Monday, 4 August 2014

Saturday 2nd August 2014 - An incredibly close shave

On 26th July 2014, we set off on our annual family, holiday. This year we were visiting Scotland, staying at Boat of Garten. I'd had the previous week off as well, but it was very quiet bird wise. I did manage one trip with CJW to Derbyshire, where we saw Dark Green Fritillary, another one to add to our list.

We also thought we'd had our second tick of the day with Brown Argus...until we got home and CJW pointed out a female Common Blue on the Internet. We're still novices at this game. Next we'll probably be ticking butterflies with green rings on their legs and counting heards only on our list in our desperate quest for the 56!

And so we headed off to Scotland. As we were nearing the Lake District, PLo texted me asking if I knew anything about a Lesser Golden Plover report from Drayton Bassett. As my Internet wasn't working on my phone, I wasn't receiving any news from RBA so I knew nothing. Then I received the report of a possible American Golden Plover there. I relayed the news to CJW and he started posting the news on @Staffsbirdnews. I was hoping, ideally, that nothing came of the report, as I was hurtling northwards on the M6. 

More news started to filter through, and it was finally confirmed as Staffordshire's first ever Pacific Golden Plover. Presumably it was the same bird as at Rutland Water last year, a bird I moaned about at the time saying why can't Staffordshire have birds like that. 

Aghh, not a good start to the holiday. As I ate up the miles, I started to reflect on how lucky I'd been when on my holidays. I hadn't ever really missed anything major, and in fact only last year I relocated the Rudyard Lake Caspian Tern the day before I flew out to Spain. I accepted it was my turn to be unlucky this time.

Another person affected by the holiday tick syndrome was PJ. Last year he went away just before me and on his return he was seen running down the track to Rudyard while still pulling his suitcase behind him, sombrero, beach towel and all. He was most fortunate to see the long staying Caspian Tern, and this year, he managed to return from Greece the day before the PGP turned up. What is it about summer holidays? 

Each morning during my holiday, I waited for news, and each day the PGP remained at Drayton Bassett. Towards the middle of the week, I started to actually think it would remain till the weekend, but I knew it would fly off towards the end of the week.

The weather was alright during our stay, but Friday started off wet, and was forecast to be wet all day. We were due to return on the Saturday anyway, so we made the decision to return home a day early instead. There's not a lot you can do in the rain in Speyside. And, with the PGP still present, it would mean if it stayed, I could go on Saturday instead of Sunday.  

During the journey home, there seemed to be more reports than usual of the PGP during the day, and with this being its 7th day, I just knew it would be it's last. 

We arrived home, and I was up early on Saturday morning. I was unable to sleep. The nerves were getting the better of me. I went to Westport and returned home early as it was my wife's 21st birthday. 

Then, just after 08:00hrs, the news I'd been hoping and praying for the last seven days came on the pager. It was still present for it's 8th day. My wife continued to open her presents.....GAS was not answering his texts. Time stood still. At 09:00hrs he picked me up and we were away. 

A brisk drive took place, and it was pouring down. I was hoping that as we drove east, we would be just in front of the rain. By the time we arrived at Drayton Bassett it was still dry, but as we walked down the canal it started to spit. As we walked along the towpath, I glanced through a gap in the hedge and noticed a group of birders standing by the scrape. A quick scan with my bins and there was the brilliant Pacific Golden Plover standing on the edge of an island. It was a beautiful sight. Eight days of build up. Eight days of nervous tension. And we'd achieved a minor miracle. 

We walked round onto the reserve and enjoyed excellent views until the heavens opened and we retreated back to the car. 

Soaked to the skin, and with suitcases to unpack, we returned home; birding was over for the day. After all, everything else today would be just an anti climax. 

Just phone photo's I'm afraid. My camera malfunctioned just before I went away. Its repaired now.

During the afternoon, our trip during the morning took on extra significance. News started filtering out that there was no sign of it during the afternoon, and by the evening it hadn't been refound. It turned out that at 12:30, just after the torrential downpour had stopped, it took flight.

We'd made it with just two hours to spare. Now that's close. But then again I think back to the SANDHILL CRANE flying off on the Friday afternoon. Yes, you owed me one for that and thank you for making the PGP stay!