Phalaropes are great. I've seen two of the three species, Grey, and as of last week Wilson's.
Filled with an enviable (for us oldies, I'm nearly sixteen) and seemingly endless energy, they never appear to stop moving. You'd think they'd be a nemesis to photographers. Not so. With Grey at least they're practically a photographers best friend, particularly if they're in Sussex. They seem to know no boundaries, being more than 24 inches away is out of the norm. A photographer would generally suffer from having 'too much lens'. And as we all know, photographers - generally - love complaining about not having enough lens. So too much? Basically unheard of. This was how both last year's Hove 'play-ground-paddling-pool' bird, and the recent bird on the Cuckmere performed. I went for the Hove bird, it was amazing. The Cuckmere bird was showing just as well, and in more natural habitat, you could bet your hat I was going to go! What's more you could be sure I was going to get the first train of the day there. It's practically guaranteed I'd walk the three or so miles from the station to get there before sunrise. And you know what? It was down right certain the Phalarope would show amazingly.
This was to be my third Grey Phal. The Hove bird, a hardly tick-able fly-by from a pelagic, and then this. Ignore the fly-by, this was going to rival the Hove bird, this one was going to be great. Wasn't it?
Nope. Nee. Nein.
The bird had moved from a small pool to what would probably be classed as a lagoon. In which it stuck to a single current and never came closer that 15-20 foot, more often 50. Terrible. At the time I'll admit, to my shame, I was a little disappointed. A scarce migrant down to 20 foot, that should be amazing, shouldn't it? In the moment, it didn't really seem so. There's a simple answer here - the Hove bird ruined it for me. Well, that and the pictures from the day before.
Does this mean then, that unless my next Grey Phalarope is less than two foot away I'll be disappointed? Honestly, I hope not. How often do they show quite that well anyway? I'm sure two in the last two years is just a coincidence. At least with Wilson's it just needs to be within 500 foot, and Red-necked just needs to be there...
The moral of this story? Never (ever), have expectations with birding. Or, just make sure you go the day before.