Monday, August 24, 2009
Goes the Mega alert on the pager. Not much good when mine is in the car. Thanks to Gary 'Newton Stringer' for the call alerting me to one of my most sought after british birds - Yellow breasted Bunting on the Farnes.
Now the time was 2.40pm and the charter boat was leaving at 4pm. I was 40 miles away in the office so a decision had to be made, that saw me pulling in favours and having an early finish.
The drive north was made with heart pounding and hands a quiver so it was with some relief that I found a parking space for the bargain price of £4.40 only 50 minutes later. A short dash down to the harbour and another 12 quid lighter after buying a ticket then I could relax. Its one thing missing a rarity but missing the boat was something I could never live down.
A small but friendly turn out was waiting and included Ipin and Janet, TAC and Mu, Andy C, Alan C, Ian F, Newton Stringy, Mark L, Mike P and another 4 or 5 who I didn't know. ( Thants me and Gary 'Newton' up there on the right. Oh and despite what Ipin would have you believe, no donuts were consumed on this trip. Honest. Ta to Ian Fisher for the phone pic.)
The bird was still showing as we headed seaward into a swell like that on the film 'Perfect Storm'.
Spirits were high as we were met by David Steel the senior warden who described the birds whereabouts and habits on route to the place on the Inner Farne. It was in an area of Fat Hen and Dock about the size of a football pitch surrounded conveniently by boardwalk for us to wander around.
After about 15 minutes there was still no sign, but there had clearly been a small fall of migrants with 2 Pied Flycatchers, 2 Garden Warblers and a rusty looking young Cuckoo that was very confiding.
Then a frisson of excitement further along the track. The bird had flown out onto the rocks. Quickly getting it in the bins then the scope, sure enough a bunting but not a mega rarity. The bird was a juvenile Ortolan. Slight disappointment at my 4th county record turned to guilt as I realised that a good bird was not being given the respect it deserved. On any other day an Ortolan is a red letter county find, but not today, with bigger fish to fry.
It was then the wardens admitted that they had made an error and were almost apologetic, though they needn't have been. We left the islands still in good fettle with a few drift migrants in our notebooks and for at least two people, the bunting had been a lifer.
Would I do it again? Yes of course, but not tomorrow or Wednesday. I'll be busy at work making up the time...