Rainstorm Roller

The gravelly sandy path crunches beneath my feet as I follow behind the others. They are in a hurry, rushing to reach a particular point along the path. I am happy to dawdle, taking in the beauty of the evening. A huge sky stretches above, ahead it hits a wall of dark purplish-grey cloud, menacing on the horizon, threatening storm and rain. Behind it is clear; a bright, warm sun low in the sky spreads a warm, orangey yellow glow across the landscape. It is dramatic light for dramatic scenery. To my left sand dunes rise up, topped with grasses, and occasional deep green bushes nestled at their feet. To the right marshy grassland stretches to distant trees, where the spires of small churches and the tips of a wind mill poke above. The leaves of clusters of small trees and bushes glow warmly, glistening from the recent downpour.

The dramatic Norfolk coast

The group scans every bush, dead branch, tree, fence post for the objective of their desire. I scan, and pause watching a pair of Stonechats clicking and flicking their tails at the top of a bush. Scan and pause, watching a Kestrel swoop low over the grass, before swiftly rising and hovering looking intently below. Scan and pause, carefully taking in each Woodpigeon and crow perched up high just in case it is the bird were are searching for.

The sun continues to drop, clouds bubble up behind us now, darkening the horizon and threatening another deluge. Time appears to be running out, the pace quickens again as expectations falter. It is fast approaching the time many birds go to roost, disappearing to shelter and sleep for the night.

Then with a hint of suppressed excitement (just in case it disappears before anyone else sees it) the eagle-eyed Lee states ‘I’ve got it’. A quick scramble to set scopes on the spot and everyone breathes a sigh of relief, before bursting into excited exclamations of ‘well done!’

Distant, but totally distinctive, in the trees across the marshy fields sits a European Roller. What a bird! The size of a Jackdaw, with a reddish brown back and brilliant blue body and wings. Breeding in central and southern Europe and wintering in Africa, European Roller’s are a rare bird in Britain and well justified of the stir they cause.

European Roller – what a beaut! © Nick Robinson

Rain drops start splattering, the wall of dark cloud grows ominously bigger and closer. The Roller, drops from the branch, reappearing with food of some sort. Finally it sets off, disappearing behind the bushes heading somewhere drier for the night. It is time for us to leave also as we head towards that rain. In a fitting end the storm skirts us and the sky turns red as the sun drops below the horizon.

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