Tuesday, 22 October 2013

20th October 2013 - Struggling to get a semi

We had always planned to head off this weekend. It was just a matter of where. With ISABELLINE SHRIKE, SIBERIAN STONECHAT plus a RED-FLANKED BLUETAIL in Yorkshire, it appeared that we would be heading off to Yorkshire again. 

Then, on Thursday 17th, a SEMIPALMATED PLOVER was found on Hayling Island but was only seen for a short time before flying off. A tick for me and GAS but not the others, the other problem being there wasn't much else down in the area to see, but the East coast was looking good. 

As always happens with problem birds, the SEMIPALMATED PLOVER was seen again on Friday and a trip was organised for Saturday. CJW decided to come with us just for a few year ticks. The bird came and went with the tides, and with high tide not until 12:19hrs, we didn't need to get up too early. We arranged a 06:00hrs start.

I got up at 05:00hrs and started to get ready. I then noticed a slight problem. The room was spinning, I felt light headed, incredibly dizzy and not quite well. I tried to mend myself, but when GAS arrived at 06:00hrs, I was still no better. There was no way I could drive down to Hampshire: in fact I couldn't even walk in a straight line. Eventually, at 08:00hrs, I had to tell CJW the trip was off. This was the first time ever in all my twitching days that I've ever had to cancel a trip. And as tick are especially hard to come by, I was gutted to say the least (I literally nearly was gutted too but I'll spare the details). GAS went off to Westport with CJW and I sat and swayed.

It did sort of ease as the day went on, but my head never entirely cleared. I was determined though to go ahead with the trip on Sunday. Unfortunately, CJW was working and unable to come. I got up at 05:00hrs again and I felt slightly better. I managed breakfast and GAS picked me up at 06:00hrs and did the first half of the driving. I was alright as long as I didn't look down. (I realise now it was an inner ear infection).    

We arrived at Hayling Island at 09:30hrs and joined the crowd of Sunday birders stood on the end of the point waiting for the tide to come in. There were plenty of waders coming and going, and slowly the numbers built up. By 11:30hrs, we had 200+ Sanderling, 50+ Grey Plover plus a decent sized flock of Ringed Plovers. However, there was one bird missing. Despite the flock behaving itself (even returning if spooked), no one had managed to pick out the SEMIPALMATED PLOVER. Then the whole flock flew off.

We followed the crowd as they walked back through the sailing club, hoping they would lead us to groyne 25, the location where it flew to yesterday. However, we realised most birders were returning to their cars. We ate our dinner, consulted my maps and found an area of beach with groynes. There was only one car park so we decided to try and beat the crowd and headed off down there. We parked up and walked along the beach towards the crowd already gathered. I kept checking my phone but there was still no news.
I casually set my scope up and asked if there was any sign. There was, and I was soon watching the 1w Semipalmated Plover through a kind gentleman's scope. We must have been standing there for five minutes before the news came through. Unfortunately, before the majority arrived, a dog ran through the flock flushing the lot. Luckily for the late arrivals, they did settle down again and good views were had. The Semiplover did stand out from the crowd quite nicely: its petite size was clearly noticeable.

Another 90's gripback and my first tick of the Autumn. Amazingly, this is my 7th tick on 20th October since 2000. In 2001, it was a Norfolk Pallid Swift, in 2002 a Pallas's Warbler on Great Orme, 2006 I was on the Isles of Scilly ticking Isabelline Shrike, Booted Warbler and Western Bonelli's, then last year it was the Fife Eastern Olivaceous. Certainly a lucky date for me.

We headed off and decided to pop and see the Red-breasted Goose on the way back home. The journey took about an hour to do, and we got stuck at the usual New Forest bottle neck. We also drove through some extremely heavy rain. By the time we arrived at Cutt Bridge, Milford-on-Sea, it had eased off, and I went off looking for the goose on the marsh with the Brent Geese. Most geese were distant and feeding in long grass, so I rang GAS up and asked him to bring my scope. As the sky looked dark, I casually asked him to bring my coat. Just before he arrived, the heavens opened again. It was quite exposed on the marsh, so we had to walk inland to find the nearest tree, and we sheltered there for about 20 minutes while the rain bounced down again. It was getting late now, and a quick check of the marsh revealed no sign of the R B Goose. We wandered back to the car where we met two birders. They suggested we headed towards the pond, as they had seen a couple of birders waving to them from that location. We drove up, a short walk later and there was the Red-breasted Goose sat in a field. 

I would just like to apologize to CJW for messing up his weekend. The best way I thought would be to dedicate this week's song to CJW, and what better song than one by the finest - the Queen of British pop! This is for you Chris!