Up here, it gets dark early at this time of year, around 4.15pm.
All birders across the land are posting a hootenanny of the years birding highlights across all social media platforms. There are pictures of Rock Thrushes, Yellow Warbler, Orphean Warbler and Needletail. Everyone tucked up at home awaiting the nights revelry, reviewing the best birds 2017 had to offer.
All I had to do was discuss the splitting of Isabelline Shrike into god knows what on our county WhatsApp group, when I saw a cryptic message appear from Tom Cadwallender saying 'I'll be there soon Ben' or something similar. I shrugged and thought Tom had posted on the wrong channel, then carried on.
I automatically flicked to our 'Rare Birds' channel and was floored. While we were sitting in front of a warm fire, Ben Steele was out in a gale watching gulls roosting on the rocks at Longhoughton Steel near Boulmer. A good job he was too, because in with hundreds of Black headed, Common and Herring Gulls was a little snowflake from the far North, a Ross's Gull, the first to visit our shores since 2014! [ well, after Ross Ahmed's untwitchable sighting at Lindisfarne the other week, indeed this might be the same bird]
I raced along in the car, a 10 minute journey from home, then ran the half a mile north to the spot. When I say 'ran' it was more like jogged, strode, choked, gagged, coughed and walked.
On arrival Ben, Tom and Mu had taken their eyes off the ball and our arctic rose was concealed in a mass of white sleeping birds. The large full moon rose over the sea and I was getting a bit fidgety. A few others arrived then Farooqi jnr called 'There it is, flying'. No need to panic as it only flew 10 yards then dropped into the pack. At least we now had its location.
In the ever dimming light of 2017, the 7 lucky birders who either live close enough or were birding near enough to Boulmer managed views that varied from ok and reasonable to down right shocking, but when its a new bird for my Northumberland list, I cared little... this enigma of the ice is one of my very favourite birds, even giving the outstanding Wryneck a run for its money. So my third ever Ross's Gull and a welcome county grip-back.
Unfortunately it was gone by dawn on New Years Day and not seen again... but...
remember people, it is still out there somewhere...
|Sunset on New Years Day and some disappointed twitchers, 24 hours too late.|
|Ross's Gull, adult winter, Longhoughton Steel, Boulmer.|