Sunday, 3 November 2013

October 31st 2013 - The Clayheads and the Hermit

Following the great St Jude's Day storm that blew a few crisp packets into my garden, a few mega's started to appear. This was great as I was off all week with only Wednesday when I was unavailable. Mega's and flexibility could only mean one thing - a great week in store. First of all on Monday there was a Myrtle Warbler on Lundy, then a Mourning Dove on Rhum and finally on Tuesday a Hermit Thrush was found in Cornwall. 

As my week progressed, I realised I was doing more jobs than birding, and there was no one else available to go out on a trip; even GAS had decided to book two days with a workman. I had two choices, either to do no birding or go on a solo trip. On Wednesday evening I announced that I was going on a trip on Thursday. I was originally trying to go to Lundy on a charter, but with no sign of the bird since Day 1 and a bad forecast meaning the boat was cancelled, my thoughts turned to Cornwall.

Following a late request, I arranged to pick Chris Bromley up. We headed off at 04:00hrs, meaning we would hopefully receive news on whether it had stayed the night or not well before we got there. At 07:30hrs, we did receive that positive news. We parked up at Porthgwarra at 09:20hrs, and met up with the legendary Bernie Smith. He filled us in on the mornings sightings. Apparently it had been seen briefly early morning but slight over exuberance by a small minority meant it had been flushed and had flown up the valley into deeper thicker cover. It was not the news we had been expecting. Bernie had only seen it as it flew past him.

We stood around and waited, but I started to get a bad feeling about the twitch. Nothing was happening, there were hardly any birds to see and it was all very quiet. For nearly three hours I stood in the same spot. At 12:20hrs, I wandered back to the car for a bite to eat. I was tired, and had given up. Then, as if by magic, I spotted a vision running towards me. It was only the mighty LGRE running full pelt towards me. I thought he was maybe after my dinner, but he ran past, with four other birders running behind him. I decided to jog along with then. One of the joggers asked me if we were running to the bird. I replied I didn't know but I felt it was best to join in. We rounded the corner and started running up the bank when one of the birders from where I had been standing ran down towards us. He asked why we were all running as no one had seen anything on this side. LGRE's sheepishly stopped and turned away. I decided to carry on walking up the hill. I stood back in my spot again as if nothing had happened. I glanced up the road and saw no crowd there. Then, a birder came into the road and pointed. It had been found after all.

I joined the melee and jostled myself into an elevated position and I was soon watching the Hermit Thrush feeding on the ground amongst the vegetation. Views were brief with birders constantly arriving and standing in front of me plus there were many branches in the way too. But they were views I didn't expect to have. Eventually it flitted left, and I was in a good position to go back to my old spot again. The Hermit Thrush soon came into view and finally perched out in the open to give everyone still present the views they wanted.

With the Hermit Thrush still being present, our thoughts turned to Saturday's trip. I'd promised that despite me going to Cornwall on Thursday, I wouldn't jeopardise any trip on Saturday and if the thrush was still present, I would return. On Friday, there was a usual early morning sighting but that was all for the day. It had started to become far more elusive and it was wandering away into the gardens now.

We knew we had to get down to Cornwall earlier, and so we set off from Stoke at 02:00hrs. We were due to arrive at about 07:00hrs, but the journey got off to a dreadful start with two parts of the M6 being shut due to roadworks. The second closure meant we couldn't even access the M5. These detours cost us 45 mins. We chipped away at the arrival time, and eventually arrived at Porthgwarra at 08:00hrs. We had received no news yet but I knew there was no phone signal down in the valley. We joined the crowd and waited. One thing I noticed straight away was that no one was looking thru their bins. They were all just standing there expecting the thrush to jump out for them. It was a completely different twitch to Thursday and it soon became clear that most had given up hope of seeing the thrush at an early stage. Following a torrrential downpour we all started the search again, but even after an hour, cars were already driving off. I was gutted for the lads when it became clear the Hermit had done a runner. The Friday flitter strikes again.

We headed back towards Penzance at 11:15hrs to try and salvage something from the day. En route we received news that the RED-BREASTED FLYCATCHER was at St Leven again, north of the church. We headed back, parked up and checked the area by the church. There was no sign and none of the other birders in the area had seen it either. Then following a conversation with the church warden who had descended upon the car park to make sure everyone had paid, one birder found out the area was in fact three fields away from the church! We set off and after a half hour walk we were soon watching the Red-breasted Flycatcher feeding in a small clump.

The Red-breasted Fly at St Leven by Phil "this is where I saw the Veery" Jones

Original artwork by Phil Jones

With news that the WHITE-RUMPED SANDPIPERS were on the Hayle again, we headed there next. It took us a while to find Copperhouse Creek but by the time we arrived the two White rumps had flown off. We knew it was going to be one of those days but hey ho, not to worry, the Clayheads will dust themselves off and ride again. You never know, the next blog may involve a tale of birds and planes like everyone else's blogs seem to.
Two of the four Mediterranean Gulls at Hayle by Phil Jones

Next week read how the Clayheads go to Cosford Air Museum and what they saw there.

Finally, this week's song is dedicated to everyone who's dipped something this weekend. This song is just for you!