As the saying goes ''you can't keep a good man down'' and just like Take That (the return) the 2005 British Year Listing phenomenon known as the Comberbach Casuals Club (CCC's) regrouped on Thursday 17th for a most memorable twitch. We were joined by Ellesmere Ports finest Big Al who with Doc, Malc and I set off in the wee hours heading south to the home town of Top Gear stalwart Mr Clarkson namely Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire...ok ya!
Easily locating the stakeout house at dawn we wondered whether the owner would open up and let us in to view the now sacred back garden. Time went by and the curtains remained firmly closed, so as birders do Big Al and I wandered off to find our target bird. Searching various nearby back passages!! and gardens nothing showed except the local Collared Doves and Woodies.
Then shock horror, looking back at the house (no.41) the queue of patient birders outside was gone!!! sherbert frosties!!! fergal sharkey!!! run.....
Reaching the front door (curtains now open) all that remained of the twenty or so birders waiting outside was a pile of shoes and boots in the front garden. Had some alien vapourised them with a laser or what? no their gripping us off inside...rats bottom!
A birder came out (no he wasn't gay) with that smug look on his face, we knew then our walkabout could cost us dear. '' its showing well in the back garden, shoes off and get in there '' said smuggy face.
Al and I entered the kitchen to find about twenty birders huddled in front of the patio windows bins raised, cameras clicking grinning like Cheshire cats Malc and Doc at the front. The owner took our £5 donation to his holiday fund? whilst his wife made toast and coffee (not for us I may add). Raising my bins I looked at the rusty backed feathery blob sat in the hedge and instantly they steamed up. With now twenty four plus people in the kitchen the toaster and kettle going full pelt the room was almost tropical no wonder my bins steamed up...feck! and double feck! A couple of birders moved out and I quickly moved in closer cleaned my steamed up lenses and hey presto superb views of one..
ORIENTAL TURTLE DOVE still thank god perched up in the hedge 20 feet away.
Shaking the owners hand (I was also tempted to kiss his wife but sense prevailed luckily for her) I thanked him and exited stage right now smug faced too. Outside I collared Chris Gooddie author of the greatest book ever on birding namely The Jewel Hunter and thrust my camera into his most capable hands instructing him to record said occasion (thanx Chris).
I should point out here for Stattos looking on that I've already whapped on Oriental Turtle Dove up at Stromness on Orkney in 2002 but the Chipping Norton bird is a different race and in England so insurance is the name of the game for me. Malc, Doc and Al on the other hand can get out the red pen once home...tarts!
We sped east along the M40 day ticking numerous Red Kites and joined the M25 pre-work rush hour not a good move but somehow we arrived just over two hours and a wee stop later at Rainham. The skies were grey, visibility naff and the wind rather chilly just like up north eh!. We made our way along the cycle track that borders Rainham Tip home to some 5000+ gulls of various species and subspecies...oh what joy. As previous we lined up with about fifty other hopefuls and started to scan the detritus of East London.
Time passed and nothing of note not even a rumour was forthcoming but then it happened....
a mobile rang, a shout went up, birders started running...''its on Werrington Marsh now''...run (thats twice today). Headless chicken mode then ensued as birders ran, walked fast (me), stumbled etc their way 500yds or so to an elevated section of the cycle track overlooking Werrington Marsh just west of Rainham RSPB reserve. More panic as scopes were focused on a group of loafing distant gulls...
'' anyone got it ''...'' directions please ''...'' which one is it ''...'' where the feck ''
the gulls took flight '' shit no ''...'' oh bugger '' but several remained one luckily our target bird whap and oml
SLATY BACKED GULL in all its splendour (for a gull).
Still some 'birders' couldn't get on the boy, one dork named Gary (guess who) was running around shouting ''who's got my scope''...rats arse a quality YouTube moment missed.
Got home and checked the list software and guess what its a flippin WORLD TICK no less.
WORLD - 2826
WESTERNPAL - 675
UK+IRE+IOM - 511
BRITAIN - 502
ENGLAND - 471