Thursday, 25 December 2014

2014 twitches

I have only recently been on two twitches. I have been birding for around five years now and haven't really took to the idea of twitching - that's going out purposefully to see a reported bird, for the non birders- I think its because it feels as though its cheating. however I decided to give it a go. I waited to there was a good report for a rare bird closer to home, not like those Great Spotted Cookoo, which seemed to be everywhere bar the north west.
so my chance came. a Great Grey Shrike had been spotted in Lytham, and I thought it would be a good starting point. my granddad and I set off on one of my free days to go and find this bird. when we arrived at the place where it had last been seen, there where two other twitchers there, who had travelled a long way to see it. they were quite old and were good friends. I began talking to them and before I knew these two men and I were wading through a bog and head high weeds, looking for the grey bird.
we where at the back of an animal sanctuary, searching the power cables and the bramble bushes for a glimpse. there was plenty of wildlife around; greenfinches, blackbirds, robins, goldfinches and great tits, but no shrike!

after admitting the bird wasn't there we heading back across the bog, flushing some Snipe as we passed. one of the men's phones buzzed and he had an alert that the shrike had been seen two hours ago (literally 10 minutes before we all got there) at the other side of the sanctuary, on the opposite side of the road. well... we all went running towards the cars and drove round to the front entrance.

sure enough, we where joined by a few other twitches. one of them decided that the shrike wasn't on the other side of the road, but back down at the sanctuary so he made a detour and wondered off. the three of us however stuck together and went to the other group of twitchers. we set up out cameras and scopes and waited patiently, staring at a huge bramble patch. the patience was killing me, so I grabbed my camera and took photos of a hovering kestrel. the kestrel dived down into the patch, disturbing a few birds. one of the men shouted "its there!" and pointed at a grey dot perched high up in a leafless tree. I started snapping away and showing the others how to take a photo through their scope on their phones - digiscoping.

the shrike stayed around flying weightlessly from tree to bramble. after some time had passed and I was satisfied with my shots and sighting. I decided to head back to the car. the shrike had dived back down into the brambles and others where packing away. we walked back to the cars and suddenly the shrike popped up onto some brambles about 7 metres away. I got some quick shots, before it flew away.

my next twitch was to see a shore lark that happened to land at Fleetwood. I was hoping this was going to be as successful as the other twitch but unfortunately the weather was bad and the shrike was no where to be seen. however luckily a Snow Bunting had made an appearance along the shore, along with some very scitterish Sanderling. with a bag full of beachcombing items, I managed to get some shots of the bunting and sanderling, as well as a Red Breasted Merganser, which was diving in the basin. by the way I also collect bones, so I happened to find a Black Headed Gull skull amongst the san dunes.

even though my first twitch allowed me to see what I set out to see, the second also allowed me to see two new species. with both trips I managed to tick off four birds
great grey shrike
snow bunting

although twitching does still feel like cheating, I have realised that I may not be able to see these birds any other way, unless they land in my garden. so I may indeed go twitching again, hopefully next time I will see the Shore Lark.

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