Sunday 24 November 2013

My mood swings west

I am a strange individual. After scorning two chances last weekend to twitch the Orphean Wabler in far western Wales, this weekend I felt a little differently. I cannot explain it - either I am in the mood or I am not, which is dependent on a number of factors. This weekend for some inexplicable reason I did not mind spending ten hours in the car and driving 600 miles. Last weekend it was close to being the very last thing I wanted to do. There you have it, I have no excuse. If I am able, I do what I want when I want. Pied Wheatear replaced Med GullsMed Gulls took priority over Orphean Warbler. Orphean Warbler triumphs over filing.

This weekend the bird was still there, and so I got up just before 3am, piled the Monkey, Howard and Nick into my car, and off we went. The drive was incredibly easy, and was an exact replica of my trip with Nick to the Isabelline Wheatear, bar the last three miles. Instead of turning right towards Marloes, we instead parked in a field directly in front of the turning. It felt a little odd being back in the same far-flung spot only a couple of months later, but that's the stupidity of twitching. In the car parking field we pulled up next to Dick, Dean and.............wait a minute, where the hell is Vince?!! Oh Vince............

The twitch was incredibly well organised, a credit to the local birding community. No nonsense, no bullshit, no agro, just sensibleness in spades. On arrival at the house, we had to wait in the road while the earlier arriving 40 people had their fill. They had seen the bird at first light, but the views had been tricky in the gloom, and so wanted better and more. Fair dos, the bird wasn't going to go anywhere, so no harm in waiting. In better light the bird returned to the garden, and so gradually 30 or so people returned so that those of us queuing could go and look. You will note that 30 is a different number to 40, and I suspect you will not be surprised when I tell you that not one of the 30 people coming back down the road was carrying a camera.... Yep, you guessed it! When I got into the garden, there they were, the big lens brigade camped out in the prime positions, not moving for anyone. There are times when I am ashamed to be a bird photographer, and this was one of them. The conditions were completely against any kind of decent image, but that didn't matter, the rotation system to allow all to see the bird simply didn't apply to these guys. What a bunch of selfish pricks! You know who you are! When I'd seen the bird well and taken a couple of record shots, I left to let others in. So irritating, but there you go, you expect it at twitches. None of these camo-clad twats will have anything remotely decent, so in addition to preventing queuing birders seeing this mega they were wasting their own time. I left the garden and returned to the back of the line so I could get back in - with, it has to be said, a couple of good guys who also felt as I did and didn't take the piss. And when I did get back in, there they all were still. Well done lads, a real credit to those of us who carry cameras, nice one.

Such a handsome crew....
It made me mildly angry, but it didn't spoil the atmosphere, which was serene. The local birders and residents organising the twitch were not in it for the agro, so there were no words. I could have told these guys to shift, but really, what was the point, why ruin a nice calm event just to make a point? Like I said, they know who they are, and when they sort through their likely poor images I hope they realise what gimps they are. See you at the next one guys! Bottom line is that real bird photography and twitching just don't mix. I took a few, and they're completely hopeless. Bad position versus the light and too far away, both of which I was unable to correct, and the bird in the middle of a tree. Still, a record shot is always good to have.

Once I'd had my second fill of the bird, we decided that some Chough might be on the menu, and so headed off to St Martin's Haven, site of Izzy Wheatear happiness. Four Chough, a few Ravens, and a Buzzard were hanging around, but what made me happiest was a Dunnock. Orphean Warbler eat your heart out, this is what it's all about! Nobody but me, no camotwats, a cooperative bird, decent light and a clean background. Boom! Carting the lens all the way to Wales was the correct decision after all!

The weather was a glorious as it had been when Nick and I came here at the start of October, but we were 300 miles from home and needed to start back. There was also the possibility of Two-barred Crossbill, but we were somewhat ill-prepared in the gen department, and after a bit of monkeying around (if you get my meaning) we gave up and headed for home via Oxford. The Forest of Dean is a confusing place to be fair, but we could have done so much better, especially for Nick who needed the tick. Sorry dude, a comedy of errors, but it did net me a Hawfinch year tick. We did eventually find the correct starting point, but only at gone 3pm, and with the Monkey needing to be home to attend to a recovering Mrs Monkey, we had to head. I nearly fell asleep a couple of times on the way back, but slapping myself round the face on the M25 seemed to work and I got through it. 600 miles - a long way to go, but it's over now and I am back home. The undoubted highlight of the day was whilst driving through Marloes, and me beating Monkey by approximately a millisecond to saying "You could live there" upon driving past this sign-post, followed by both of us cracking up. So so juvenile, but this is an integral part of any twitch, and what makes these occasional long journeys quite a lot of fun despite the many hours in the car.

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