Thursday, 1 January 2015

Off to a flying start!

Well 2015 is already a bit of a blinder! At work yesterday I had vaguely contemplated that two ticks were on offer in Yorkshire, but hadn't seriously considered going for them. A quick phone call with John A sorted that one out, and he very sensibly agreed that although it was highly mega, New Year celebrations should continue uninterrupted, and that were the Chicken Little Bustard to still be there in the morning, he would come round mine and off we would set. 

With only a mild hangover, and John feeling tip-top and thus on driving duty, he arrived around 9am and in company with Nick, whose patch enthusiasm had waned after just 20 pathetic minutes, we headed off on the long drive up to East Yorkshire. Great birds in profusion, but one of my least favourite places to get to. The motorway part is OK, if boring, but the final miles are interminably slow and you feel like you're crawling - and of course this last stretch is the most stressful of all. Stuck behind a caravan doing 35 on the open road with a monster bird only a few miles away. Today was no different, although John's levels of stress far surpassed anyone else's. He'd previously dipped two, in 1997 and 1988, and wasn't feeling good about not having been there at dawn. I'll clean his seat tomorrow. Anyhow, it was all good and he need not have fretted, as the bird showed extremely well in a kale field to at least a hundred green-clad admirers, and was on view from the moment we arrived to the moment we left.

Which was not long! Possibly a mite longer than the Masked Shrike, but we had Pipit business to attend to on the other side of Yorkshire, and at gone 1pm on a dank early January afternoon we were very much up against it. We left the Pheasant Bustard to its pecking, and sloped off back the way we had come, through Beverley and towards York. As we progressed west it got darker and darker, and then the rain started coming down. I very nearly carried on down the M1 as this was sub-optimal Pipit weather, but it wouldn't be January 1st without a good soaking, so instead we elected to give it a go regardless. And I'm very glad we did, as although the promised soaking came quickly, the bird showed like a boss. Properly strutted its stuff, and in the case of a leggy bird like a Blyth's Pipit, that's some decent strutting. It might have even been further off the ground than the Bustard, and the bins views were superb on a little patch of wasteground near a KFC and a petrol station. A sensational inland find by someone, top drawer! Shite all over the place but the Pipit was loving it, and I loved it right back as this was my final Pipit. Pechora and Buffy done a long time ago, Red-throat longer ago than that, and I've even found an OBP - this was the big omission, so a much-wanted new bird and a grip back from the lads who saw one on Scilly the year before I fell in with them. I'm still waiting for the Rev.

Unfortunately this mad tickery, all 520 miles of it, means that my Wanstead patch list is restricted to ten - all birds seen or heard whilst chucking optics in the car this morning. Still, there's a long way to go, and it's kind of cool to have seen a Little Bustard before a Little Grebe. Barely 24 hours gone and two lifers added. I'd say that's a fine start to the year, long may it continue!

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