Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Weedon's World, April 2007

American Robin by Mike Weedon, Bingley, 4.2.07.

Assistant editor Mike Weedon writes:

Each month, I shame-facedly explain how I’m not a twitcher, before going on to tell a tale of unashamed twitching. This month I received my punishment. Though, as I frequently say, my local patch is my real birding obsession, when a Pacific Diver turned up in Yorkshire I got the twitching bug big-time. It was one UK first I really did not want to miss.

So, I foolishly masked a bit of flu I was nurturing since Friday, February 2nd and took the back seat of my friend’s the Bowells’ Mondeo heading north on Sunday 4th. OK, I’d been sweating out a raging fever all night, but I had to pretend to be at least half well or else I would miss the once-in-a-lifetime lift to see this unique loon.

The pretence lasted a few hundred metres, though, and safely ensconced on the journey north, I confessed to feeling as rough as a Badger.

Yorkshire was holding two birds of special note, the diver and an American Robin. A decision was made to try for the robin first, as the light was apparently dreadful at the loon site until the afternoon. But Will’s pager was silent with no news of either. The drive continued, and the sweat was beading on my brow. Not only was I feeling even iller by the mile, but I was also going to dip on both birds – a double-dip from Hell.

Then the pager beeped with the news that there was no news either way regarding the Pacific Diver. What does that mean? Maybe 500 birders were already there, scouring every drop of water; surely one of them knew whether it was there or not.

Then, a brief moment of bliss came with the news that the diver had been re-found. We were certainly going to see it! Hurrah! This was soon followed by news that the robin was ‘showing well’. I was almost cheerful through my delirium.

We were deep within Yorkshire now, heading for Bradford, and I was confident that two great ticks were coming my way.
The pager beeped. I thought it was an illness-induced nightmare, but the words were true enough. The Pacific Diver had risen high off the water, circled and risen some more before heading north, never to be seen again. After at least three weeks on the site, and less than a week in the open, at the worst possible time for the thousands of the nation’s Sunday twitchers, the loon had gone.

We pressed on for Bingley. Somehow, though, the combination of flu, the news of the diver’s departure, the large crowds and the fact that I’d seen loads of American Robins before (in America), took most of the thrill from seeing the pretty thrush.

It should have been a happy time, but my gloom increased when the robin was relocated. It nervously came down from a tree and started nibbling around in the frozen ground for worms, slowly edging its way to some frosty apples kindly put out for it the day before.

American Robin by Mike Weedon, Bingley, 4.2.07.

Aha, we thought, all it has to do is edge a few metres to the right, out of the way of the bramble and it will be in glorious digiscoping range. No sooner had the thought excited my brain, than a small mob of DSLR-wielders, equipped with their new Christmas lenses came blundering in far too close for the robin’s comfort. They were shaking trees and encroaching so close the bird froze, startled, then flew off into nearby gardens, not to show again for another two hours.

I blame these people for making me stay out in the cold, freeze my bins off and cause me to be ill in bed for the next week.

Don’t go twitching, it just makes you ill..

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