After the usual discussions between myself and the chaps. Trevor (Charlton) and I decided to give it a go on Dartmoor for the LAMMERGEIER (much preferred personally to Bearded Vulture). Tony (Dixon) in the end declined. Trevor picked me up from home at 3am Tuesday and we started the long drive down to Devon. Obviously at this time of year there's plenty of light which makes things more relaxing, giving plenty of hours to search and hopefully connect.
There'd been a series of sightings on and around Dartmoor the previous day. We decided to start at the logical place i.e. the site of the last sighting on Monday evening which was a viewpoint over Soussons Down from the Warren House Inn. This was the mid-morning scene...
The weather and visibility wasn't great. There was low cloud, showers (some heavy) and a cold NW wind. Not great conditions for Vulture flight, although they will fly in poor weather. We had a few discussions with other Birders. Some were rather sceptical about yesterday evenings sighting from this spot, which didn't raise the spirits. I then saw Steve Webb and went over for a chat. He had been here the previous evening and was puzzled about the sighting, as he arrived shortly afterwards and no-one had been present who had seen the bird?
Still, we were here and a decent number (c40) had decided to view from here. So we waited. I had a mild desire to try Dartmeet (the site of yesterday afternoons sightings on Yar Tor) but I decided to go for the large view/more eyes theory and Trevor agreed. Other big listers such as Steve Gantlett and Chris Heard were also present.
The morning travelled by slowly. We had a few distant Buzzards but no sign of the BIG 1.
It was early afternoon now but we were still focussed, things could get better, much better, in an instant! Around 4.30 a flash Landrover pulled up and a country gent called across to us. "Have you seen it?" No, we replied. "I HAVE!!!" He proceeded to give an impressive description of the bird and backed it up by pointing to his field guide. Trevor commented that he must be VERY familiar with the local Buzzards. He also had Swaro' bins. He said he'd seen the bird circling the TV mast on North Hessary Tor. He said the site was around 4 miles west of our location through the village of Princetown. The rest of the chaps hadn't heard this conversation, so we let them know and let them decide on it's merit. As we were the last to leave they obviously thought it was worth considering. I also let RBA know.
The TV mast soon came into view and we made our way towards it, discussing the best place to view from. We eventually joined the group. Trevor walked over to them and it was obvious to him there was some scepticism about this "sighting". I could understand this completely. We had to make a judgement call on what he said. We believed him and that was that. Trevor emphasized our view.
Nothing was seen for the rest of the afternoon. On the strength of this sighting we decided to stay overnight and try again tomorrow. We don't give up easily.
We found a smart B&B and a Witherspoons before getting some much needed sleep.
We were up at 7. A quick stop at Morrison's and back up onto the Moor. The weather was still poor, although it did improve as the day wore on.
We hardly saw another birder all day!? At this point I'd like to say we connected and had magnificent views of a potential first for Britain. We didn't.
We left at 6pm after a total of around 17 hours in the field.
Was it worth it? YES. A long shot/needle in a haystack...of course...BUT imagine if we'd "got lucky".
Other cliché's like "you've got to be in it to win it" certainly apply, especially when we're coming from Yorks!
We both agreed that our efforts were worth it and we're definitely ready for another crack, if it re-appears.
The very fact that I was trying to see this bird in Britain was enough for me...and Trevor. It wasn't even a consideration! The fact that so few people were looking was even more motivational somehow. We had a greater chance of being the ones to re-find this cracker. It didn't work out but it was still enjoyable just to be "in the game" For many years previous I'd been at work longing to be trying for a MEGA...now it was my turn.
The journey back to the North-east passed fairly quickly and was made easier by Trevors tales from the past. He's seem some amazing birds from the 70's including WHITE-CROWNED BLACK WHEATEAR, MAGNOLIA WARBLER and 2 AMERICAN REDSTARTS!!! His knowledge of birds is extremely impressive.
He dropped me off at Holmpton at 1.30am, the end of our search for the BONECRUSHER...for now.