Tuesday, 9 June 2015

SWAINSON'S THRUSH - better late than never!

This tale begins last Tuesday when news broke of a SWAINSON'S THRUSH on Skokholm, an island off the SW Pembrokeshire Coast. There have been 30+ records of this Catharus Thrush in Britain but I hadn't seen one. Many had been one day jobs on distant islands in Autumn. There had been a few long stayers. I missed the 2000 bird on Scilly by a day!

It's always been a species that I'd told myself I'd get "one day". Trouble is I've been saying that for over 20 years!

I was on a course on Wednesday so communication was difficult as being a good lad I'd turned my phone off (although the trusty pager was on silent). News came of a boat trip on Thursday, so at lunchtime I rang and reserved a place. Tony Dixon also said he was going so the plan looked good. I contacted work and the lads arranged a shift swap to enable me to go (much appreciated chaps).

I then received a text from Tony that said he was having reservations as the "time window"  to see the bird was short. I had to agree. To cut a long story short I rang the depot back and told them I wasn't going now. They were fine and I resigned myself to wait for the next one on Scilly this Autumn?

Tony then contacted me again to say he'd changed his mind and was now going. That was fair enough as it was my decision not to go. I wished him luck and that was that.

Another trip was arranged for Friday and all connected. I couldn't go. No trips Saturday or Sunday as the weather was bad. Surely it would go, wouldn't it? A Spring bird.

Saturday...still there. Sunday...still there!

Another boat trip Monday and guess who had the day off. I reserved a place and the trip was on.

I traveled down to Newport and stayed in a Days Inn for £25 (getting soft in my old age). Up at 5 Monday and drove the 2 hours to Martin's Haven.

Troops assembling
Then the news came through...STILL THERE!!! Always a relief.

We made our way down to the boat launch and waited for departure at 8.30. There were a few other groups around some going over to Skomer, the sister island. Disappointingly we were told that the boat would be taking people to Skomer first and we would have to wait until it returned around 9.15. Still it was a superb day, the bird had been reported, so hopefully no problem. The tension mounted slightly as the wind increased considerably during our wait and the sea was getting lively.

I also bumped into Steve Lawton who'd also travelled down from Yorks. He'd sent me a message on Facebook but not having a smartphone I hadn't seen it. Pity we could have come down together. Maybe next time pal.

When the boat returned we loaded up the luggage, chain style and boarded...

Not having sea legs I was concerned about the crossing but it was fine in the fast boat. The sea was interesting though...

As we approached the Island we could see Grassholme in the distance. The large Gannet colony looking like a Glacier...

This was the scene as we approached the buildings...

The wardens were understandably keen to remind us to stay on the main path and not to wonder off amongst the breeding birds. Everyone behaved impeccably.

So, we were shown to the target area and everyone set up there stalls...

As you can see we were viewing through a narrow gap between a wall and a building into thick vegetation. On closer inspection there was a gap in the bushes with some bare branches. This was the spot we were assured the bird would appear. The warden reckoned about every 20 minutes!

OK...let's wait.

There were a couple of false alarms regarding Blackbirds flitting around in the shadows but after around...yes...20 minutes...out popped the bird right on cue...

Preening and difficult to see at first
Better now
The bird kept mainly in the shadows
Finally managed one in the sun...

So, success! My 25ish year wait was finally over.

We all decided we'd had our fill so the warden arranged for the boat to pick us up early. We thanked all the staff, made a contribution and made our way back down to the jetty. We enjoyed some great seabird action while we waited...

It wasn't all birds...

Once back on the mainland I said goodbye to Steve and made my way up onto the headland as I hadn't finished birding yet. I had another target. Not a MEGA but a very localized species and a rare bird indeed...

First a youngster
Then a parent
You could say I was Choughed! Couldn't resist.

No comments: