately dressed this time with extra layers and arrived back at the hide at 5.50pm to find a small group of birders huddled against the back wall away from the rain-soaked windows. There was still no sign of the crake and the light, which was appalling, was getting rapidly worse. Despite this, there was an improvement on the morning with a party of Gadwall on the crakes pool and a Moorhen, wow! At 6.10pm one of the group gave up and left the hide. Minutes later, Lee Evans cried that he'd got it out in the open. Then I experienced one of those moments that in the panic to see the bird you overlook it, in this case because the light was so bad at this stage that the Little Crake really wasn't that obvious until it turned its pale underside towards me and my eyes finally locked on to it. Having gone missing for 9 hours the decidedly little Little Crake performed in full view for 10 minutes, apparently unconcerned by the weather, before disappearing back in to the reeds. At this point the hide emptied and a dozen relieved birders trudged back to their cars through the gloom under the trees.