Thursday, 18 June 2015

CRETZSCHMAR'S BUNTING - the full account

Following on from the confirmation I was "good to go" I contacted Tony and we had a chat about departure time. We decided on 12.30am at my place. It was a difficult one, as I was sure some chaps would sleep in their cars on site...but how many? Also, I had confirmation via Birdforum that it was 12 to a boat not 24!

Still that was it, we were committed. It WAS a Monday, although it transpired that only 36 made the trip on Sunday despite numerous trips, which I found amazing! I think there might have been a few more queuing if it had been on an East Coast island!!

When Tony arrived I was delighted to see Trevor Charlton sat in the back. I've known Trevor a long time. He began his birding in the York area, made several trips to Scilly and elsewhere in the 70's racking up some amazing MEGAS. He went on to become RSPB warden at Hornsea Mere and Bempton. He is now involved in wind farm monitoring. We added Des Roberts to our crew near Wakefield and headed west.

The trip was uneventful with Tony driving the full distance (I did offer to take my car). After a few hiccups along the beautiful Llyn peninsular...

...we were approaching the car park. I was holding my breath here as I was apprehensive as to what we would find. My fears were confirmed as we turned into a granted, small, but full car park.

The mood darkened somewhat at this point.

Not a soul in sight

We gathered our gear and took the track down to the beach. This was the sight we were greeted with...

...a long line of birders was least 70! So much for the Monday morning theory.

12's into 70ish = Many trips.

It was still only 6 am and (not surprisingly) no sign of the boatman. The atmosphere was fairly convivial with many re-acquainting themselves with other twitchers. There was obviously some tension in the air at the uncertainty of what was to come regarding transport to the island.

Then we noticed Mr Evans who was writing names down in groups of twelve. Seemed like a good idea to me. Encouragingly we'd made boat six. The slightly disappointing news was we wouldn't be going until 4.20pm!!!

The first three boats would be going at 7.30, 8,30 and 9.30 but would have to spend many hours on the island. So, you go early, your wait is "over there", you go late, your wait is "over here". Things were complicated further by the fact that groups of school children were visiting the island therefore taking up boat trips and heightening the concern of disturbance.

The main thing was WE WERE GOING! More positive vibes flowed shortly after with the news that the bird was still present. Great stuff! Once the boatman arrived and received the confirmed lists off Lee we were happy to leave the area and try and grab some breakfast.

It's a very remote area, as so many twitching sites are, so I wasn't hopeful. How wrong I was. We found a wonderful bakery complete with patio tables and chairs. An oasis! The list of fresh pastries was extensive and I have to admit I tried a few. It helped pass the morning as did Trevors excellent anecdotes. These included finding a STELLAR'S EIDER! His birding knowledge is immense. Tony had a well earned kip in the car. Des roamed around nervously.

Around 2.30 we made our way back to the boat ramp and waited.

Our group
Returning birders had encouraging news, telling us the bird was returning to the seed approx' every hour.

Group returning with good news
It was our turn.

Out to Carreg ddu (Black Rock). A brisk and enjoyable journey was enhanced by views of Manx Shearwaters and various Auks. On arrival we made our way up to the Lighthouse area. I was walking with Tony and as we got nearer it was obvious they were looking at it. We found a space, which wasn't easy in a tight viewing area and there it was, well at least it's head!

As you can see it was behind the concrete block. That's all we got on this visit and I'm afraid that's all that group 5 got as they had to leave. The area was a sun trap and we were looking into it which didn't help. Thankfully it wasn't too low BUT it was hot!

Half an hour went by. We were joined by group 7. An hour, then 75 minutes, it still hadn't returned. The above photo was taken at 5.04 and it was now 6.40. We didn't have long left. Then out of nowhere it was BACK...

It stayed in view for around 4 minutes, plenty long enough for great scope views and a few pics. A stonking male CRETZSCHMAR'S BUNTING. Happy days indeed!

Obviously there was much relief at the great views we'd all enjoyed and the atmosphere became very relaxed with much shaking of hands and smiles all round...

The warden and his staff were great and a healthy donation was made by the group. I met a few birders from previous twitches including one chap I'd twitched the MOURNING DOVE on Rhum with in 2013. Apologies for not recognizing you pal if your reading this.

It was now time to leave...

Trevor and Tony very happy on the return journey
So. a very long but eventually successful day. On the return journey we were discussing why we continue to do this. We decided we just like it!

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