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SEEING A 'MEGA'

"Mega!" It's one of today's buzzwords - an exclamation you hear in many contexts. It usually indicates high excitement on the speaker's part who shouts out "mega" as a cry of appreciation. That's so for many birdwatchers like me, typically when I see a very rare bird new to me that I have been waiting and hoping to see for some time. So it was on Monday 7 July.

Early that morning I arrived at Druridge to catch up with 3 Spoonbill that had been reported over the weekend. I was just setting up my telescope when a mobile rang and I overheard an intriguing phone-call. Thankfully I knew the receiver of the phone-call well enough to quiz. "Black-winged Pratincole on a flash pool near Holywell, but it needs to be confirmed." What?!! A world 'lifer' for me from Ukraine, probably the same bird that had popped in and out of a nature reserve nearer to home 3 weeks prior and had just spent 2 days on a reservoir near Hartlepool. "You'll need your wellies" was my cue for a quick dash home and it proved timely advice for trudging through wet grass to the site. It was raining heavily when I arrived and viewing was poor. Nevertheless, over a 10 minute period I saw several of the diagnostic features, notably the uniformly dark underwing and its lack of a 'trailing edge'. Then the rain stopped and the bird flew off. We watched it rise, circle back and then off again, flying high to the east. Eventually I lost it as a dot, some 2 miles away, flying behind some distant woodland. Wow! My 364th species in the UK and my 324th in Northumberland. MEGA!!

Mark Winter


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