My tale begins as I'm half-way through my meal at Louise's birthday lunch in Beverley on Sunday afternoon. There are certain occasions (not many) when it's prudent to silence the pager...this was definitely one of them! When we planned the date I was hoping Murphy's Law wouldn't kick in...but it did...again!
A text? Leave it...
I was deep in conversation with my better half, her daughter and partner (who's birthday we were also celebrating). Sub-consciously I decided to check my phone in the toilets...
MEGA Shetland SIBERIAN ACCENTOR Mainland NE of Scousburgh north of Mossy Hill in 1st quarry on west side at 3.18pm
Have you ever been listening to a conversation and yet not hearing a word? (tactfully of course!). No-one noticed (which was slightly worrying) but I suddenly felt hot and slightly nauseous. No way was I going to let it affect the occasion however. Louise being the star she is thanked me for that later, although she didn't have to.
We finished the meal and said our goodbyes and headed for the car. I then gave her "that look". "What is it?'' or more accurately "Where is it?" she asked. I answered both her questions. I don't have a smart phone (mistake) and besides I was driving, so we headed home. It was now approaching 5.30pm. Large logistical dilemmas were looming large. First one was Bud...again, poor lad! If I don't get him...you know this one!! I made it. I'm so lucky (sometimes) there's a Kennel near enough that's open on Sunday evening. He has a great life generally but I can't leave him at home as Louise is at work.
How about how to get there and with who? I made the usual enquiries before contacting Tony (Dixon), Trevor (Charlton) and Steve (Lawton). The upshot was that Tony and Trevor were going to go on the Ferry Monday evening and Steve couldn't get the time.
The charter options didn't pan out which was hardly surprising as I was 3 hours "down". This was one bird that I needed to give this (expensive) option serious consideration.
After all, is was a(nother) FIRST FOR BRITAIN!!!
7.28pm. I received a call from Steve Webb saying there was a place available with them and they were flying from Aberdeen early tomorrow. Decisions, decisions...again. Remember ASAP. I contacted Tony, Trevor and Steve to say I was taking this option and they wished me well. That's the kind of chaps they are.
Steve and John (Hewitt) were on the 6.50am flight but it was now (unsurprisingly) FULL! The next one was 10am and I counted 21 spare seats on the website. It was now 9pm. I had a chat with John's mate Kevin and we decided to wait for news before booking in the morning, therefore potentially saving the air fare if the bird had gone. Risky I know.
So, the plan was in place and I packed my bag.
Steve pulled up shortly afterwards and we headed West to pick up Kevin near Ferrybridge services. Into the night and North to Aberdeen. After a few hiccups we arrived at departures to be greeted with a who's who of British twitchers. One of the first faces I saw was Andrew Kinghorn followed shortly afterwards by Chris Bromley, both of which I'd twitched with before. I recognised many others but don't really know them that well.
Steve and John checked in and they joined the rest while Kevin and I sat and waited on our own!
7.30am. Pager wake up time, although it was still pretty dark were we were. The early troops would be landing shortly and there would be Birders already on site looking.
As you can imagine...the waiting was quite tense!!!
7.42am. Shetland SIBERIAN ACCENTOR still Mainland NE of Scousburgh north of Mossy Hill in 1st quarry on west side.
We booked our seats.
The plane was only half full with I'd say around a dozen other Birders present, which I found quite surprising? Kevin had contacted Steve and he said he'd pick us up and take us to the site when we landed, which was great and eliminated a few other logistical problems. I saw him straight away in arrivals and off we went...
As we approached the site Steve said it had been showing well most of the time in the first quarry but I could see the group were now standing at the second quarry, further up the hill?..which was slightly worrying! He drove us further up the hill and we got out while he parked the car. I could see John gesturing that he had it in his scope, so I made it over to him eventually and there it was! It was partially hidden in the stingers but I could see the head pattern clearly. A great moment indeed.
We stayed with the bird most of the afternoon before adding a nice Ortolan Bunting on the way to the Ferry. John later informed us that the bird flew strongly away from the site a good distance just prior to our arrival! I'm SO glad I found this out in retrospect.
I'm certain there are many images all over the internet by now. A few of my humble efforts...
To think this species is in the same family as our humble Dunnock. This has to be one of my "best birds. Considering the rarity, looks and recent bad run I'd place it at number 5 in my all time Rush Birds list (see left hand column). A fantastic adventure and a stunning bird.
I was in illustrious company on this trip. Many thanks to Steve for doing all the driving and most of the organisation.
Sincere commiserations for all those who travelled today including Tony and Trevor, I'm gutted for them. I know the feeling well. That's the game we play.
So my bad run is over in spectacular style. Triumph at last...