Every birder likes to add a "lifer" to their list, but there are rules about this kind of thing, the most important of which, in my view, is that you should see/hear the bird sufficiently well that you would know it if you saw one again. Among my lifers-that-never-were is the bird illustrated above, a Semipalmated Sandpiper, one of a series of difficult little waders (shorebirds) known as "peeps". difficult because they all look alike until you get a really good view of them.
So, when I was told by my friends Mike and Martin, who were in a hide (blind) at Minsmere RSPB reserve, that there was a Semipalmated Sandpiper out on the mudflats, I became very moist with excitement. They directed me to it, but I couldn't find it among the mass of little waders feeding on the mud. The light was awful too.
"Which one is it?" I bleat (I couldn't keep the note of panic out of my voice. Pathetic,isn't it?)
"It's the one that's limping," reply my friends Mike and Martin.
For those of you interested in the contents of my Life List, I can tell you that I have yet to see a Semipalmated Sandpiper, even though I did get my bins on the Minsmere cripple. Get my drift?
By the way, if you are eagle-eyed and have nothing better to do, you can just about make out the palmation between the bird's toes. Imagine trying to see that from a long way off on a dull day.