Thursday, 4 November 2010

Sardines Anyone?

I haven't had anything to blog about for quite a while, in fact I don't think I've been out birding more than once since I last wrote on here. I've been doing a spot of reading having recently bought five new books, I'm halfway through the third already ( history in case your wondering, I love it! It's so much better than anything the soap operas have to offer and it's true! Well, mostly because one should never forget that history is always written by the winners). I've been looking in on the old interweb though, and reading about the 'scandalous goings on' at the American Bittern on Trewey Common near Zennor, which makes me think that unlike history, posts on Birdforum threads aren't written by the winners (those who've seen the bird) nor the losers ( those who've dipped) but mainly by those who weren't even there! I wasn't there. So I wont comment except for to say that it didn't appeal to me in the slightest. When the bird relocated to Walmsley Sancuary near Wadebridge and was showing on the ground I became more inclined to want to go and see it. I went for it yesterday, along with Bun (who'd already seen the bird  in flight at Trewey, being the filthy twitcher he is) and one of Weymouth's finest, Brett Spencer. Bun and I hadn't met Brett before but Steve arranged for him to give us a lift there. After leaving Seaton at five-ish we arrived on site nice and early, not nearly early enough though as the hide was already full. We heard that FIFTY(!!) birders were in the hide; I doubt that it can actually hold that many though. We spent a fair while in the smaller 'public' hide, which before we got there contained a grand total of one! We didn't see much from here but the boredom was staved off a bit by a Whooper Swan and a nice overhead movement of Fieldfare. We eventually learned that the Bittern was being seen periodically from the tower hide, so we went over there to wait our turn. When we got there people were still waiting to get in because even though those inside (and at the front) were getting intermittent views of the bird it didn't look like any one of them was going to be leaving the hide any time soon!! Patience was going to be needed and in spadefuls! I did become a little worried because we didn't have the luxury of time at our disposal with me having to be back for work. This also makes me feel guilty about those travelling with me missing out, thus adding to my anxiety.

Walmsley Sanctuary. There's an American Bittern out there somewhere. 
Somewhere near that brown stuff in-between that green stuff.

A small crowd began to gather below the hide too, where there was screening which we could look through  A few people were talking and a guy turned up who had an unusually loud voice. This eventually caused someone ( I believe it was Josh Jones)  to shout down from a window of the hide "Can you keep the noise down down there." Not an unreasonable request in itself but delivered in a voice which would have put Brian Blessed to shame, and could probably have been heard as far away as Wadebridge, the irony was not lost on me, I thought it was hilarious. Of course no one was likely to volunteer to actually leave the hide and quietly ask for quiet, now were they?

An opportunity eventually ensued when a mega, an American Kestrel came through on the pager and a small band a slavering desperadoes burst forth from the hide and rushed back to their cars. At last we'd be able to get inside to see this!
Crippling view.
This is with the camera up held over my head. This wasn't going to be easy.

It was most frustrating listening to people describing where the bird was and not knowing where to look. It's by the Juncus was the most popular direction, there were acres of of the bloomin' stuff out there! Mind you, even getting a clear view of a window wasn't easy! One guy decided to leave and Brett kindly pointed out the soon to be vacant seat to me, I was poised to get into it when a guy sitting alongside the guy who was leaving just moved along and spread out, which was nice of him! Another thoughtful gentleman was giving a running commentary of what the bird was doing as he was watching it through is scope and when someone desperately asked if they could just have a really quick look at it down is scope he said " No, I don't think so" What!? He did the same thing on at least two occasions, I didn't think I was naive but I was shocked at how rude and selfish some people can be ( the main offenders were some of the older contingent, old enough to know better I'd have hoped. ) That's definitley only some people though because after I packed up my scope and was walking out of the hide resigned to having to give up, a guy who was also leaving obviously noticed my pitiful countenance and asked if I'd seen it. When I replied in the negative straining to hold back the tears, he set his scope back up and because he knew where the bird was, got back onto it straight away and from right at the back of the hide near the door. I was impressed. " There you go" he said " Take as long as you want" The bird was right there in the middle of the scope right out in the open. I was very relieved and thanked him, again almost tearfully, but I managed to hold 'em back. It wasn't so much seeing the bird as his kindness which was in such contrast to the majority there. What a nice guy, for a few seconds I was utterly in love with him! Thanks again whoever you are! ( Not that I throw myself at just anyone who lets me look down their scope I hasten to add! ;-)) I only watched the bird for about 20-30 seconds though because I could sense someone standing next to me who was equally desperate and I relinquished the scope to him.

Once outside I met Roger Treeby a fellow Devon Birder (in fact the 'Devon Birder') and pointed him in the direction of my hero and he too got to see the bird. As it happened the bird remained visible for the next half hour or so and we were able to get several more scope views firstly through the screening below the hide and later when Brett managed to find a space to set his scope up in the hide.  I tried to digiscope a couple of souvenir photo's ( it's never easy with a different scope than the one your used to) and a very short video clip too. 
The Tower Hide, featuring Bun, Roger and Brett (on stairs). Notice the guy on the left admiring his distant brown blob photos, well if they were anything like mine that is :-)
Getting some real good views. 
Seriously though, it was surprisingly easy to see through the small gaps using your scope.
The bird was almost impossible to spot with just bins, here's a typical scope view.
 It's there look, by that Juncus
The view in the end was much better than my lame photos would have you believe.

And the video, it does move a teeny bit at the end.

The bird was well worth the stress (would have been so much less stressful without the time constraint) The company was also great, I'm not usually so neurotic Brett, honest! All in all a very enjoyable morning if you like playing sardines! Glad you had to go to the dentist now Gav, I bet!? :-)


Roger Treeby said...

That guy really was a hero Karen. Once you have seen the bird even for a few seconds the pressure is off. I don't know how he managed to get on to the bird with all those other Birders in front of him. I stayed until 3pm and had great views from time to time.

Anonymous said...

The whole saga of the American Bittern is absolutely tragic Karen. The amount of hand-wringing on the net from people who obviously know better but are too embarrassed to admit it, speaks volumes. You don't have to have been there either, that's another cop out from those who are in a corner and are now circling the wagons. The calibre of idiot that turns up at twitches these days is rather special and very few appear to have any deeper appreciation of birds. Of course, they'll all claim to be fascinated by the journey the bittern has made and to be hard-working local patchers who twitch occasionally but for 90% of them that's total bollocks. Look at their blogs - most of their birding is twitching and then blogging about later as if it makes them look good or something. Twitchers used to get a bad press when they were in the minority and largely didn't deserve it. Know they're in the majority and seem to want to write their own headlines.

At least there are still a few decent people out there like the man you met today. Glad it ended well for you.

Karen Woolley said...

Crikey!! I best stop twitching and blogging about it rapido then!

I did see myself as a totally different calibre of idiot to the one you describe but perhaps I'm not.

Thanks for enlightening me, whoever you are!

Gavin Haig said...

Hide + other people + very, very rare bird = hell. You're right Karen - very glad in retrospect that I had a dentist appointment. I would have hated it. You know, I really do want to love and hug my fellow human beings, but the scenario you describe would probably have pushed all my buttons at once.

Anonymous said...

What I like about twitchers is the fact they inspire Karen to write with so much constraint!

Seriously, are they realy birders?