Saturday, May 11, 2013

A shrine to a stringer...

Its a boring Wednesday afternoon at 4.21pm when my phone vibrates to life on my desk at work. After a cold, slow spring for birds and moths on my patch, a glance down to see who is calling, and it suddenly looks like things were about to change.  

Gary Woodburn has been a birding friend of mine since he moved up here getting on for ten years ago (?). He used ring birds at Druridge Pools when that was my patch, but he always talked about his favourite spot - Low Newton, and had a hankering that better coverage of this quite remote Northumberland headland would produce the goods.

Since he moved up that way, the village has been nailed on to the birding map, that's for sure. Gary's patch watching has certain echoes of that other adopted Northumbrian, that raider from the north,  who turned the run down fishing village of Newbiggin into a birding mecca, Jimmy Steele.

It was with this knowledge that when I saw it was Gaz calling, it is often about a bird, and at this time on a Wednesday, it must be interesting. Previous calls from Gary have been for Greenish Warblers (the 's' isn't a typo),  Pallas's Warbler, Long eared Owl in the hand, Short toed Lark, Lesser Grey Shrike and Stilt Sandpiper ( though it can be to call in for a cuppa too... ) but I would not have guessed what this message would bring.

When I answered, a very calm voice asked if I was at work, when I confirmed this, he said, 'you might want to get up here...there's a  COLLARED FLYCATCHER'. 

Now, my office is 30 miles from Newton, on country roads too, so without time to waste I just clocked off and left. Thank God for flexi time. 

At the time, Gary was unsure that the bird would remain on public view as it was right on the edge of his ringing site on private land, so he hadn't gone public. I was sworn to secrecy until he assessed the situation, but by the time I got there an hour later, the bird was going to be viewable for the crowds and the informations services had been called.

It couldn't have picked a better feeding circuit, along an open fence line backed by gorse opposite the Tin Church where people could park cars and not disturb its routine. Excellent.

Collared Flycatcher is a new addition to the Northumberland List ( as was Gary's Stilt Sandpiper last year). In May 2005, Graeme Bowman made a request of the members of the Northumberland and Tyneside Bird Club to predict potential new additions to the county avifauna. Four people predicted Collared Fly - Eddie Slack, Les Robson, Maurice Hepple and yours truly! Easy to predict, harder to actually find...

So, in light of Gary's work in adding two new species in consecutive years to the county list, is it not time we had a statue erected on Newton could be named Stringers Shrine ;)

Cheers for the call Gaz, keep 'em coming!

What will be the next addition to the county list I wonder?

Surely a twitchable Pallid Harrier isn't too much to ask...


Mick McMahon said...


I was hoping you would get the watercolours out for ficedula albicollis ( white collar)

A great birding experience portrayed with warmth

Stringer said...

Hmmmm..... A shrine is a little bit over the top !!

Thanks for your kind words tho....

As usual great notebook sketches !