Thursday, 20 July 2017

AMUR FALCON - the full story

Finally stopped...after a trip to Swillington Ings for the magnificent CASPIAN TERN...

Had a great few hours watching this beast of a Tern performing well intermittently over Astley Lake and surrounds. It's ironic how things turn out in Birding...fascinating as least to me! It took me 30 years to add this species to my Yorkshire list and now I've seen two in two years. MUCH better views on this occasion. At one stage it patrolled the lake for a good 10 minutes giving a stunning performance. It exuded power and dexterity as it circled the area.

Some familiar faces were present. It was great to see my old pal Vince from my days in the Valley, particularly at NDC. He told me he'd heard a Corncrake there recently! He was hoping the CT would drift down to Fairburn for a patch tick. At one time it flew south, so I sent him a text. However the bird returned to the lake a short while later. Tony (Dixon) also turned up with a couple of mates...County ticking. I also met a chap from York who I liked and will remain nameless at his request. I liked him because he said nice things about my Blog lol! No seriously, we hit it off and chewed the fat over many things Birding and beyond. He modestly informed me he'd seen BLACK-BROWED ALBATROSS and FEA'S Yorkshire. That's two up on me! You know who you are pal. Many thanks for your comments.


So, back to the other day then, to put some flesh on the bones of one of my better/best days.

Having had time to reflect on events I feel I was VERY fortunate to connect with this bird for numerous reasons.
  • Firstly the fact that it re-appeared at all after an absence of 11 days. The 6th of July seems a long time ago now when I realised I couldn't go down to Cornwall, on the eve of my trip to my son's wedding in Italy.
  • The fact that it lingered for the remainder of the day on July 17th.
  • I was sooo lucky with the traffic...or lack of it. To travel from North Yorkshire to Lands End during the day with no significant stoppages was remarkable.
My initial thoughts at Wykeham were negative I have to admit..."not another reported"! (12.32). My location and the distance involved kept me scanning for Honey Buzzards, in vain I might add. As already mentioned the next message containing the word "still" (12.42) changed my outlook. I estimated my route via Sutton Bank then onto the A64 (the rest you know) gave me the best opportunity to make progress SW.

No time for any prep'. Fortunately the tank was full, my phone was fully charged (just as well as yet another "cheapo" car charger let me down), I had a coat and Buddy had his bowl...he didn't get a vote!

I texted Trevor but didn't get a reply immediately so I set off west. My thoughts at this time were to cruise down as far as possible, kip in the car and be ready for dawn. The further I could get the better. I'd heard from John Hewitt the nightmare journey they'd had back, due to the A30 roadworks...c11 hours!

Steady progress was made down the A1 - M18 - M1 and onto the M42. A few speed restriction sections were adhered to...iron will-power. I was heading for Bristol down the M5 and the traffic was still flowing. Hitting this area at around 5pm didn't fill with me hope but I was still going strong...and the bird was still showing!

It then dawned on me (I'm quick like that) that I had an outside chance of making it before dusk!! It would all depend on the traffic around Exeter and the A30 road works? However, I still felt the cards were still stacked against me.

I HAD to make one stop...too much Peps Max. I checked the phone and was pleased to read encouragement and updates from Trevor Charlton, Tony Dixon, Steve Lawton, Haydn Patterson and Phil Jones. A Facebook post from Lee Evans had also mentioned some reliable, experienced Birders who had seen the bird.


Onto the A30. Where were the road works? Who knows ...who cares! Turned out they had finished last weekend...some Good Luck. I sailed down to Penzance and it was only 7. I was getting a bit
excited by now! The weather was good and the sun was still well above the horizon. Another update on the pager added a little spice by informing me the bird was now..."distant". I'd keyed the postcode into my phone on Google maps (surprising I know) and it worked a treat in the maze that is West Cornwall. I turned down the minor road to St Buryan. An extremely narrow road with very high walls/hedges. I needed to see a birder was gone 8pm and the light was fading as the cloud thickened.

I turned another bend and there was a red transit with a guy with bins looking into a field. "Any sign"  I tried to say calmly. "I've just had it but it's flown off" was his reply. I thanked him and continued down the lane. More cars and a few birders...encouragingly they were all training there optics in the same direction. I noticed Steve Webb who'd just returned from Peru (to also get a second chance). They were all stood on the wall ...but I couldn't climb up due to my mobility issues! Fortunately being tall I re-arranged the vegetation to find myself looking at my target sat in a bush...

That was rather pleasing I thought to myself...HUZZAH!!!

I enjoyed watching the bird for the next 10 or so minutes while I got my breath back. I counted 10 birders!!? The bird then hopped along the hedge a couple of times...

It was getting dull by now. Nobody else had arrived. I recognised a few local faces including Paul Freestone. Around 8.30 the bird flew from the hedge towards Lassadell House and was lost to view. The group stayed in position but I decided to follow the road towards the house. I could then see a bird on the wire just beyond the house. I alerted the group...

I love this picture...because I took it! lol! No, as I've said before it's not about the "best" picture, I'll never achieve that with my point and shoot. It's about personal memories and this is definitely one to savour! I might be finding a place in my "RUSH BIRDS" top ten for this one. An evocative image of the last time the bird was seen as it left the wire and appeared to fly into the garden of the roost?

Time for McDonald's and Tesco now.

I returned to the lane and settled down for a night in the V70. Just a word on the old girl. She's just topped 100,000 miles and she cruised down the motorways in style giving me as always a smooth comfortable and economical journey. She's in next week for a full service and new cam-belt (overdue). I'm confident she can give me the same again (53 plate). My last one managed 230,000! Tough cars Volvos.

I'd arranged to meet Trevor at dawn. My days of sleeping well in the car are well and truly over. Fortunately the short summer night passed quickly. I was the only car present at 11pm. By 5am the lane was packed and every available spot was taken. Trevor was 2 cars down from mine! I led him to the house and showed him were I'd seen it last. Then we waited.

I had Bud with me so I kept him away from the main groups (not everyone is dog friendly, especially in situations like this). I recognised a lot of familiar faces, many from the north including Dave Hursthouse and John McLoughlin.

I was convinced it would show as I believed it had gone into the garden of Lassadell House. Alas it wasn't to be. There were a few unsubstantiated claims but no confirmed sighting. My phone had packed up by now and I'd lost Trevor in the crowd, so at 9.45 I returned to McDonald's for breakfast. The traffic problems in the lane were mounting with tractors and coaches turning up.

I figured I'd wait in Penzance for a while and wait for news as getting a parking spot again would be be er...difficult!

No sign by 11 so I decided to make the long drive home...very contented. THIS IS the very best type of twitch for me. No dithering, no what ifs...just GO!!!


So my luck at Lands End had finally changed...

2011 - I changed my flight time to Scilly from morning to afternoon to try for the 1w male SCARLET TANAGER at St Levan on Saturday October 22nd. A smart move I thought until the bird decided to leave and fly to Scilly!!!

2013 - A HERMIT THRUSH was at Porthgwarra on October 30th. A MOURNING DOVE was also present on Rum, Inner Hebrides. I decided (foolishly) to wait at Exeter for news on the HT ON November 1st as I had another long drive to Scotland for the MD. The bird was present but by the time I'd driven down from Exeter it had disappeared and so had most of the birders. I spent the next 2 days looking for it in vain. I did get the MD.

2014 - I was in the middle of another wonderful week on Scilly when it turned sour. The one species  I reckoned I'd be in prime position for on Scilly would be YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOO. It was Thursday October 24th and we were on St Agnes looking at an Ortolan Bunting. The MEGA alert goes off to inform me a YBC had been found at Porthgwarra! No boat Friday when the bird was still present and of course it had disappeared when I turned up on Saturday.

That exorcised a few demons.

So, as you can see I like to think I was due some luck down there.

I have no hesitation in placing this sighting at number 4 in my all-time "RUSH BIRDS" list (see left hand column)...pop pickers!

For what it's worth I feel the bird may still be around the West Cornwall peninsular...

No comments: