Sunday, 2 October 2011

Long haul north

September 2009 was memorable for me for a few reasons, most notably because Amy underwent open heart surgery in Leeds General Infirmary. It was a traumatic time for our family but as always with her, she just gets on with it and once again proves what a fantastic little girl she is. We spent just over a week in Leeds and then spent a further week back in Hull before being discharged home. As well as this, I moved my shop into new premises, slightly less traumatic but still quite stressful!!!

The first day we arrived on the ward at Leeds, news broke of a Blackburnian Warbler on St Kilda. Fortuantely it proved to be untwitchable, but to be honest it could have been at Old Moor and I still wouldn't have gone. I've promised myself that one day I'll make it over to St Kilda, one of my favourite ever TV episodes was Monty Halls Hebridean Adventure when he made landfall on St Kilda, awesome place, scenery, birds, everything, oh and there's also this:

St Kilda Wren

News also broke of the Sandhill Crane on Orkney, this was one bird I knew there was no chance of getting to unless it stayed until Christmas!!! Then of course there was the Tufted Puffin in Kent, ridiculous bird in a ridiculous place, proving that anything can turn up anywhere at anytime. As always, when you can't go for a bird, you imagine that everyone else in the country is off seeing it, of course that's never the way. As it turned out the only bird that proved to be twitchable was the Crane on Orkney, only then if you were prepared to invest a bit of money and a bit of time travelling up for it.

When news broke of another Sandhill Crane flying over Dunbar at 8.15am on 16th September, plans were being formulated, but then after disappearing again, I thought it was another one that had got away. Then, while waiting for more news of the Long toed Stint in Sussex on 22nd, news broke that the Crane had been refound in Aberdeenshire at Loch of Strathbeg RSPB. The twitch was back on.

I should have tried to go the next day and been there at first light, but as always I dithered about a bit and finally decided to travel through the night on the Friday. With a few false alarms when it flew off south during the day, the twitch was nearly over before it had even started, but at 11.30pm I started the long haul north. Picking up Jonny and Ellen at Scotch Corner services on the A1, just before 1am, we had a chance to catch up on the last few years since we last twitched together, that was also to Aberdeenshire, for a Barrow's Goldeneye. It was constantly on my mind that we had to be there for first light, just in case it did a flit. So the foot was held down for a bit and after a brief encounter with the local police just into Scotland (just a routine check up!!) and 440 miles later we were pulling onto the reserve car park just after 6am and before it got light. We wandered into the visitor centre and joined the waiting crowd. Amazingly somebody picked it out in the near darkness, saying he could see the red on the forehead, therefore not one of the resident herons, it was a brave call but the correct one. The bird continued to show reasonably well from the visitor centre before flying to it's daytime feeding area in the stubble fields in the St .Combs area.

So we had connected well before 7am and we could finally relax a bit, oh yeah and drive all the way home. But with the pressure off, we took it a bit steadier on the way back south, stopping for the obligatory McDonald's celebration breakfast.

Of course, now that every man and his dog have had a chance to connect with it in Suffolk, it will be several years before it returns to it's true status of being a MEGA, I wonder what the next unblocked MEGA will be?

Old fall plantation anyone?