Monday, June 06, 2011

The last case of mistaken identity at Hartlepool...

...was this.


During the Napoleonic War legend has it that a monkey was washed ashore at Hartlepool after a shipwreck. He was mistaken as a French spy and hung.

Oh well, we all make mistakes.

So, this morning as I left for work a pager message said that a Red Flanked Bluetail had been trapped and ringed at Hartlepool Headland and it would be released at 8.30am. I thought this was a good bird to find in June and headed off to work...

Half an hour later as I passed south through Amble, the siren noise from the pager awakened me to a Mega alert. As I glanced down, expecting something in Cornwall or Kent, the message read - WHITE THROATED ROBIN, Hartlepool Headland, NOT Red flanked Bluetail! Now while the Bluetail is a fantastic bird, the Robin is an altogether different kettle of fish. There have only been two previous British records and none of those were accessible to other birders, so this one, on the mainland, would attract an FA Cup sized crowd.

I calmly pulled into a laybye to consider the options. I had no binoculars with me, and I was due in at work, so I rang and texted a few friends before rooting out a brown paper bag to breath into as I continued my commute.

By the time I was in the office, I was pondering a get out clause, then I spoke to Richard, who told me that it would be best to make all efforts to get down the road as the bird had been showing on and off. Right, that was it. Flexi time again to the rescue ( I will be working nights to catch this lot up) and a few calls later and I was off to meet up with Andy and Alan, Finn and Ella in the ASDA car park at Blyth before we headed off to the south ( well, south for me anyway). Alans three year old twins were just the tonic for calming the nerves and took our minds off wondering the will it / wont it scenario.

In no time we were parking up just a toddlers stroll from the Bowling Green where our target was still showing. And was it not. The White throated Robin  performed like a true mega, running out from low bushes to chase insects in some rough weeds on the green edge. Often it would pose for the paparazzi right on the green itself.

What a relief to get this one, a bird I never thought I would see in the UK though I have seen a good few in Eastern Turkey but that was many years ago. We were able to give it a thorough going over before we headed back home and to work. The rest of the afternoon was great seeing pager messages flash up knowing that loads of birders were pounding up M roads from hundreds of miles away, and I could breathe a sigh of relief.

A fantastic bird. Better than a monkey hanging, anyday.


Thanks to Richard Dunn...
...and to Roger Forster for their great photos.
British List - 397

7 comments:

Tony Morris said...

Good read, at least you didn't have to use a for higher (hire) ladder!

Blyth Birder said...

You looked rather dapper in your white shirt Stewart ;.)

Crackingly obliging bird mind.

Matt said...

Great post Stewart- now get on with your work!

Emma Anderson said...

Great story, Stewart, and lovely illustrations. I always feel sorry for the Hartlepool monkey ... rather like the last Great Auk killed in the UK because the people on St. Kilda thought it was a witch and blamed it for causing a storm. PS: can thoroughly recommend retirement!

Ipin said...

At least you didn't have to go up a ladder! http://farnephoto.blogspot.com/2011/06/wardens-on-tour.html

col said...

its still there today - if you'd set off walking when you got the news, you could have got it on your OFFH list by now!

Stewart said...

Col just got back, am a bit knackered but the local patch has been extended about 90 miles... :)