Birding Nightmares

The success enjoyed by the Shetland boys including The Llama, The Pie and Fray Bentos, as I have now decided on calling him, in being involved in identifying a Lanceolated Warbler prompted me to think of the one that got away.

Without reference to my notebooks I’m not too sure of the exact date, I’m downstairs and too lazy to go upstairs now for the books, but I was on St Mary’s in 2000 and was walking up Penninis with Tony Shephard, Neil Howes and the late Phil Holloway. After we passed the allotments Neil and Phil marched ahead through the first big rough field while Tony and I went off piste somewhat.

I followed a higher sheep track and Tony was a bit lower down when a Locustella warbler did that Locustella thing – it crawled over my feet almost. ‘Shit Tony – a tiny Locustella has just walked in front of me and into this clump of grass’ I said as I dropped to my knees and Tony rushed up. Pulling back the grass the little fucker just stared at us and then snuck away left. Tony and I just looked at each other and both were 99.999999r% certain it was a Lancy.

We shouted the lads to get back and help relocate it but they were slow on the uptake and the field was huge with just us four in. What to do? We needed back up so called up Dick Filby on the CB and got a reasonable crew to search the field. Despite much searching the bird was never seen again. It could easily have crept off anywhere including through the walls.

Now what, well given such brief views there was no real chance of putting in a record as there was so much we hadn’t seen to clinch the ID. In our heart of hearts though we were knew what it was… the one that really did get away.

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2 responses to “Birding Nightmares

  1. If you look on Rob’s and Mark’s blogs for yesterday, they both mention ‘something interesting’ in the willows the evening before (I couldn’t be bothered to go into it on mine). I don’t really like mentioning things like that too often in public as it just makes you look like a stringer if you’re always having ‘possibles and probables’, but we were pretty sure this was something very interesting indeed – closely related to Lancy but rather rarer!

    Unfortunately when we flushed it from the willows on Tuesday it fucked off into the airport perimeter field and didn’t come back!

    Re yesterday’s Lancy, I was surprised how un-obvious it was at first – I didn’t think it looked particularly small or short tailed in flight, and it was only when we had good views of the streaked breast and the tertial pattern that we were happy with it. Plus it was extremely flighty, and not behaving in ‘classic’ Lancy fashion at all.

  2. ‘Something interesting’ eh Andy?!
    Love that word ‘interesting’…and you are right….best not mention these inevitable…interesting…’funny’..birds that folk…will always…see.
    Nine times out of ten ‘something interesting’ will turn out to be something ‘not that interesting’ under closer inspection. In certain circumstances..you just have to shake yer head and say to yourself..’don’t be so fuckin stupid….it couldn’t have been’….[tho of course…in the back of your mind…you know that it ‘could’ have been]! If one doesn’t adopt this ‘approach’ you end up claiming all sorts of shit and you will be labeled….[how can i put this politely]?……rather ‘iffy’…! Sometimes you just have to ‘let it go’….annoying ain’t it……?
    Having said that…if someone i know is an honest birder says to me ‘i’ve just had summat ‘interesting’..i will take him very seriously! If someone i know is a bit of a birding cunt…then i won’t take him that seriously….[okay…you then run the risk that the cry-wolfer ‘has’ actually had something good]…..

    The potential…the expectancy…of seeing a rare also invades the brain when in prime locations too. Something you probably wouldn’t even give a second look at ‘inland’ will all of a sudden become ‘maybe rare’ if say on the scillies or wherever….it is a delicate ‘balance’…and the ‘dark side’ of birding is never far far away….

    John…..that locustella may well have been a fuckin lancy….bummer! Horrible experience to see a bird that close and it still get away……them’s the breaks…..

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