Rare treat for eagle-eyed spotters

Large numbers of birds flocked from all over the country at the weekend to see an extremely rare human visitor to East Anglia.

Large numbers of birds flocked from all over the country at the weekend to see an extremely rare human visitor to East Anglia.

Bed-and-breakfast nests in the north Norfolk area were almost unobtainable as an unprecedented number of birds descended on Cromer, on the north Norfolk coast, to view a family of speckled, dark-eyed waders who were feeding near the pier.

A landlady, Mrs Crow, said she had been counting, and she was fairly sure that every nest in the area was occupied. Some birds were sleeping on the beach.

She added that to see these particular speckled waders in north Norfolk in early May was unprecedented. She was not sure where they had come from, but believed they had arrived on a rare bus from somewhere up north.

“I saw the man in the water, and two of the children,” she said. “But the woman was just standing on the beach. It was a terrific opportunity for the birds to get a good view of them, and some snaps.”

An expert from the Norfolk Tame Life Trust said there was some uncertainty whether these were genuine speckled waders, since the unseasonal sun might have affected their skin. The dark eyes could have been a result of late-

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night revelry, although this was unlikely in Cromer.

But a spokesbird refused to accept that there was any doubt. “This is totally amazing,” he said. “We thought they were extinct. I've got some great pictures.”

Local police were introducing security measures to ensure that no-one attempted to fly off with any of the children, who were vulnerable in unfamiliar surroundings. An osprey was held for two hours yesterday and then released without charge.

A police spokesman said: “You can understand the excitement. We normally only get elderly people here. They're very common. This is something totally different.

“But we're sure the birds will be sensible. No-one wants to frighten these visitors away. There's a chance we might open the putting green if they stay.”

CHAOS THROUGH SOFTER HANDS

That most formidable of lobbying groups, "a number of prominent climate scientists", is campaigning to prevent Channel 4 releasing its iconoclastic Great Global Warming Swindle programme on DVD.

No surprise there. But in the New Forest, something is stirring. A group of parents is considering a legal challenge against the government's decision to give copies of Al Gore's alarmist film, An Inconvenient Truth, to secondary schools across the country.

I know which one I'd be more worried about, but why not let everyone see both films? Bit dangerous, of course. They might like the wrong one.

Still, a bit of openness would be refreshing. In that spirit, I am happy to publicise the fact that Mark Constantine, the Lush cosmetics chief executive who admits to "really hating" cars, has promised to give all the money taken for his new Charity Pot hand lotion to environmental or humane causes, many of which are admirable.

One of the beneficiaries of this, however, will be anti-car groups such as Roadblock, and Mr Constantine is particularly enthusiastic about this. "When you think how much mischief you can do with a thousand here, a thousand there, it's great," he said. "If we get a million out of the Charity Pot, we could create absolute chaos."

So if you want to create chaos, you know what lotion to buy. It may also help you to wash your hands of the whole thing.

SAVE ARTISTS FROM EXTINCTION

One of the many underestimated spin-offs of the London Olympics in 2012 is a cutback in grants and funding for less nationalistic ventures, like art.

Despite their benefits to the community, most artists live on very little and are becoming a more and more endangered species - so much so that a local arts organiser, who prefers to remain anonymous, has come up with a radical way that ordinary people can give their support.

She feels that it is time to introduce an Adopt an Artist system - along the lines already used for horses, giant pandas and small African children.

"It's a kind of 21st century system of patronage," she said. In return for regular cash, the donor would get reports on the progress made by the artist and his or her current project and state of health. They would also get personal works of art at regular intervals and opportunities to watch the artist at work.

If this does not catch on, it will not be long before visitors to exhibitions will find artists making exhibitions of themselves, with labels like "Artist: please feed", "Artist in hibernation" and "An artist is not just for Christmas".

Visitors to the Open Studios this month should keep their eyes and options open.

DON'T LET CARPING SPOIL THE PROGRAMME

It was not hard to predict that there would be complaints about the Norfolk accents in Kingdom, Stephen Fry's new drama vehicle, which is based in Swaffham-on-Sea.

Personally I am rather proud of living in a county whose accent is so esoteric that it is almost impossible to fake.

And I don't blame actors for failing to get it right.

The effort that goes into a natural Norfolk accent is minimal. As soon as you strive to get it right, you're doomed to failure - as Kingdom occasionally reveals.

I love the Norfolk accent, but I love the landscape of the county even more - and I really don't want producers and directors to shun us as a drama setting because of carping from a few "purist" mawthers.

DEMOCRACY, BUT NOT AS WE'D LIKE IT

In the run-up to last week's elections we were advised

as usual that not using our vote was the eighth deadly sin.

But how to use it? In our ward, only two of the four parties communicated with us in any way; the one that made the biggest effort had a key policy that I profoundly opposed, and the other ran a television advertisement campaign that was irritating in its superficial and irrelevant approach.

Neither of the other two had much chance of success, and neither of them had a manifesto which aroused much sympathy.

If I am to believe my friends, my opinions are not bizarre or reactionary, but they are not shared by any of the main parties.

In short, no-one will represent me. So I have to vote against who I think is the greatest evil. It may be democracy, but not as we would like to know it. Hardly surprising that so many don't vote at all.

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