Monday, 4 May 2015

More quality time with the family

The Pipit family, specifically. Having spent a fun day with the kids at the excellent Lyme Regis Fossil Festival yesterday, I was allowed out to play for Bank Holiday Monday. The Greater Manchester/Derbyshire border was not really on my birding radar prior to yesterday but reports of a showy Red-throated Pipit started to put it there. Red-throated Pipits tend not to hang around, and for me and many others, it has been a bit of a bogey bird. I had yet to see one despite a decade of family holidays to Scilly in October, one of the most likely places to do so, and several mad dashes to its airport over the years trying to catch up with one. Many birders have it on their lists thanks only to a calling bird flying over. That would have been not entirely satisfactory, so a summer plumaged male such as this, I thought, was not to be missed.

At the same time, I rated the chances of it staying until today as slim so, not entirely committed, I resolved to go as far as Gloucester early this morning, wait on news and, if none was forthcoming, head off to my childhood home, the Forest of Dean, for a day with the Goshawks, Pied Flycatchers and Wood Warblers. Refuelling at the fancy new Gloucester services, 0800 came and went without news, so slightly disappointed, but still looking forward to reacquainting myself with the Nagshead RSPB reserve, I turned off the M5 to head westwards at the A417 exit. No sooner had I done so than the pager bleeped the presence of the Pipit, and a few roundabouts later I was back on the M5. The next two-and-a-half hours passed without further news, so by the time I arrived I was ever so slightly tense and wondering if I shouldn't have been bolder and gone through the night to have been there for first light.
But then I had to find the site, high on Ludworth Moor near the village of Chisworth. The Satnav on my phone took me down a dead end so I called in at the Chisworth Stores, a local shop for local people, to ask for directions, only to find that the shop assistant had never heard of Ludworth Moor, or Gun Road, and didn't seem entirely sure where Chisworth was either. To be fair, she went to the trouble of phoning 'him', an unseen proprietor, I assumed, but although 'he' had heard of it, he was none the wiser about how to get there. It was all getting a bit Royston Vasey at this point, so I made my excuses and left to find my own way.
An old back-up Satnav, retrieved in an archaeological dig from the glove compartment, eventually did the trick, and when I finally encountered a long line of cars and birders I knew I had found the right place. A well-placed barbed wire fence between them and the bird ensured all were kept at a respectful distance - I fear it might have been flushed long before my arrival if it weren't for that - and the Pipit paraded better than could be expected for a bird that should be heading for its breeding grounds in the north European tundra.
The journey home was altogether more relaxed, and, as I sat in heavy traffic behind a refuse truck and saw the signs for the A57, I was reminded that the last time I was in these precise parts was in the 1990s on business. A potential client had invited us up to ask how they might persuade the Government to give them lots of cash for what they then called the Mottram-in-Longendale, Hollingworth and Tintwistle by-pass. The only advice I can remember giving them at the time was that they would have to give it a catchier title. We didn't get the contract.

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