Tuesday, 18 October 2016

The Red-eyed Vireo at Porthgwarra

Following the exertions of Friday's trip, we decided that we would probably pop back over to Spurn on the Saturday, arriving midday ish after everything had been found. We had our usual leisurely stroll around Westport and then set the sat nav for Spurn. As we sat on the car park, CJW suddenly announced that he felt there was enough for us to see in Staffs and so why didn't we stay local today instead. Not wanting to cause an embarassing scene on the car park I reluctantly agreed. And it turned out to be a decent day in the county after all.

During the afternoon as we were watching a leaf fall at Branston as it was more interesting than the birds on show, news came of yet another REV; this time in Cornwall at Porthgwarra. For those of you who haven't been alongside me for the last 15 years, you might not know but REV is my second most dipped bird. I've managed to dip at least three times, maybe four over the years. The worse dip was probably the time in 2008. We'd dipped the Nanjizal ALDER FLYCATCHER on the Friday (having managed to get a legitimate day off as well!). Then the next day, a REV turned up at Trevilley Farm near Lands End. It stayed all week and was still present on the Friday evening. So off we headed for the second time in eight days to Cornwall. And we stood there for four hours. And then we drove home.

This year I almost contemplated heading to Scilly for the St Agnes birds but as the week went on reports gradually faded. And while we were at Bempton watching the Dusky Warbler, one was trapped at Portland never to be seen again.

So back to the Porthgwarra bird. There were a few more reports during the afternoon and I started to think about heading down. But there was always a nagging doubt that the same would happen this time. In the end CJW persuaded me to head down. We left home at 03:30hrs.

The journey down was fantastic. We even had a closed M6 from J10 to J7 only to be opened just as we arrived. It was wet though, and all the way through Somerset and Devon the rain was torrential; reducing our speed down to 70mph at times. 

We'd received no news by the time we dropped down to Porthgwarra, but we were pleasantly surprised by the amount of birders present. We also received the news that the REV had been seen at 07:30hrs but not since. The sun was out, it was warming up nicely, and we stood and waited. We had a spell outside looking in, and a spell inside looking up. And after two hours, most of the birders had headed off, leaving only a handful behind. 

We had our dinner and decided to walk up the valley to where we saw the YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOO. It was quite pleasant still, and we were spurred on by the fact that just round the next corner, we could find an American passerine. We dropped down into the valley and walked deep through the cover. Northern Parula, Waterthrush, Ovenbird....there was no sign of any, but we still dreamt.

Faced with yet another REV dip, we headed back towards the car park with the intention of driving out of the valley to where we could find a phone signal and sit and ponder our next sorry move. I tried not to get depressed but it was sickening having been in this exact situation so many times before.

We walked past the wood and I was quite surprised to see a large crowd of birders all standing inside looking up. I stood next to one and half-heartedly asked if it had been seen again. "Yes" she said "about ten minutes ago but we've sort of lost it now".

I stayed quite calm, and ask in which direction it was moving. It was heading inland, so I walked back up the road to the next section of wood that you could enter. There was just me and an old lady present. She was looking up in some trees and she beckoned me over. "I think its up here" she said. And sure enough there was a bird flitting about. On my first view I just saw gleaning white underparts, but with the wind and the swaying trees the views were only fleeting. I carefully tried to call CJW over without causing a mass stampede. I waved, and then whistled and finally he saw me. "He's got it over here" he announced to the crowd.

And then it came out into view. It was a Red-eyed Vireo sat in full view in front of me. It was an odd experience really. And at the moment I was only thinking of one thing. My co-pilot on all those previous dips to Scilly and Cornwall. You go into battle when you go twitching. Sometimes its easy. Other times its hard. Sometimes you feel its getting personal and someone is picking on you. And then sometimes you win. I'd not felt like this at a twitch for a long long time.

I stood next to my old lady friend and patted her on her back. I even made sure she didn't fall over and CJW found the bird again for her so she could get a photo. I then turned round to speak to her and she was gone. I looked all over the place but she had simply vanished. Who was this mysterious women who had helped us? Was she sent by someone maybe? 

Here endeth the quest for the REV.

CJW with our saviour
What was left of the birders after 3hrs searching
A photo by someone of the REV. Thanks for letting me use your pic on my blog

This blog entry is dedicated to GAS.