Sunday, 15 November 2015

A new hobby

My friend Michael twitches football grounds, much as I twitch birds, only with a higher chance of them being there when he arrives. I think a game has to be played for the ground to be tickable, so I guess there is some jeopardy involved if he travels to a match to find the pitch waterlogged or snowbound. But rarely does he arrive to find it gone, or dead, at least. So, fancying a change, I thought I'd give football ground listing a go - and where better to start than the Proact Stadium, home of Chesterfield FC, aka 'The Spireites' - so named for the Town's famous leaning church tower.
Chesterfield FC's Proact Stadium - a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow
Here are the floodlights...
...and here looking over the wall to the East Stand
That rainbow again, photobombed by a bird
OK, I admit it, I wasn't there for the glamour of the League One side's shiny stands, but for what had spent the night, and possibly quite a lot of the previous week, inside them: a Crag Martin. This extremely rare visitor - less than 10 records for Britain - had been appearing at the Church of the crooked spire sporadically over the previous week, but was spending long periods away from it at an undiscovered location. It took what was presumably a sharp eyed Chesterfield fan, watching their team go 1-2 down to Oldham yesterday afternoon, to stumble upon its alternative haunt. 
The bird seemed to be feeding over the pitch, occasionally rising above the stadium wall...
...and on a few occasions departing the stadium and flying over our heads to reveal the diagnostic 'windows' in the tail feathers
A better view of the upperparts...
...and the dusky underparts
When the bird was reported roosting in the East Stand shortly after the final whistle on Saturday, this seemed to dramatically improve the chances of success of seeing it well for anyone visiting on Sunday. Steve Smith and I saw the bird so poorly in our mad dash on Monday that it left an itch that had to be scratched - three times in Steve's case, who had already gone back to enjoy good views on the Saturday morning. I couldn't join him as I was attending the excellent Butterfly Conservation AGM in Surrey, but after the event, and a few phone calls to seek permission and book accommodation, I found myself not heading home to Dorset as planned, but heading north to Chesterfield. Well, it's barely a detour really.
The forecast was dreadful, with 50 mph + winds and heavy rain rattling the window of my B&B all night long...
...but between 0900-1000 a few rays of sun emerged
The Crag Martin emerged from its presumed roost in the stadium shortly before 0800, by which time I had been treated to a full English
Views from inside the ground could have been spectacular - but enterprising birders who tried to sweet talk their way in were given short shrift by the staff
This morning the Crag Martin performed brilliantly and while the iconic backdrop of the Proact Stadium was not quite the iconic background of the crooked spire, I was happy with my shots and made to leave. The route back to the M1 took me through the Town Centre so I thought a quick look at the church in the sunshine was worth a go. No sooner had I pulled up than the Crag Martin appeared, so I was treated to an encore to the rapturous sound of church bells - and cooing birders.
The one that got away
The obligatory 'bird in front of the clock face' shot
The even more obligatory 'bird and crooked spire' shot
Photographing the shadow was easier than photographing the Crag Martin
Although it looks decapitated here, I think its just having a mid-air preen, head turned through 180 degrees
Again, not dead, just plummeting downwards after an insect

1 comment:

  1. Some of the best shots Ive seen to date. Nice one mate esp. as you seemed half dead with manflu when on the phone