Saturday, 14 November 2015

Crag Martin in Chesterfield November 2015

At 12:30hrs on Sunday 8th November, news started filtering out that a CRAG MARTIN was circling around the crooked spire at Chesterfield. It was less than an hour and a half away, but Sunday dinner was already being prepared. I contacted CJW and he said he would wait for me until after dinner. It’s always a tricky day for me, and I wasn’t really sure that I could escape during the afternoon anyway. PJ got in touch, and eventually I persuaded them to set off straight away without waiting for me. It flew around until 12:40hrs and then flew off, returning again from 13:30hrs to 13:50hrs. CJW and PJ arrived and they waited all afternoon for it to return again, but it didn’t. 

It was a bit of a surprise that it was again present on Monday morning. I was travelling in between work locations when the news broke, and I was actually parked up at Westport. The situation at work was perfect, and I decided to go for it there and then. I was prepared anyway, and all my equipment was in the trailer behind the car. It was a very easy journey considering the time of day, and I arrived in Chesterfield at 09:40hrs. I drove straight up to the church, and as I drove past I could see the Crag Martin flying around. I managed to find my way into the town centre, and found a large turning area right by the church. It was covered in double yellow lines but I just stood by the car and managed a few more views, including once when it almost came overhead. It was still raining, and so I drove back round the front of the church, pulled up in the lay by there and waited for a further sighting, but it had drifted off again. I decided not to push my luck any further (I was after all only a phone call away from being in deep trouble!) and headed back to Stoke.   

Despite being on a late shift, CJW went on news on Tuesday morning and was succesful this time, and incredibly, the Crag Martin lingered all afternoon at the site allowing GAS to finally arrive. An unusual occasion where we all travelled separately for a tick.

Following a few days with no sign, it suddenly reappeared on Friday. I was off and so I decided to pop back to Chesterfield for seconds and try to get a photo. The sky was blue and the Crag Martin was again zipping all over the place, especially as the wind was quite strong. But I managed to get these full framers. I'm almost certain I would have had some of these shots published in Birding World, but instead I will send one off to British Birds for the front cover of the 2015 Rarity report. Magic!


Monday, 2 November 2015

American Golden Plover at Eyebrook Resv

On Sunday 25th October, we made our way over to Norfolk again for the second weekend running. Our target birds for this trip were the week long staying SIBERIAN STONECHAT at Caister on Sea plus any ROUGH-LEGGED BUZZARDS in the area and the recently arrived juvenile AMERICAN GOLDEN PLOVER at Breydon Water. For CJW, it was his second trip over to East Norfolk in three days. He had successfully seen the SIBERIAN STONECHAT on Friday, along with a nice sprinkling of other scarcities. But he agreed to come with us again as there was just nowhere else better to go. Credit to him, he didn't sulk or moan once all day, nor did he say the phrases "I've not had a single year tick all day", "I've been here before" or "On Friday, I ... " many times.

We headed straight for Caister-on-Sea on the East Norfolk coast, arriving at 08:00hrs. Just outside the village, CJW had expertly spotted two Cranes feeding in a field near Billockby. We walked through the dunes and were soon watching the male Siberian Stonechat showing rather closely on the fences surrounding the golf course. The only other bird of note was a fly over Snow Bunting.  

  Caister on Sea dunes with our new friend "Dog" playing with his ball. He was actually a guide dog on his morning off!

News was a little bit slow in coming through, so we headed up to Waxham where a SIBERIAN CHIFFCHAFF and DARTFORD WARBLER had been seen. We wandered around a bit, walked through the dunes but there wasn't a lot of birds or birders in the area. We felt that maybe we'd peaked already, and a lot of the previous days birds had departed. A decision was made and we headed down to Breydon Water to start looking for the juv AMERICAN GOLDEN PLOVER. We were virtually on the outskirts of Great Yarmouth when we received news that there were two GREAT GREY SHRIKES at Horsey. We'd only just driven past here. With negative news from Breydon, we handbrake turned in the carriageway and screamed our way back up to Horsey and the Nelson Head track. 

It was now late morning and the sun was out. We were amazed at what we saw next. The track down to the dunes at Horsey was packed with walkers. I know I occasionally exaggerate on this blog, but it was so busy, if you stopped to look through your bins, someone would have bumped into the back of you. We had to step aside and stand on the edge of the path or end up being swept away on the tide of Sunday walkers. 

We finally found a group of birders in the distance sitting on the dunes watching something, and with careful scanning, we found the Great Grey Shrike flying backwards and forwards in front of them. On the way back to the car, we stood and watched a ringtail Hen Harrier and Short-eared Owl duelling and sparring. It was all quite pleasant.  

With no more news forthcoming, we headed up towards Leicestershire and our last stop of the day at Eyebrook. As we parked up, the moulting adult American Golden Plover had just been refound. Amazingly for CJW, it was his second American Golden Plover in three days, and even more amazinger, both were at Eyebrook, and both were moulting adults! What are the odds of that happening?

American Golden Plover on the Leicestershire / Rutlandshire border 
And so to the final week of October. I'd resigned myself to not getting a tick in October this year, but we always hoped that the magic of Teachers Week and October 31st would work again. I've had three quite decent ticks on this date in the past, and we dared to dream the same would happen this year. But in the end, it became the first time I hadn't had a tick in either September or October. With only November left, could I finally be joining the "I've had no ticks this Autumn" club?

Both myself and CJW had been off all week, but we didn't manage a single trip out at all. We decided to go out year listing again on Saturday 31st October. We were both on 249 for the year, and so we headed off for the nearest year tick to Staffordshire. We headed to Rutland Water, where all five grebes had been reported. We parked up at Barnsdale overlooking the North Arm. The two Black-necked Grebes were spotted first, along with many GCG and LG. The Red-necked Grebe took longer and was more distant, but for over an hour the SLAVONIAN GREBE eluded us. None of the birders around us had seen it either except for one gentleman who had been watching it while we were stood there, close in to the shore......indeed. 

And so thats 250 (BOU) up for the year and onto November. 

(And in case you were wondering, the October 31st ticks were MASKED SHRIKE in 2004, AMERICAN BITTERN in 2010 and HERMIT THRUSH in 2013).