19 June 2011

White-Winged Scoter... A true Classic!

To start with, lets omit all that pre-Twitch build up, ya know, all that 'the pager went off on Sunday 12th June but I couldn't get til the following weekend' shenanigans....

With all the arrangements made, I eagerly awaited being collected by Steve 'The Snapper' Richards and Jules 'The Renegae Master' Allen late on Friday evening (17th June). We rendezvoused with Archer in Barnsley around midnight but rather than swapping motors and continuing our journey, we were duly invited into the inner sanctum of Chez Archer where for well over an hour we glugged coffeee and laughed ourselves deranged to episodes of The Office! A most surreal occasion considering that that's the kind of shit I'd normally get up to after a night on the tiles rather than prior to an overnight excursion to Aberdeen!!
Eventually we clambered aboard 'The Twitch-Mobile' and began the laborious trudge north. A rather non-eventful 8hr drive finally climaxed with us drawing into the Murcar Links (Golf Club)car park (Aberdeen) where we were introduced to the delights of the Scottish weather! I'll add this bit now to save me repeating it later - IT PISSED IT DOWN, NON STOP, ALL F*CKING DAY! - Anyhow, we disembarked the motor, adorned various water-resistant garments, well the other three did, I don't tend to go for the cliched birding decoration such as rubber trousers and goretex coats, umbrellas etc.
The appalling precipitive conditions made for a pretty uncomfortable viewing experience but a couple of drake Surf Scoters in the mix kinda made the experience that little more bearable... Around 8.30am'ish some geezer down the line located the target and fortuitously I was scoping the appropriate segment of Scoters and managed to 'lock- on' to the prize 'just left of the two Guillimots'! Albeit, views were brief but thankfully the other crew members also gleaned some viewage! With no further sign by some time after 9am, we made the decision to go and stare at a nearby King Eider and wait for the incoming tide, thus bringing the seething mass of sea duck closer inshore. It was at this point that I received a text from my Notts birding Brother Alan Clewes - the c*nt had only gone and stumbled across a pair of Red-necked Phals at HP, Notts! Now anyone who knows me well will be aware that my Notts list means more to me than Single Malt, fags, my Hamster and perhaps even my missus, so as one can envisage, the news didn't go down too well - especially considering that I'd missed the first record in 19 years of this species last week whilst I was clambouring up a doctors wall in Hartlepool!

Half-heartedly attempting to put the devastating news to the back of my mind, I somehow managed to muster the enthusiasm to join my gang in the viewing of the drake King Eider at the Ythan Estuary. The close proximity of this gorgeous pinnacle of eiders and the banter with Mr Bonser, who incidentally had chosen a snazzy pair of electric blue and cerise Adidas gazelles for which to gloop thru the glutinous scottish sand/mud, kinda took my mind off of the much desired county tick c500 miles south of us.

A quick stop off at a local Costcutter preceded us heading back to the Scoter site where upon arrival the conditions had become almost intolerable and being already soaked to the skin and cold (perhaps I should purchase some of that aforementioned birding attire?) I chose to stick with the motor and get some sleeping practise in whilst my crew, who are obviously more hardcore than me (or is that more fucked in the head?) chose to go and stand on the clifftop and see f*ck all for 3 hours!

At around 2.50pm, I was awoken from my slumber by my mobile giving it some 'Drrring Drrring' - It was The Snapper, who calmly informed me 'It's showing well now'. I've gotta admit, it took me more than a few minutes to make the decision to adorn the wellies and sloap down to the clifftop but alas I did and upon eventually locating the boys 1/2 mile south of where I assumed they'd be, I got in amongst it and began to scan the raving amalgamation of feathered blobs bobbing about upon the surface of the North Sea............

For the next few hours, we were entertained by occasional Arctic Skus, panicking Sandwich Terns, nosey Red-throated Divers and plunge diving Gannets.
Every now & then, the occasional 'shout' from the assembled troops had us clamouring and screeching for directions as to the birds location but apart from a few very brief glimpses, nothing was satisfactory...that is until around 7pm, 'The Snapper' happened to pick up the target bobbing about amongst some grotty Eiders. This was it, if myself, Archer and Jules got on it and squinted some banging views then we wouldn't have to commit to some zzzzzz's in a nearby Travel Lodge...
Thankfully, we all 'locked-on' and saved us some ££££'s! Even Mr Bagnall who had been scouring the flock for nearly 8hrs eventually got his eye in and ensured he was able to call his 'gaffer' and confirm he'd eventually gleaned White-winged Scoter for his BRITISH list! ;O)

And then it was time to head back south. I eventually slipped beneath the sheets at home at 4.20am and very quickly drifted off into a post-twitch slumber.........

White Throated Robin.....

Above - The scruffy little shit that was responsible for the chaos (image by The Archbishop Andrew Kinghorn)

I arrived at work on that now infamous 6th June and whilst sat in the car having a smoke waiting to 'go in' I casually glanced at the pager and noticed that a Red Flanked Bluetail had been trapped & ringed at Hartlepool Headland. Thinking no more of it, I lobbed the pager into my bag and dragged my feet into work. A few minutes later, the noise that no serious birder wants to hear at 8.30am on a Monday morning started resonating from within my bag! Upon checking what was responsible for the noise, I immediately felt a little bit of sick start to insidiously creep up the inside of my neck... I very quickly blasted out a few texts to associates in order to see if my fizzgogged Monday morning brain was in fact operating correctly and once that was clarified, I began to consider the options...After work maybe? Wait til the weekend? and spuriously, ask the 'boss' if I could take the afternoon off? The third option took a fair bit of bottle to do, considering we were already a man down in the warehouse but surprisingly I was given 'the green light' and at midday I tanked it home in order to rendezvous with my twitching Wing-Man and cane it north east! The rest can only be best described as carnage! For an in depth review of the that epic afternoon, click http://archiesbirding.blogspot.com/2011/06/white-throated-robin-in-cleveland.html
Below are a few images from an event that will prob go down in birding folklore, perhaps on a par with that infamous Golden Winged Warbler twitch in Kent 1989..............??